Friday, February 04, 2011

Twilight of Panama City's Diablos Rojos

It won't be long before the infamous Diablos Rojos (Red Devils) will start disappearing from the congested streets of Panama City. These brightly -- some would say garishly -- painted recycled American school buses have been Panama City's main form of public transportation for several decades.

To foreign travelers, the Diablos Rojos are a novelty. With their exteriors plastered in figures from Panama's history, religious and folkloric scenes, and even cartoon characters, the buses provide splashes of color and imagination in an otherwise drab urban landscape. But for people who have to commute in them every day, the Diablo Rojos are a curse. They tend to be rolling sardine cans, hellishly hot, and unreliable. These environmentally unfriendly beasts also belch countless tons of noxious fumes into the humid tropical air.

However, the days of the Diablos Rojos (Red Devils) are apparently numbered. Panama City is planning to replace its freelance bus system with a fleet of air-conditioned, state-of-the-art coaches. The new Metro Bus system will be similar to ones found in Mexico City and several other Latin American metropolises. There is also talk of building a metro railway line that will probably be even more effective in reducing Panama City's legendary traffic chaos. For the time being, though, visitors to Panama City will still be able to fork over $0.25 and ride the Diablos Rojos to just about anywhere in town. 

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