Starting today, San José driving restrictions will be in effect for 13-hour periods, from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., a switch from the proposed 24-hour ban that was supposed to take effect today.
The Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT) cited security and technical considerations with bus routes for the change, according to a ministry press release.
MOPT also eased restrictions for heavy trucks, whose city driving ban now runs from 6 to 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 to 7 p.m.
Cars with license plates ending in 7 and 8 will be prohibited from traveling in downtown San José and within the circunvalación during the 13-hour period on Thursdays.
Cars with license plates ending in 1 and 2 will be prohibited on Mondays. License plates ending in 3 and 4 will be banned on Tuesdays, cars with licenses ending in 5 and 6 on Wednesdays and 9 and 0 on Fridays.
The measures, which are aimed at reducing the country´s oil consumption, have helped ease traffic congestion in San José in recent weeks. The restrictions originally applied to rush hours from 6-8:30 a.m. and from 4:30-7 p.m. but then officials decided to extend the ban.
The restrictions do not apply to motorcycles, public transportation vehicles, school buses, and vehicles of disabled people. Heavy vehicles are not allowed to travel on the freeways that lead to Alajuela, Cartago and Escazú during rush hours.
Motorists found in violation of these measures face a fine of ¢5,000 (roughly $9.70). By MOPT´s account, transit police have issued an average of 700-750 tickets per day since the decree was first enacted June 26.
The measure does not sit well with the country´s business community. The Costa Rican Union of Chambers and Private Sector Associations (UCCAEP), an umbrella group representing 42 business associations, criticized the measure.
“Micro and small businesses are the ones who will be hurt the most by limiting transit for a whole day given that they tend to possess small vehicle fleets,” said Shirley Saborío, director of UCCAEP. “Impeding transit for a whole day would affect their businesses and reduce commercial activities. This could place in jeopardy the incomes of hundreds of Costa Ricans.”
Ninety percent of Costa Rican businesses are defined as small and medium, according to UCCAEP.
UCCAEP proposes keeping the restrictions in place during rush hours to avoid disrupting businesses. The group also stated that it is not opposed to extending the rush hour driving restrictions to other urban areas.