The Absence of the Dominant - Mobility & transport in contemporary Havana

Students: Rhea Winkler, Daniel Abraha
Location: Group work in Havana
Date: June, 2007
Type: Research project, student work, transport and mobility

Transport crisis was one of the most severe impacts that periodo especial had on the city: commuting between work and home can take even 3 hours, all daily trajectories are difficult as well as access to the famous nightlife. Before 1989, around 1000 public busses operated in the city, to quickly decline only to 250.
Numerous creative solutions developed to counter the transport crisis, many of them informal, are now a part of transport network in Havana: camellos are trucks-busses that can transport up to 300 people; business cars belonging to institutions are in obligation to give a lift to civilians in need; petrol is sold officially on a limited number gas stations, but also informally, all over the city. Bikes are not much used, as they seem to not fit the climate and the lifestyle, while the notorious American old-timers and Russian lada’s are still running in the streets of Havana helped by an inventive and elaborate do-it-yourself car-repair shops. Taxis and rental car networks are there, but with their high prices they are mostly available to tourists. This introduces a point of segregation, as foreigners in Havana are mobile without difficulties and their perception of the city is distorted.
The past 50 years in Havana have been time of overexploitation of the city structure, where returning investments into maintenance were not made, resulting in heavy deterioration of transport and other infrastructures. Any plans for rehabilitation of neighborhoods in Havana are conditioned by renewal of infrastructure.
The focus of this study is Havana as a city in a state of ‘low entropy’, where all movement is difficult, hampered by multiple transport problems. This has tremendous impact on centrality of the city: only if there is movement, there are centralities. We can speculate that Havana today is a highly decentralized, even pedestrian city.

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