With a new cable car near completion and an above ground metro ready to begin construction in 2018, Bogotá is adding new options to an already large and innovative city-wide transportation system.
Despite popular belief in Bogotá, the city’s transportation system, from TransMilenio to the large network of bicycle paths, is well-respected amongst transportation professionals around the world. The TransMilenio, while overcrowded, is one of the best examples of a bus rapid transit network in the world. With 113 kilometers of separated bus lanes, TransMilenio just may be the biggest such network. Complaints break down into two main categories: there are too many people trying to take the TransMilenio, and wait times for the bus are excessive.
Overcrowding is a legitimate issue; as the main public transit network in a large city with regularly horrible traffic, there are bound to be simply a lot of people attempting to use the service. This is one of the biggest arguments in the push for a Bogotá Metro. As the largest city in the world without a subway or metro system, commuters in Bogotá are left with only one real option to get to work, leaving it over crowded.
Long wait times, on the other hand, aren’t as bad as they seem compared to other cities around the world. According to transit data company Moovit, which measures various metrics of cities’ public transport networks, the average bus user in Bogotá spends 20 minutes per day waiting. While this seems like a long time, and doesn’t compare to cities in countries like Spain or Singapore, Bogotá beats most cities in comparable countries like Brazil and Peru. The TransMilenio has similar wait times to cities perceived to have much stronger public transport: large world cities like Istanbul, Washington D.C., and Athens, all of which are cities with expansive subway systems, have wait times of about 20 minutes. And of course these systems came at a much greater expense than Bogotá’s cheap bus rapid transit network.
Also worth mention is Bogotá’s vast network of separated and protected bicycle lanes. This connects with the TransMilenio at various points with large areas dedicated for bicycle parking at bus stations. Bogotá does actually receive a lot of respect for its bicycle system, though a lot of that is focused on the unique and innovative Sunday Ciclovías.
Bogotá isn’t considered one of the world’s best biking cities by the leading rankings on the matter from design firm Copenhagenize, but Copenhagenize ended up honoring almost entirely small cities in this years rankings. The only large city in the rankings is the supermassive Tokyo, while the next largest is Paris with only a third of the population of Bogotá. It’s much harder to build support for bicycles over Bogotá’s 1,775 square kilometers than it is in the 99 kilometers that make up the second-best biking city in the world: the Dutch city of Utrecht. Not to mention how difficult it is for cities outside Europe to crack the rankings at all: the only acknowledgement outside of the continent went to the aforementioned Tokyo.
Colombia has a history in being creative with transportation, from Bogotá’s TransMilenio and Ciclovía, to innovations elsewhere like the world’s first MetroCable in Medellín. With more options coming to this currently bus-only city, Bogotá will continue to expand and lead the way with inventive transportation solutions.