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Aug 16, 2022

Between the Andes: Public Transportation in Patagonia

By Irfaun Karim, Kenan Scholars Class of 2024

Kenan Scholars are provided professional development funding (“Exploratory Funds”) for experiences that enhance our development as future business leaders. I was able to use a portion of my funds while interning abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to visit the Patagonia region. This experience provided the opportunity to explore the region and deepen my understanding of public transportation abroad, which is a research interest of mine.

In Buenos Aires, Argentina, getting on the 130 bus route towards the Saint Martin Plaza became part of my daily routine as a summer intern working for the Varkey Foundation. The accuracy and speed to which these buses transported me to my destination left me in awe due to the lack of this public transportation possibility in the United States, and more specifically, within rural regions. Reflecting on the varying geographies that comprised Argentina and the United States alike, I wondered if these public transportation systems materialized themselves within the other provinces of Argentina, given the different terrains and climate factors each region possessed.

As I went to Bariloche, Patagonia to explore this region of the world, I decided to focus some of my time on discovering the systems put in place to connect some of the most desolate towns in the world. After arriving in Bariloche, relocating from the airport to my hotel was a struggle, as heavy snowfall limited access to available taxis, which resulted in long wait times. When finally making it to the town, beautiful snow capped mountains filled my vision, as loud buses with chained wheels traveled through the main streets carrying locals and tourists. Even in Patagonia, a region where the number of penguins almost surpass that of the human population, adapted public transportation provides an affordable option to navigate the harsh terrain of Patagonia.

Patagonia itself is a growing region with much of its economic activity based on tourism and wool farming, illustrating the necessity of transportation to connect both the town of Bariloche, and neighboring touristic hubs such as the Cerro Catedral (Cathedral Mountain) and Colonia Suiza. The persistence from local governance to connect tourists and citizens to remote areas, demonstrated the value Patagonia places on easy access to transportation in the region. As Kenan Distinguished Professor, and founder of the Aerotropolis model, John Kasarda, mentions in his book titled Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next, “There will never be enough time in the day, but space is fungible; it can be overcome with speed.” Both tourists and local populations value Patagonia’s effective public transportation system, as it reduces costs, saves time, and connects people, goods and, most importantly, ideas.

I am grateful for the support of Kenan Scholars and for the program’s commitment to providing students with impactful experiences related to personal and professional interests.

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