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Costa Rica Takes Action to Control Gasoline Usage Part 1

June 27th, 2008

Mopt restrictionsFor quite some time now, the government has placed restrictions on what vehicles could enter San Jose. This was more done to lessen the overwhelming traffic in San Jose during peak hours than to control gasoline usage. All non commercial vehicles were affected.

The system was/is simple enough. You were restricted from entering San Jose for about 2 hours each morning rush hour and two hours during the afternoon rush based on your license plate. For me it was rarely an issue, and when it was, I just drove the circunvalación, the road that runs around San Jose and locally known as “the rotundas” because of the numerous traffic circles in that route. Sometimes I’d drive the La Uruca route. No big deal.

Well this all changed this week as the government expanded enormously the restricted areas and the hours of restriction, and yesterday, over a thousand folks learned this the hard way and got a little $10 traffic citation for their ignorance.

The restrictions are based on the last digit of the license plate (placa). 1 & 2 on Mondays, 3 & 4 on Tuesdays, 5 & 6 on Wednesdays, 7 & 8 on Thursdays; and 9 & 0 on Fridays. As my plate ends in a “2”, Monday is my day.

As I said, the problem was never a biggie until the MOPT increased enormously the restrited area and also increased the hours per day. From the relatively small area in downtone San Jose, the restriction has now been widened in all directions to include all area between the circunvalación on the south side, the Hotel Radisson in La Uruca, Calle Blancos on the north, Pavas on the west and San Pedro Mall on the east.  See map at top – click to enlarge it.

The restricted hours were also changed to from 6am to 9am in the morning and 4pm to 7pm in the evening.

The change this week was less for traffic reduction (though it was certainly noticeably less!), than for attempting to force everyone to use public transportation. Gasoline today is priced at $5.10 per gallon for super, $4.97 for regular and $4.82 for diesel, and this new restriction along with the proposed changes should have some affect on drivers. It sure has for me!

One step I think could be important would be to change what happens if there is a traffic accident. Current law (rules?) state that if you have an accident, you must not move the vehicles no matter how minor the accident.

What is worse though, is that not only must you not move the vehicle(s), you must wait until both the police and the insurance investigator arrive! ANyone who lives here can tell of backups sometimes miles long behind some minor fender-bender. Not only is this hugely annoying, it kills me to see maybe 500 to 2,000 cars all waiting in the traffic jam, engines running and burning a ton of fuel. With gas prices soon to exceed $6.00 per gallon, I am sure a few, but not all, will turn off the engines.

The government is also making noises about expanding this to all of Costa Rica.  I suppose they would have to exempt rental cars to avoid hassling the tourists.  Now that would have an effect, especially if they had anywhere near the police to enforce it!

We shall see how all this sakes out, but for now, to those of you living here in Costa Rica but not in the San Jose area, be careful when you come here to visit your friendly local embassy!  This new rules affects access to the US Embassy in Rohrmoser just east of Pavas as well as the Canadian embassy in La Sabana plus numerous others.

Holidays and weekends are not included in these restrictions.