69Finding a win-win strategy for Bogota
- Aug 7, 2001* (This note contains the earlier correspondence on the Bogota crisis of the
last day's, placed here for those who have not had access to it. For the
latest direct, check out http://eltiempo.terra.com.co/. For history, try
Dear Lake, Christopher and Group,
Thanks for those fine heads-up Christopher and Lake. Let me run this
through you and the others as I understand it. Since it is quite possible
that I am at error in some part if not all of this, it will be with pleasure
to hear from you all so that we get this important story in its full and
necessary perspective. And at the same time, we have to be aware that time
is very short here if there is anything that we might do to attenuate this
1. Wow! One does has to wonder about what goes on in the mind of
purportedly sentient person in a Third World city who would be prepared to
take on the couple of hundred thousand people who work in the private bus
and taxi sector. History is littered with the corpses of those who have
tried, whether in Chile, in Colombia itself a decade and a half before
Salvador Allende has his face-off with the truckers, or... and the list goes
2. We must be careful to keep a balanced perspective on all this. The
transportation and public space accomplishments of the city and its
administrators over these last few years have been of a very high levels,
and against all the odds. I think we have given excellent coverage of this
here in The Commons, as well as our active, world-level support. No problem
there. We love Bogota and we love certainly no less the emerging Bogota
Model for Third World Cities. But we also need to be very sure that we have
the right model, and that as we are seeing is a terrific challenge indeed.
Work for which many hands are needed!
3. I would tend to be very careful however about seeing this as an "us"
(good TransMilenio, bike paths, walking and pubic spaces, Ciclovías (car
free Sundays), and all that other good stuff) and "them" (all those filthy,
polluting, half criminal, dangerous and the list goes on vehicles) issue.
This is however, I am afraid, the sub-text of what has been going on in
Bogota more or less all along- and is on area in which I was in strong
opposition with previous administration (but apparently without being
vociferous enough about it to make my point).
4. By the way, let's ponder for a moment who's the "them" there. Let's
see -- bearing in mind that these are very rough figures since the actual
number of vehicles out there on the streets is subject to all kinds fo real
world stuff - we have something like 55,000 taxis and 35,000 or so buses of
various types and sizes. Figure anywhere from 3 to 5 support people (AKA
jobs) for each of those vehicles, and we quickly are moving up toward half a
million. Then factor in families of 3, 4 or more dependents? Hey, that's a
pretty big number of people to be playing with. Working people with no
5. The point needs to be made about these operators that there is nothing
superfluous about the services they are providing. While they maybe didn't
get doctorates in transportation planning from some splendid First World
schools, they nonetheless are succeeding in providing services that people
want and are willing to pay for - without the great sucking sound of public
6. Is this to say that the transport planners and the city do not have a
point? Of course they do -- there are a real set of problems and challenges
out there that have to be resolved. There are, for example, a lot of empty
buses roaming around once the peak hour traffic has passed, and sure that's
a problem. And they are old and pollute in FULL CAPS. And they run
illegally pretty much as they wish. And and... But there are ways, and
there are ways.
7. I for one was looking forward to resolving these dangerous contradictions
with careful discussions and well thought out positions before going to bat
on this one. It had been my hope (and I guess it still is) to create a High
Level Task Force, whose job it would be to work with, follow and advice the
city and all those concerned about their transport-related policies over the
15 year period which has been targeted by the successful October Referendum
(which as you ay recall we vociferously and with high profile supported from
here). But months have passed and there is still no Task Force in sight.
8. This next sentence, you either go with or you don't. In the latter
instance, there is surely no reason to read beyond it.
9. The future of transport in Third World cities must (MUST!) take the form
of a dynamic, innovative, and patient partnership that brings together "new"
concepts such as the TransMilenio, waling and cycling as transport, in
parallel with a steady upgrading and INCLUSION of the very large number of
people and small groups who today are making their livings and providing
needed services in the city.
10. Anything less than that will be a victory for the authoritarian central
planners and a defeat for access, efficiency and social justice. The problem
with folks who learned everything they know about life in universities and
then get nice jobs in administrations or as consultants, is that they very
often don't know much about life on the street. Nor apparently much about
concepts such as love, community, responsibilities to family and dignity.
And yet these are central issues here.
11. You see, people such as the taxistas and small bus operators have to be
seen as OWNING THEIR JOBS, which means that we as advisors or administrators
cannot simply take them away from them. Nor introduce unilateral and large
changes in their working environment, without some sort of tit for tat. And
where's the tit for tat in Bogota today?
12. The weakness of the Transmilenio et al plan until now is that it
presumes a certain vision of the future of the city which is essentially
cloistered, academic and unreal. It has its strong points, and its weaker
points. And this is probably the weakest of all.
13. What Bogota needs (if I may) is a well thought out network of TMs, cycle
paths and the rest, plus draconian parking and private car control
limitations plus lots of small vehicles scooting around providing cheap and
flexible transportation for people of all economic groups - and lots of good
jobs! The potential for upgrading these private systems is enormous and
14. And are the people who are the drivers, operators, owners, etc. easy to
work with? You bet they aren't! Life is tough out there on the street and
most of the time they meet a guy in a suit it's because the suited one is
going to make things worse for them. And here, dear friends, we have one
15. I am dead sure that this whole thing can be resolved, but the first step
in this process has to be wisdom and not wounded honor. And it has to be
taken by the administration.
16. Mayor Mockus has a terrific opportunity here. At the same time while
backing away from their ill planned (and rotten) idea of extending the Pico
y Placa by fiat, he can first declare a hiatus, let the guys get back to
work in a normal way, while announcing that the government is now ready to
enter into a New Mobility Partnership with the small service providers -
with the backing (if it can be done in the needed hurry, if only in
principle as a first step) of folks such as the UNDP, WB, IADB and the other
usual suspects.. including bilateral aid programs.
By doing this they will snatch victory out of the jaws of the defeat which
they are sure to meet if they keep playing for the win at all costs. Hey,
this is a great opportunity for them, and for the Bogota Model. So, what do
you have to say about that? And what can we do with this next?
PS. Incidentally, I have a hard time in agreeing with your criticism, Lake,
of El Tiempo's coverage. Let's not forget they have been consistent
supporters of positive transport innovation over these last years, including
for the first (and second) award winning Car Free Day. If they are not
lining up behind the planners, does this necessarily mean that they are
wrong or mean spirited? I doubt it on both scores. I have checked carefully,
including today, and find the coverage quite balanced and fair.
= = = = =
Letter 1 from Christian Dunkerley from Bogota on Mon 8/6/2001 10:56 PM
I am writing to you from an internet cafe in Bogota... I was caught in the
mess on Thursday, and the blockage was massive. In fact, it was the worst
that Bogota has experienced in its entire life. Most of the main
intersections and roads were blocked. Rich and poor had to walk: there was
no other way out. It was very democratic: everyone was affected. In my
case, I had to walk around 6 miles to get back home. Not even schools or
emergency services were spared.
The funny thing is that I spent 5 years in a research project at ITS-Leed
University studying the impact of road infrastructure closures in
Colombia!!! If you want more precise details of the closures(and my
publications on this area), I can send them when I get back to the UK... my
other email address is cdunkerley@...
= = = =
Letter 2 from Lake Sagaris [sagaris@...] on Tue 8/7/2001 3:08 PM
Patricio and I just got back from Bogota where we spent quite a bit of time
with the folks at TransMilenio, Ciclovías, etc. They're doing an amazing
job in very difficult conditions. It was quite clear, however, that El
Tiempo has taken a very strong editorial line against TransMilenio itself
and that there is an enormous and very important debate going on about what
should happen with the rest of the transportation system in the city. I'm
not sure that you should be so pessimistic -- rather than a "screw up" in
Bogota, I'd characterize this as a "Crucial debate" in that it is very
important that the positive initiatives taken by authorities past and
present be recognized and receive broad and increasingly active support
from the citizens. Otherwise, in the conditions (33,000 buses!!!, not to
mention taxis, etc.) existing in Bogotá it will be very difficult to expand
the benefits of TransMilenio beyond the current 340,000 -- 1 million by
years end -- daily passenger trips (this should end up being about 1/7 of
those who move by bus, which in turn is 80% of daily commutes).
One problem is that authorities in general and in Latin America in
particular constantly underestimate the importance of citizens'
participation and hence support for their transportation policies. They
think they can change the city without the citizens, a deadly assumption.
If you look at the letters to the editor section of the same issue of El
tiempo which you posted, most of the letters are very sensible and express
support for "Pico y Placa" and, in general, the measures being taken by the
authorities. There is also widespread approval of TransMilenio, which is
also (miracle of miracles!!!) making money, and these are crucial elements
to the debate.
Anyway, I may be missing something as I haven't read the papers from Bogotá
in the past week, but in general we found people on the street were also
very happy with TransMilenio. We found it was still being underestimated in
the sense of what it could do for local business (same with the Ciclovías)
and that is an important gap, but everything takes time and it will surely
PS I'm cc'ing this to you because I suspect the list won't take the new
address I'm sending from.
At 07:26 AM 07/08/01 +0200, you wrote:
>I would very much like to have the benefit of your reactions and thoughts
>to what is currently going on in Bogota. I personally and professionallypresent
>find it extremely distressing.
>Have a look at today's El Tiempo at
>http://eltiempo.terra.com.co/06-08-2001/prip83036.html to get the latest.
>(I attach the usual horrible machine translation, without apologies for
>anyone who needs a bit of help in making their way through the Spanish
>If you look around through the recent issues of El Tiempo, you can see this
>storm coming. And if you want a flavour for how things are looking out
>there on the streets, check out
>Those of us who follow transport matters in the Third World are well aware
>of what a dynamite keg it can be. That's on the one hand. But then there
>is all the careful work that has been done over these last years to make
>progress in building a new model of r in Third World cities. If the
>administration gets this one any wronger, that could be the real victim ofto
>There is an expression that I remember from German when I was little, which
>went that as soon as a child says something clever at the table it's time
>put him to bed. This situation reminds me sadly of that: the original Picoextending the
>y Placa (Odd/Even) scheme of the previous (Peñalosa) administration was
>extremely well thought out and has worked admirably with private cars for
>several years. Admirably! And now the new mayor (a fine and intelligent
>man, as it happens) and his advisors (ahem!) have decided that, since it
>works so well and they still want less traffic, well why not apply it to
>private buses and taxis? Ouch!
>But hey! maybe I have this all horribly wrong. I'd love to think that's the
>case and that they have really thought all this through and that the Bogota
>Model is going to come through this unscathed.
>The @New Mobility Forum is permanently at http://newmobility.org
>The Commons ___Sustainable Development and Social Justice___
>Le Frene, 8/10 rue Joseph Bara, 75006 Paris, France
>Eric.Britton@... Tel: +331 4326 1323
>= = = =
>BOGOTÁ, ANOTHER TIME TO HALF MARCH FOR UNEMPLOYMENT OF TRANSPORT
>The transporters again carry out a work stoppage to protest against
Odd/Even scheme for public service vehicles. Hundreds of citizens
>crowd together in the stations of the service of the mass transportwalks to
>Transmilenio, the only one that currently works. Others carry out long
>arrive to their working place. Today there are no classes in the districtMonday
>and private schools. For the time being, there are no blockades.
>To the edge of the midnight they broke the conversations among the Mayor
>Antanas Mockus and the transporters of Bogotá, with that which was firm the
>measure of the pick and badge for the public transportation and today
>an unemployment will be presented on the part of taxis and buses in theThe
>capital, fair the day of its birthday number 463.
>With mutual accusations of intransigence, Mockus and the transporters gave
>end at eight hours of negotiation after which there were not agreements.
>Mayor's office asked to the from Bogotá ones not to take today buses,'.
>busetas, taxis or collective whose badges finish in 1, 2, 3 or 4, and the
>Metropolitan Police gets ready to make complete the restriction to the
>public transportation that began a.m. at 5:30 o'clock
>The drivers announced protests with the use of the call 'Operation turtle
>Miguel Ángel Pérez, spokesman of Apetrans, accused Mockus of working with "necessary
>bad faith " in front of the union transporter, but the Minister of the
>Interior, Armando Estrada, assured to be witness of the conciliatory spirit
>of the burgomaestre.
>They carry to an extreme safety measures
>The director of the National, general Police Luis Ernesto Gilibert, noticed
>yesterday that the institution to its position already adopted the
>measures to prevent that the city is paralyzed by the transporters again.are
>According to Gilibert, their men have the order of impeding the blockade of
>main and secondary roads of the city, and he/she said that in this occasion
>the authorities won't be consequent with the drivers.
>To avoid any incident, the number of agents of the Metropolitan Police was
>reinforced with troops of the Police of Highways and the Police of
>Cundinamarca. About 3.000 men travel from last night the city.
>Likewise, a strict control will be made to the use of radio frequencies for
>judicializar those companies that allow the drivers to use this means to
>perturb the public order.
>Yesterday he/she took place a safe-deposit advice in the biggest Mayor's
>office to which attended Government's secretary, Soraya Montoya; the
>commandant of the Metropolitan, general Police Jorge Enrique Linares; the
>commandant of the Unit of Traffic, colonel Pedro Molano; the commandant of
>the Tenth Third Brigade, general Reynaldo Castellanos, and the adviser for
>the security, Hugo Steel.
>Linares said that there are 60 control positions in the city and 40 cranes
>will be available to move away the vehicles that obstruct the roads.
>The objective of the advice was to review the contingency stockings that
>had foreseen to avoid alterations of the public order in Bogotá. Troops ofsaid
>the Army are bet around the city with the purpose of preventing that the
>guerrilla's urban militias can infiltrates in the possible manifestations
>that are carried out.
>Of another side, yesterday the Defender of the Town, Eduardo Cifuentes,
>that the taponamiento of the citizens' roads viola fundamental rights.the
>According to the Defender, to impede the normal flow of vehicles and people
>in the city, it is an attack against the free mobilization.
>Cifuentes said that the drivers are in all its right of protesting provided
>they make it for the road of the I dialogue and the agreement, and not
>through measures that affect to the rest of the society.
>The Mayor's office announced that that of today will be an ordinary day and
>that therefore the scheduled activities are not suspended with reason of
>celebration of the 463 years of the capital.new
>Even, Mockus will be at 7 in the morning in a journey for TransMilenio that
>today gives a new line of the system in the North Freeway. He/she also
>enters in operation in Portal of Usme, in the south end of the city. The
>stations will allow the mobilization of at least 80 thousand passengers.taxi
>Avoid to take the taxis or buses whose registrations finish in 1, 2, 3 and
>4, because the surest thing is that the authorities will immobilize him and
>you won't be able to follow their journey.
>To avoid that he/she repeats that of last Thursday, when children's
>thousands were caught by several hours in the blockades promoted by the
>drivers, call to the school of their children and discover if there are
>Limit their activities of the day, carry out alone those that it considers
>Try not to traffic for the places where they concentrate the protests, as
>downtown, for example.
>If it can go out with their particular vehicle, ask if some neighbor or
>relative goes for his same route and bring near it.
>If today's journey is not very long, use bicycle or put on comfortable
>clothes and walk.
>Remember that TransMilenio will lend its ordinary service, starting from
>5:30 o'clock including the new ones truncates them a.m., and park in the
>North Freeway and the Portal of Usme.
>In the event of an emergency, don't doubt to communicate with the Police.