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Chile's President In Transit Hotseat
"Transantiago was supposed to improve the quality of life in this sprawling city of more than 6 million, not worsen it. Behind the effort was a push to make Santiago a world-class city befitting the economic growth of the past decade that has made Chile a model for development."
" President Michelle Bachelet is suffering a sharp slide in voter confidence as her administration scrambles to salvage a botched public transport overhaul that has wreaked havoc in this capital."
"Scores of angry protests have erupted, and lawmakers, social activists, clergy and those at both ends of the political spectrum have condemned the project as an unmitigated, and preventable, disaster."
"The project involved the purchase of more than 5,000 buses, revised routes, integration of subway and bus services and use of electronic swipe cards to pay fares. The new buses would burn cleaner fuel, officials vowed, helping to diminish the capital's severe air pollution problem. And the revised routes would ultimately be more efficient."
"But the promised number of buses has yet to hit the streets, stranding tens of thousands of angry commuters. The president on Sunday pledged to seek "guarantees" from private transit firms to produce the missing vehicles."
"Many commuters turned to the city's subway, which had been viewed as generally efficient and modern."
"But a near doubling of the passenger load has overwhelmed the system, forcing officials to close stations amid reports of commuters dropping from heart attacks and other ailments in the packed trains."