How do you get around your city? There are six major ways of moving around the city of Santiago. Each has it’s own advantages and disadvantages.
People is Santiago get around by car, by foot, or by public transportations. I have to walk fifteen minutes every day to get to the public transportation that takes me to work. Walking can be dangerous. Criminals might mug a person walking down the street. Sometimes, motorcyclists snatch purses or jewelry from women walking on foot. But if you walk with friends and stay in good neighborhoods and on well-lit roads, you can stay safe.
Even if you’re in a good neighborhood, though, you have to watch out for deep, uncovered manholes and other holes in the ground. Every time you cross a road, you have to be careful. There are few pedestrian crossings at intersections and cars drive very fast and often erratically. When I first came to Santiago, my cousin would hold my hand when I crossed the street, even though I’m twenty-two years old. I didn’t mind, though, because the cars moved very quickly, and I knew it could be very dangerous.
Walking is the best way to get to know a city. You learn the layout and geography of a neighborhood, meet your neighbors, and see interesting things such as street art when you walk. It can be pretty hot, but there are plenty of palm and other trees to give you some shade.
Aside from walking, I also take conchos, which are small cars that run fixed routes. I hail a concho along the route by pointing at the ground. As many as six passengers plus the driver squeeze into a single concho. Sometimes there are so many people that we have to sit on each other in order to fit. Young children rarely ride conchos alone. Sometimes very young children sit on their parents’ laps so that there are a total of eight people in a concho at once. It costs about $0.50 for one concho ride. I take a concho to work every day and any time I have to get around the city.
Conchos can be dangerous, too. Sometimes, thieves rob conchos because they know the drivers have a lot of money from the fare paid by the passengers. Also, the cars used for conchos are often very old. The door might not open or close correctly, which can be dangerous. Getting out of a concho can be dangerous, too. If the concho driver doesn’t pull over, you might have to get out in the middle of a highway! One time, I got out of a concho and didn’t see a motorcycle driver coming. He almost hit me and the door. It’s important to be vigilant and very careful when using conchos.
Sometimes instead of cars, the conchos are motorcycles that run fixed routes. These are called motoconchos. Two or three passengers might ride a motoconcho along with the driver. Children might take motoconchos to school. Many passengers do not wear helmets when riding motoconchos. Why do you think this might be a problem?
At night, it’s not as safe to take a concho alone, so I take a taxi. This costs about $3.60. Taxis are a lot more expensive than conchos, so not everyone takes them. I have a trusted taxi driver who knows me and picks me up when I need to go places.
There are also gauguas, which are small buses that take people around the city and to other cities. The guagua that passes near my house costs about $0.25. Other guaguas take children to school just like in the United States.
The first time I took a concho by myself, I was absolutely thrilled. I was very nervous that I would get lost. But I arrived at work successfully and was beaming from ear to ear, very proud of my accomplishment. It can be scary riding in a concho. I’m always afraid of getting lost when I try a new concho route. Sometimes the conchos turn off the major avenues unexpectedly. That’s why it’s important to know the street names and the major landmarks of a city. Have you ever been lost before? What did you do?
Even though it can be scary, I like conchos better than public buses in the United States. Conchos come more often than public buses and do not make me carsick like public buses do. I don’t mind squeezing into a concho because I’m small, so I usually fit. It’s also a lot more affordable than American transportation. One ride on the subway in New York is $2.50 while in Santiago it’s only $0.50. I could do a lot with an extra $2!
I also like taking taxis in Santiago. I have a taxi driver that I can always call. He’s a very sweet man with a daughter my age. I get to practice my Spanish and hear his perspective on Dominican life and culture. I feel comfortable with him and like I have the freedom to go anywhere!
Conchos help and hurt the environment. The cars that are used as conchos are often very old. They give off thick exhaust which pollutes the air. I often cough and sneeze when I’m standing next to large avenues because of all the exhaust that I inhale. But they may also help to reduce pollution by ensuring that fewer people drive and that more people travel together. This reduces traffic on the roads and is better for the environment.
Cars can be very expensive to own. They have to be imported, often from the United States. Also, the Dominican government charges a tax on the importation of cars. Because cars can be very expensive, many people walk or use mass transit. This is good for the environment because it reduces traffic on the roads and thus pollution. What could you do to make sure the way you go from place to place is good for the environment?