If you think traffic in Panama City is a zoo now, just you wait. A part of the price of a booming economy is more cars and more traffic.
If you are a Panama City driver facing increasing frustration as the traffic jams worsen, as the city rushes towards First World Status with round the year clogged roadways and rush hour gridlock, learn to hold your breath. It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better, with experts predicting a long haul of at least a decade before there is an adequate public transit system, and the culture changes from showing off the latest SUV acquisition to actually sharing the system with those who don’t own a car.
Meanwhile, according to figures provided by Panama’s Automobile Dealers Association (ADAP), the path to total gridlock is being fueled with ever increasing vehicle sales. Between January and June this year sales increased by 5.6% compared to the same period in 2013. If is compared with 2012, the increase was 21%; with 2011, 28%; and 2010, 61.6%.
In terms of annual sales in just three years the segment grew by almost 50%. 37,458 vehicles sold in 2010 rose to 56,147 in 2013.
The average monthly vehicle sales figure in 2013 was 4679. So far in 2014 the monthly average is 4,730, putting sales on the road 60,000 thousand shiny new road blockers by year end
This, according to economist Raul Moreira, goes hand in hand with sustained economic growth that the country has registered in the last seven years.
“There is a situation of economic welfare for a large sector of the population, and that translates into a higher level of purchase, in this case cars,” he told La Prensa.
In the first six months of the year, 28,381 new cars have been added to the streets of the capital city. With average monthly sales of 4,730 vehicles, that means 157 new cars appearing on the streets every day,helping to guarantee rush our crawls, late appointments and the other joys shard by major cities across the world.
In the race to get rubber on the road, Toyota, 7,003 overtook Hyundai, 4,984 as the preferred purchase in the first six months.
Toyota sales increased 24% compared to 2013; Hyundai , fell by 13%.
Kia, came in third with 4,383 a 25% jump over last year’s3,509
Nissan and Suzuki were the other two brands that lost customers. The first sold 13% less, and the second 8%.
Lack of urban planning, and parking facilities add to the traffic chaos.
Urban planner Alvaro Uribe says it is “an inherited problem of an urban structure based on isolated sets of housing, which only work with a car.”
He warns that the Panama city model is obsolete and needs new road easements and a planned network of streets to give “alternative access to everywhere via different routes,” plus extended public transit reaching hard to get-to places. [LA PRENSA PANAMA]
Of course THAT is Panama City. It’s not like that everywhere in Panama, although even now in Boquete you have to often look for a parking space in town. But there are many places in Panama outside Panama City where the only traffic jam you might encounter looks like this …