Mérida New Va y Ven Transit Network is a Huge Step in the Right Direction

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Mérida’s growth spurt over the past couple of decades has had its ups and downs, but fortunately, its public transit system is finally starting to catch up.

The new Va y Ven buses are comfortable and even have air conditioning. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

As a kid growing up in Mérida, I always figured the city’s public transit was, if not great, at least decent.

It was safe and easy enough to navigate so that a 10-year-old me could don his Karate Gi and take the bus from García Ginerés to his dojo downtown.

Mérida’s public transit network in the 1980s and ‘90s was far from perfect, but it got the job done — most of the time, anyway. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Sure, there was no real schedule, and the bus driver on the route often seemed far too engrossed in the Archie comic books he was reading while simultaneously driving the bus, but oh well, I figured, that’s just the way it is

Then again, some of the buses were so old that on one occasion, on my way home, my foot went right through the insanely rusted floor, cutting my foot and losing my sandal for good. That was not a good day.

Over the past few years, incidents where buses have gone up in flames have been a wake-up call for authorities. Photo: Courtesy

Years later, I began to depend on the bus to get to and from work downtown, and since I was living out in Las Américas by then, this journey was a lot longer and more stressful. Sometimes, it took up to an hour and a half each way.

Thankfully, since then, connectivity to and from my fraccionamiento has improved, but until recently, taking the bus anywhere was a pain. 

Even folks solidly in the middle class are now taking public transit more, as the ever-increasing cost of gas eats away at their budgets. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

But things began to improve this year with the arrival of Mérida’s Va y Ven (or Come and Go) transit system, which offers air-conditioned buses and a swath of new convenient routes. All of a sudden, taking the bus was doable again. 

A Va y Ven card purchase/credit kiosk stands before El Palacio de La Música. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Payments on the Va y Ven transit system work through a wallet-sized plastic card, which can be purchased and recharged at special kiosks around the city and just about any convenience store, including OXXO.

The Va y Ven debit card costs 25 pesos for the general public, 5 pesos for students, and is free for passengers with disabilities. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

This new citywide transit system has been a game changer by expanding the radius for employment opportunities.

Crucially, the Va y Ven also allows for transfers, previously not a common practice in Mérida.

The Va y Ven buses are also equipped with bicycle racks and hydraulic ramps, making access for folks with mobility issues much easier. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Another important aspect of the new bus network is the implementation of nighttime routes, which serve thousands of people every day working mainly in the service industry. 

Much smaller and less comfortable units handle the Va y Ven nighttime routes, though they are certainly better than nothing. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The Va y Ven also has a dedicated smartphone app to help find nearby stops, plan trips, and identify routes. The app also has a real-time bus tracking functionality to make it easier to catch the bus without having to simply wait for it out in the sun or under an awning. 

The Va y Ven app is free but only available in Spanish, which is not a big deal for English speakers, as it is designed to be intuitive.

Getting to and from work aside means that it’s now easy to get around town and not worry about having a couple of drinks and having to pay for what seems to be an ever-worsening and more expensive taxi or ride-sharing service. 

There are now even special routes, like the “Circuito aventura,” which connects the city’s zoos and a handful of parks. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The one major issue with the Va y Ven system is that there are insufficient buses to handle the demand, especially during rush hour. This means thousands are forced to stand every day through their commute. 

A packed Va y Ven bus during rush hour in Mérida. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Plans have also been announced for new routes to even more of Mérida’s comisarías, suburbs, and nearby towns, making it easier for those living as far away as Umán to access the network. 

In 2024, the Va y Ven system is expected to operate in Valladolid, Izamál, and Tekax.

In the next few weeks, the Va y Ven system will incorporate the first route of the Ie-Tram, a new electric tram-like bus service running on dedicated roads to zip through town at a greater speed.

We can’t say how well this new program will fare longterm, but one thing is certain: it is a big improvement over what came before. It sure has been a long time coming. 

Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy, and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway.
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