Aaron in Azerbaijan

Just another blog about Azerbaijan.

The Slow Bus Driver

with 3 comments

I’d like to know how the bus system is run in Baku, or in Azerbaijan in general.  The system is fairly straightforward wherever you are, in terms of city buses/marshrutkas.  You get on, find your place, tell the bus driver when to stop, and hand over 20 qəpik, about 25 cents.  Boom, done.  But what I’m interested in is the incentive system.  When I was in Bangkok, the bus “system” was fairly extensive, and you could actually call that rapid transit.  The heart of the system was that each bus was run as a private little enterprise.  A family would sign up for a bus route, say, the 27, and then they would run the 27 around town all day, giving up a percentage of their take to the bus authority.  This sounds fairly straightforward, too.  But now throw in that other folks can sign up to run a 27, and that means competition.  So you end up with a bunch of separate little number 27 companies trucking around Bangkok.  And sometimes they get close to each other and, since they are competing, they start racing each other to get the upcoming bus riders.  That’s an exciting experience, a large 30-year old rickety bus barreling down through the traffic of Bangkok.  All the buses are trying to complete as many loops around their route as they can.  At this point, bus travel in Bangkok becomes rapid transit.

The attitude of bus drivers here is to go as slow as possible, thinking that if they wait and wait and wait, they will start to fill up their bus.  When it is patently obvious that they aren’t getting any more riders, this becomes ridiculously frustrating.  And it’s even less fun when the drivers just wait to even get started on the route.  I can’t really imagine how the incentives here versus the incentives in Thailand are so different as to create a group of slow, plodding drivers versus a bunch of overeagerly fast drivers.  And I also would like to know what system works better.

(That picture is from Lənkəran, running the Şilavar-Digah route, Digah being the village I lived in with the host family)


Written by Aaron

August 12, 2010 at 4:23 am

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. I must completely disagree with you! I find the experience you describe in Thailand to be almost identical to my experiences in Baku. One of my “uncles” drives a city bus and confirms that they pay a base rate to the vagzal and pocket the rest which is indeed motivation to race each other and stop on a dime if someone puts out there hand just about anywhere (also, to give your poor pcv relatives free rides!).


    August 13, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    • Hey–thanks for the confirmation! That’s helpful. I’m still confused, though. I’ve been riding buses from the Peace Corps office around town, and I still haven’t had one that tries to fly. Even the one from the Avtovağzal to the PC office takes its sweet old time. And I feel like that ride to the Consul area on the number 4 takes forever…no? It sounds like I need to take more bus rides with you!


      August 16, 2010 at 2:51 pm

  2. God this made me laugh so hard, as this is exactly how I feel every time I ride the 16 home… why can’t he just go faster? It’s like this, I see it coming, and I pray that the 4 will come instead because I know that the 16 is so slow that I don’t want to give it my business… I’d rather walk, I might get there faster! Thanks for making me smile!

    Rae Az 5

    August 17, 2010 at 5:40 am

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