Progressive Transport and the Poor: Bogota’s Bold Steps Forward
- The US$180 million Bogotá spent on bikeways alone from 1999 to 2002 was about half the amount the
entire United States spends annually on cycling infrastructure.
-Such outlays might seem out of proportion for a third-world city where half the population lives in
-The World Bank has been roundly criticized for past investments in pricey metros that predominantly
benefit the professional class, and now the Bank requires transit projects it funds to meet a “poverty
alleviation” litmus test. Bogotá bus and bikeway investments would seem to pass such a test, but have
- Within two years of being proposed, the TransMilenio bus-rapid transit (BRT) system was up and
running, carrying 800,000 daily passengers along a busy 40-kilometer road axis. By mid-2005, the system
had expanded to four lines stretching 55 kilometers. Plans call for TransMilenio to eventually blanket the
city with some 400 kilometers of dedicated busways, serving 5.5 million passengers per day.
-essentially its expanding quickly and is wanted to continue expanding
- TransMilenio is the brainchild of a succession of progressive and visionary mayors who felt that giving
priority to public transport as well as pedestrians and cyclists was essential to relieving “traffic anarchy”
and creating a functional, livable, and sustainable city. Mayors, transit managers, and consultants from
around the world come to marvel at Bogotá’s transit achievements in hopes of bringing lessons home.
- TransMilenio is the gold standard of BRT.
- Bus lanes sit in boulevard medians, with weather-protected, attractively designed stations
every 500 meters or so. Because double lanes enable buses to overtake each other and raised platforms
expedite boarding and alighting, the system has a throughput of 36,000 persons per direction per hour,
a number that matches many of the world’s metro systems
-Presently, around a million passengers ride TransMilenio buses each weekday, four times the
ridership of the 28-kilometer Metro rail system in Medellin, Colombia (and achieved at less than one-
fifth of its construction costs).
-Indeed, the most serious problem the system faces is extreme overcrowding. In 2004,
near-riots that required military intervention broke out at several stations because jam-packed
buses were leaving people stranded.
Before (left): Public buses stuck in traffic…. After (right): TransMilenio dedicated busway
- Because of overcrowding, accidents, and unanticipated problems like busway pavement buckling
(partly due to the accelerated construction schedule), as time passed many middle-class “choice” riders
stopped taking TransMilenio. -The system’s market share of total trips fell from twenty percent in 2002 (two years into operation) to
twelve percent in 2004. Surveys reveal that TransMilenio’s overall quality rating flip-flopped
from best to worst in comparison to taxis, public bus, minibuses, and private coaches.
-Bicycle facilities extend well beyond TransMilenio stations.
-Currently, Bogotá boasts over 250 kilometers of dedicated bicycle paths called ciclorutas.
-The Dutch advised long-range plan calls for the figure to double over the next thirty years.
-Since the mid-1990s, the share of daily trips by cycling has grown from 0.9 percent to 4 percent.
-A hospitable environment has helped: perched in a flat valley high in the Andes, Bogotá enjoys
a mild climate in spite of its equatorial setting.
- Three quarters of daily trips in the city are less than ten kilometers, and bicycles can often cover that
distance faster than cars through the city’s traffic-snarled streets.
- To further promote cycling, Bogotá officials have held car-free days on the first Thursday of February
since 2000. On Sundays and holidays, the city closes 120 kilometers of main roads for seven hours to
create a Ciclovia (“Cycling Way”) for cyclists, skaters, and pedestrians.
-When weather’s good, as many as a million and a half cyclists hit the streets of Bogotá on Sundays.
-Bike-friendly initiatives have been matched by car-restricting ones.
-Through a license tag system, forty percent of cars are banned from central-city streets during
peak hours every day.
-Bollards have been installed throughout the city core to prevent motorists from parking on
sidewalks and bikeways.
-Old street-vendor marketplaces were razed and transformed into bricked and landscaped
-Such enhancements were financed partly by canceling a massive planned ring road and
pricey underground metro and by selling off the city’s telephone company to a private venture.
How Have the Poor Fared?
-some argued that these transportation improvemetns are a waste. K