On Behalf Of Carlosfelipe Pardo
Sent: Saturday, 26 April 2008 12:34
There have been a lot of rumors regarding Bogotá's "fate" in terms of
transport, and a lot has happened in the last months. Some may be
interested in knowing more about it. I will do my best to summarize the
key issues of this "time machine" towards the past (I would say
somewhere around the 80s) that our city has started to experience in
terms of transport policy and practice. It's based on the latest
"development" plan of the city, press announcements and a recent meeting
I attended where the new Secretary of Mobility described their projects
in some detail. If anyone would like to correct or add something,
they're most welcome:
*BRT and Metro*: As with Curitiba, many rail promoters are very
interested in developing a rail system for Bogotá. This in itself isn't
too bad. The bad thing is that one strategy has been to discredit the
xistent BRT systems. This story is very long, so I won't get into it.
For Bogotá, the current mayor won the elections partly because he
promised to build a metro, and because the BRT's
6-people-per-square-meter operations had people doubting about its
efficacy as a mass transit system. However, the mayor has never said (or
maybe doesn't know) that a metro will have the same operation
characteristics, but at a much higher cost. However, a bid for studies
to develop the metro will be open soon (two weeks ago, 42 companies
expressed their interest in taking part in such a study), financed with
loans from development banks. In this regard, the World Bank has told
the municipality clearly that they should be very careful about
developing a rail system due to the known risks of such a system.
At the same time, the mobility secretary has said "we cannot build more
BRT (TransMilenio) because we have no more money". Strange but
true...more about financing below. Regarding the BRT's operation and
structure, they have also announced that they will "improve" operations,
mainly by changing the financial structure and (see this!) possibly by
changing the payment to operators by kilometers to another scheme (by
passengers? that could take us 10 years back in just a couple of months).
Finally, they have just announced that, on the "Séptima" Avenue (where
plans for BRT phase III had been fully designed already), they will
build a "busway" (not a BRT, but a busway, like the one that proved that
this scheme would not work in Bogotá, in the 1980s and 1990s). They said
this will enhance the (fare) integration of the new integrated scheme
they are proposing, which they say would be ready in one year. For such
a scheme, IADB is providing a grant to the city.
*Parking: *Last week, they have also announced that, due to congestion,
cruising, and delivery truck problems, they will now "solve everything"
by opening up parking bays in the city, AT NO COST. I told the Secretary
of Mobility that this would just increase congestion if they didn't do a
proper parking pricing policy, but he answered "I can't charge users for
parking if I don't have good public transport"... Chicken and egg
problem # 1. Further, one must note that sidewalks which were previously
built are now being partially torn down by some shop owners, etc. Ah,
but I have to be fair: cars can only park a maximum of 3 hours in the
newly opened parking bays.
*Roads and Highways: *Yet another idea of the current administration has
been to say that, to solve the current deterioration of the current
roads, they will build new roads with the "innovative model" of a
concession. Yes, there is something strange here also: new roads to
solve the deterioration of old roads. I suggested they concession the
maintenance of the existing roads, and charge for their use while using
the charge to invest in public transport and partially solve the
financing problem described below. However, this wasn't seen as viable
or useful or even logical. It's also relevant to note that, since they
have started to prioritize traffic management, traffic police are now
overriding red phases for intersections on the BRT and pushing cars to
the limit of the intersection (yes, on top of the pedestrian crossing
*Bikeways: *When the Chamber of Commerce asked the Secretary of Mobility
about the role of bicycles in the transport system, he said "I never
thought a bicycle could be part of a transport system". However, he went
on a trip to Europe to learn about transport measures, and his
conclusion about bicycles was that they are only feasible to use in the
Netherlands, where the average trip distance is 2km. Thus, Bogotá should
not promote bicycles (despite the existent 340kms of fully segregated
bikeways and its 8-fold increase in use since their implementation).
*Land use*: The last related measure proposed is that they will build an
intercity train. The argument the Secretary of Mobility has given is
that "people want to live in suburbs and leave the noise and pollution
of the city". That is, the city is inevitable noisy and filthy, so the
people who can afford it should do their best to live as far away as
possible... and the city must cater the needs of those oh unfortunate
rich people. A lesson on equity.
*Financing the system*: During elections, the candidate for mayor said
he would finance all transport improvements (metro, road network) with
the funds gathered from traffic violations (e.g. "tickets"). Now they
have seen that this is not viable, so they say that all development
banks are "begging" them to take a loan, which would be payable starting
2015... Also, they have reminded us that concession highways pay for
*Politics*: As if the above were not enough to demonstrate how Bogotá
will go back to the stone age in transport, there are also heavy
political battles involved. In summary: any proposal that sounds like
sustainable transport (livability, equity, less car use, more bicycles,
more public transport) will be labeled "Peñalosa" and they will say you
come from his political party. Of course, under this administration all
doors will be closed if you just mention that name, since he was the
opposing candidate to the current mayor.
I would also say that the current plans to stop further development of
transmilenio and do busways is a deliberate attempt to stop any project
that had to do with Peñalosa, as if the development of a city had
someone's name attached to it, the current Bogotá with wide sidewalks
and bikeways is dubbed "Peñalosa's city". And, since local GDP has
increased significantly and USD exchange rate has dropped, everyone
has/wants to have a car (loans are also pretty easy to get) and hates
any anti-car measure.
Ok, and for those who have heard about the Sunday carfree day (Ciclovía)
from 7am to 2pm, a congressman has proposed a law that will limit the
time of the Ciclovia to 12 noon, and should start at 5am, despite the
fact that at least 1million users are using the ciclovía from 11 to 2pm.
His argument: many people suffer from the congestion of those 117 km,
and bikeways aren't used during that time (according to him). So,
following this rationale, a recreational measure has to pay for the
excessive car use in the city.
That's it, in a nutshell. Sorry for the black hat, but I thought it
would be useful to describe the status quo of Bogotá's transport. If all
goes as planned, we will be back in 1980 by the end of this
administration, but we'll have the additional problems: a huge loan on
an inexistent subway, unprecedented population of cars and motorcycles
and the expected increased pollution, injuries, deaths in road accidents
or from respiratory problems, and a dirty, inefficient and congested city.
What to do? Comments are most welcome.