Bogota’s Vaunted Bus Rapid Transit System ai??i?? in Distress

This comes as no surprise as the shine of bus rapid transit is beginning to wane.

In South America, the rise of BRT was mainly due to the World Bank’s aversion to fund any type of rail project, but would shovel piles of money off the back of a truck to fund new highway construction. BRT also echoed an era of major highway expansion and everyone knows, new highways can accommodate a lot more cars and in a very short while congestion reigns.

Today, those who champion BRT, are also championing new highway construction andAi?? TransLink, whichAi?? puppet strings reach as farAi??as the provincial government in Victoria, whichAi??puppet stringsAi??are directly linked toAi??the BC Road builders Association, will promote anything the provincial government and its political friends want.

In simple terms, BRT = new highway construction.

BRT, in North America has been abysmalAi??in revenue operation, failing to meet its promoters expectations and where BRT is built, LRT is soon to follow, only at a far grater cost than if modern LRT had been built in the first place.

Bogota’s Vaunted Transit System ai??i?? Model for Transjakarta ai??i?? in Distress

March 14, 2012

Bogota, Colombia. Bogota’s eco-friendly mass transit system has been widely emulated around the globe, so urban planners were dismayed when a protest by frustrated commuters turned into a free-for-all that nearly paralyzed Colombia’s capital.

Anger over the TransMilenio system’s overcrowded, deteriorated state was behind last week’s protest, which began at five of the bus rapid transit system’s 114 stations before spinning out of control and devolving into battles between protesters and riot police.

Vandals in ski masks looted and broke windows. Bus drivers abandoned their shiny, double-length vehicles and fled. Earlier protests over the system’s decline had been isolated. This one seemed coordinated.

“The stations are like rivers of people and there’s no control,” complained German Augusto Guarumo, a 52-year-old lawyer and commuter who says the system has become unmanageable during peak travel hours.

Friday’s rioting was a shock to an 11-year-old system that urban planners have lauded, along with a similar network in Curitiba, Brazil, as a promising alternative to rail systems. Its low-emission buses briskly ply dedicated lanes that typically border traffic-choked avenues.

Prized for their efficiency, low cost and smog- and congestion-fighting prowess, such systems have sprung up in cities from Jakarta, Indonesia to Mexico City to Los Angeles and Cleveland, Ohio.

But the TransMilenio has become a victim both of its own success and of official neglect. It became overloaded as the capital’s motor pool grew by about 100,000 automobiles annually over a decade and two consecutive city administrations did almost nothing to expand it. It was built to handle half of the 1.7 million passengers it now carries daily.

And it’s not as if Bogota residents have an alternative. There are rickety old belching buses on some avenues. But most main thoroughfares belong to TransMilenio alone.

Other Latin American cities with bus rapid transit systems tend to have alternatives. Santiago, Chile, has an underground metro. So do Mexico City and Buenos Aires, Argentina, where the variety of options include a bus rapid transit system launched last year.

The success of bus rapid transit is not measured in easing vehicular traffic alone. Economists like it for its affordability. Environmentalists like it for its climate- and public-health friendliness.

The TransMilenio has reduced particulate emissions by 1,000 metric tons a year, saved Bogota $60-70 million in health care costs from decreased respiratory and other ailments and reduced carbon emissions by more than 1.7 million tons between 2006-2009 alone, according to a 2010 study by Manuel Olivera, Colombia’s director for the Clinton Climate Initiative. It has also already earned Bogota $3 million in direct carbon reduction payments under the Kyoto Protocol.

For commuters, the benefit has come primarily in relief from the congestion caused by the 1.4 million automobiles that bloat Bogota’s roads, sometimes producing near-gridlock conditions.

That congestion worsened during the previous administration of Samuel Moreno. The former mayor is on trial for allegedly soliciting and receiving payoffs in granting major construction contracts including one to expand the TransMilenio.

Enrique Penalosa, who as Bogota’s mayor from 1998-2001 launched the TransMilenio, says at least 18 percent of the TransMilenio’s users have cars but leave them at home at least two days a week to comply with vehicle restrictions based on license plate numbers.

One complaint of riders is that the fare is expensive at $1 per trip because the overcrowding makes their commute longer.

Police say they don’t yet know who organized Friday’s protest. About 60 participants were arrested but later released. Authorities put the damage at a half million dollars and 11 injuries were reported.

The violence came as Bogota’s new mayor, former M-19 leftist rebel Gustavo Petro, seeks to renegotiate contracts with some of the system’s 26 concessionaires that expire in 2014.

He claims the city, which does not subsidize the system, deserves more than 5 percent of the TransMilenio’s profits because it provides the infrastructure and security. The concessionaires have not yet agreed to open negotiations.

Petro contends his political opponents were behind Friday’s protest. But Penalosa blamed Petro, claiming the mayor promoted the protests as part of his campaign to renegotiate contracts.

System users, meanwhile, say they’re tired of finger-pointing. “It’s going to take a tragedy until these people realize that we are human beings and not merchandise,” said Carmenza Contreras, a 38-year-old architect.

Associated Press


5 Responses to “Bogota’s Vaunted Bus Rapid Transit System ai??i?? in Distress”
  1. rico says:

    Just a wee bit of shadenfreude? Seems equivalent to blaming Portlands problems on the system and not overly generous benifits.

  2. zweisystem says:

    I guess you haven’t used Portland’s MAX, I find it takes me where I want to go, mostly on a direct service. I find Portland’s MAX and streetcar far easier to use than Vancouver’s transit system and cheaper too.

  3. rico says:

    Strangely enough you missed the point. Who would have guessed. I find it sad the pleasure you take in the difficulties of other systems. My understanding is that Bogatas system is suffering from a lack of capital upgrades. I don’t think I would like to see a BRT to the same extent here but that does not make Bogatas system bad….infact 1.7 million trips per day suggests otherwise. The troubles Bogata is having should not give you joy. Just like I should not get joy out of the massive cuts coming to Trimet and just like Trimets problems are not caused by LRT it does not seem like Bogatas problems are the result of the system but of lack of political will to pay for improvements.
    I have never riden transit in Portland but have heard many Portlanders praise Skytrain and the numbers of people who use transit in Vancouver vs Portland suggest many more people find the Vancouver system supierior for their everyday use. Of course just because there is massively more ridership on Skytrain does mean it would be better for Portland though.

  4. zweisystem says:

    Actually I got the point, trivial as it is.

  5. Peter Smith says:

    BRT = Bus Road Transit

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