CARACAS: A Venezuelan transportation app is offering residents of the capital city Caracas the opportunity to find safety and tranquility where they least expect to find it: on a bus.
The city's buses have for decades been famous for pickpockets, diesel fumes, and cramped seats - conditions that have worsened in recent years due to chronic fuel shortages that have made transit increasingly irregular.
A recently-launched application called La Wawa allows users to reserve a seat on an air-conditioned bus with Wifi that covers three different routes with scheduled stops - a rarity for any transit service in the city of 3.5 million.
"Before, it was total chaos, I would arrive sweaty and tired," said Graciano Guzman, 50, who commutes across the city to his job as driver for a family in eastern Caracas. "Now I'm calm, they won't take my wallet."
La Wawa was created to address the poor conditions of transport and the growing annoyance of paying fares in a hyperinflationary economy where local bills are scarce and change for dollar transactions is nearly impossible, said manager Alejandro Avila.
The service is currently operating with a single bus but hopes by February 2022 to have 100 units covering 20 routes.
The name of the service comes from a term used in Spain's Canary Islands to describe public transit vehicles, Avila said.
Users can pay US$7.99 for five trips per month or US$28.99 for 28 trips per month. That makes it a high-end service in a country where the minimum wage is around US$3 per month.
The fare for a typical Caracas bus is around US$0.13.
Judith Zorrilla, 61, a secretary at a Caracas clinic, said the premium was worth every penny.
"I know my transportation is guaranteed," said Zorrilla, while riding in La Wawa.
(Reporting by Vivian Sequera, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)