I will ride the Metro, but I will get there by “Motoconcho”: The public transportation in Santo Domingo
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An important element of everyday life in a city is the system of massive transportation.
Santo Domingo is not the exception and offers different means of transportation that might not comply with the safety features of other systems around the world, but they do offer you something else: The “risk” of making five new friends while seated for 15 minutes and talk to them as if the were your long term pals. It’s simple, you will always find someone who will talk to you about what’s going on today, or politics, “pelota” (A.K.A: Baseball), city traffic and why not, their entire life.
There are six official types of public transportation in our city, yes, you read it right S-I-X (6)! And it’s important for you to know about them and learn how to differentiate them:
1. For those who love adventures “á l’air” but on two wheels, we introduce the “Motoconcho”: You can’t deduct anything from its name, but it’s a motorcycle in which the number of people that rides it can be higher than 2. You could also hire the VIP service and use it for your own. It’s something like a 2-wheel taxi driven by a “motoconchista”, a person who’s developed unusual abilities to drive the Motoconcho throughout specific routes.
2. For those who like socializing on their way to work, home or whatever their destination is, we have the “Concho”: Here we have a 4-wheel vehicle that can be easily identified due to its 1,500 scratches, colors and other damages that remain on its surface. Something extraordinary from this kind of transportation is that a 5-passenger car is easily transformed into a 7-passenger car. The possibility for those people to fit in depends immensely on its driver who would yell at you when you have not squeezed yourself enough: “Just like last night buddy, closer, closer!” in order to open up one more space for another passenger. The money is also easily collected, once you get in, you give it to the person next to you and it will pass from hand to hand until its final destination, the “conchista” (Its driver). Let us remind you something important; please bring with you some “menudo” (Low denomination coins of bills, under RD$100 preferably) just to avoid the driver mentioning something not very nice about your mother.
3. For those who love high speed adventures and would like to share their experience with a higher number of spectators, Santo Domingo is proud to offer the “Voladora” or “Guagua”: Some might say they are not the same thing, but they do concur in defining it as a mini-bus with capacity for 70 passengers: 20 seated and 70 standing up. The driver of this vehicle has a helper that is indispensable for its correct functioning. This character is not present in any other means of transportation and happens to be the “Cobrador” (Collector) or “Pitcher”, who, aside his obvious function of collecting the money paid by the passengers, also encourages them to get up and into the Guagua by getting down on each stop and grabbing them by the arm always “subtlety”. This gesture is accompanied by phrases such as: “Let’s go buddy, get in get in, this is your bus…Let’s go driver!!! (Or in Dominican Spanish: “Vamo’ pal’ quinto, súbete ombe que eta e’ la tuya….arranca chofe arrancaaaaa!!!!’
4- For a massive experience, the OMSA is your option: Its name stands for the name of the entity in charge of these buses (Oficina Metropolitana de Servicio de Autobuses). The vehicle itself is an articulated green bus, which is the closest in concept to that of a public bus worldwide. They used to transit through a predetermined lane throughout the city, stopping at specific stations and they also offered air conditioning, a highly valued feature which any of the people who under this tropical sun should take public transportation would appreciate. However, due to lack of maintenance, very few and almost none keep their original shape and condition.
5- We also have a vehicle for those who like something more private, the Taxi (or Cab): Our taxis don’t share a common color as they do in other parts of the world, aside the 700 yellow units that were sold last year and that have been running up and down the city. The fee they charge depends greatly on the driver’s mood but also on the “comfort” it offers (A.K.A: Air conditioning supply). If you see them on the street you will realize that it’s not easy to identify them, but as in most cities around the globe you can also call the taxi company and ask for a vehicle to be sent to any corner of the city as far as you let them know what clothes you have on.
6. And finally, our Metro: A subject of positive and negative critics, likes and dislikes, the first line was launched in 2009. This line runs from north to south and back, from Mama Tingo to Centro de los Héroes, giving priority to a great part of the population who used to spend more than 2 hours to get from their home to their workplace and not because you had to run such a long distance, but because traffic is getting more chaotic and hectic day after day. The second line of the Metro is currently under construction and 4 more lines are to be developed during the next years.
We can’t deny that the road to achieve a better and more organized public transportation system is large, and we are also aware that safety-wise is not in its best position, compared to other cities around the world, but please, don’t live in Santo Domingo without trying all and each one of these categories. Take it as a challenge, a hobby or a risk if you see it that way, but do it. We promise you that it will not only be a different experience but maybe an adventure that will bring you numberless stories to tell. You will surely end up with more than 1 friend, 17 unsolicited recommendations and a spot on your pants from the strawberry SkimIce that your neighbor and new friend just bought, but you will leave with the certainty of having lived something different and of having tried what I like to call “The Dominican Roller Coaster”.