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Bogotá continues to lead urban mobility solutions as it builds its first Metro line

The capital of the Republic of Colombia is counting the days to take a big step in improving its urban mobility and become the second Colombian city to have a subway service after Medellin, inaugurated in 1994. The Bogotá metropolitan area, made up of some twenty towns, currently has a population of close to 8 million inhabitants. It is also the country’s main economic engine, with an estimated annual GDP of more than 100 billion dollars. This is also greatly helped by the fact that 70% of foreign investment in Colombia is destined for the Capital District.

Bogota’s peculiar orography has been an additional challenge for the mobility of its residents, who have also seen the population triple in the last 40 years. Wedged between the natural barriers of the eastern hills, the Bogotá River and the Sumapaz nature reserve, this South American metropolis has until now relied mainly on two public transport services for its mobility. According to data from the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce’s Mobility Observatory, more than 12.7 million trips are made every day in the Capital District, 8.6 million of which are on the SITP (Bogotá Integrated Transport System) and TransMilenio bus lines.

                                                                                                                      Traffic in Bogotá’s financial center

 

After the pioneering initiative in Perú with ENATRU in the 1960s, the Brazilian city of Curitiba inaugurated the Integrated Transport Network in 1974, thus becoming the first city in the world with BTR (also known as metrobus or bus rapid transit). Following these experiences, first Ecuador, with the creation of the Quito Trolleybus in 1994, and then Colombia, thanks to TransMilenio in Bogotá in 2000, established their BTRs as the second and third cities in the world to have this service, characterized by providing their own lanes for public transport, as well as a network of transit stations.

In these 24 years, TransMilenio has grown from the initial 21 stations to the current 147, which will be 181 when the last phase of construction is completed. In a mixed system in which the infrastructure is publicly owned while the vehicles belong to a concessionaire and the collection is carried out by another private company, the revenues are shared in a 5%/90%/5% ratio between these three intervening actors. During 2023 the “Green Corridor” project was presented, designed to implement a new line with electric buses and stations with less visual impact, although the change in the mayor’s office at the end of that year paralyzed the project due to the enormous economic impact that, according to the new mayor, Carlos Fernando Galán, the simultaneous construction of the Metro and the Corridor would have on the municipal coffers.

                                                                                                                                            Bogotá at night

 

The more than 50% reduction in the use of public transport during the Covid-19 pandemic had dealt a severe financial blow to TransMilenio. By the end of 2020 the company was carrying a debt of more than 2 trillion pesos, which forced the local government to finance its rescue in the spring of 2021 with an investment of 1.9 trillion pesos. In addition, TransMilenio had low satisfaction rates among its users due, among other factors, to the average age of the vehicles, which prompted the gradual renewal of the fleet in recent years. In addition to improving the service with the entry into service of new units, the environmental impact has been reduced as the bus fleet has been renewed by incorporating less polluting vehicles and today Bogotá has, after Santiago de Chile, the second largest fleet of electric buses in Latin America.

But the construction of a subway network is an old Bogota’s aspiration that dates back to the 1950s when the first studies and projects began. During the following seven decades, numerous attempts were made to recover the project, and although in many of them the initiative was already considered definitive, it would not be until 2019 when the contract for the start of construction was finally signed. The successful bidder was the consortium formed by the Chinese companies Harbour Engineering Company Ltd (with majority participation of the Chinese Government) and Xi’An Metro Company for an amount of more than 4 billion pesos. The first line of the new subway would be elevated to 13.5 meters, seismic-resistant, would have a 24-kilometer route between Patio Taller and 72nd Street, and would have 16 stations, 10 of which would have an interchange with the TransMilenio network. On May 24, 2024, it was decided to extend the line to 100th Street (another 3.24 kilometers), also adding 3 new stations to line 1. The construction of this first line will be carried out in 6 phases and is expected to be fully completed by the end of 2025. Line 2 will be subway and will have 11 stations and, after closing the bidding period, work is expected to begin this year. The Bogotá Metro project contemplates up to 4 lines and its objective is that by 2030, 80% of Bogotá residents will have a mass transit station, subway or trunk line, within one kilometer of their homes.

One of the premises of the project is to promote interconnection with both the TransMilenio network and the extensive network of bicycle lanes. Bogotá is considered the capital of bicycle lanes in Latin America, as it currently has 630 kilometers of bicycle lanes on which an estimated 1.2 million cyclists ride daily. Another of the measures to improve mobility implemented in Bogotá and subsequently adopted in other cities in the continent has been the “Pico y Placa”, which consists in peak hours (rush hour) only vehicles whose license plate ends in a certain number can circulate. But measures and policies to improve urban mobility in Bogotá in recent years are constant. In addition to the arrival of the metro, whose start of operations will mean a revolution in mobility in the capital, on May 26 the approval of the river transport project through the Bogotá river was announced, which is estimated to benefit 4 million people and be used by 120,000 travelers per day. The project contemplates up to 13 river routes with interconnection with SITP and TransMilenio lines, as well as an access to El Dorado International Airport. With all this, Bogotá continues to be a true laboratory for urban mobility in Latin America and worldwide.

                                                                        Appearance of the layout of Line 1 of the Bogotá Metro once it enters into service

https://elpais.com/clima-y-medio-ambiente/2020-11-28/bogota-la-capital-ciclista-de-latinoamerica-aprovecha-la-pandemia-para-dar-otro-impulso-a-la-bicicleta.html

https://www.metrodebogota.gov.co/?q=que-es-metro

https://bogotacomovamos.org/tag/transmilenio/

https://bogota.gov.co/mi-ciudad/movilidad/transmilenio/rescate-de-transmilenio-que-se-hara-con-dinero-aprobado-en-concejo

https://www.alertabogota.com/noticias/local/transporte-por-el-rio-bogota-es-una-realidad-pille-las-rutas-pa-mejorar-la-movilidad

https://www.larepublica.co/economia/el-alcalde-de-bogota-aseguro-que-no-se-va-a-contratar-el-corredor-verde-de-la-septima-3755199

https://elpais.com/america-colombia/2023-11-21/el-tribunal-superior-de-cundinamarca-revive-el-corredor-verde-de-la-septima.html

https://elpais.com/america-colombia/2024-05-23/estacion-de-transmilenio-en-marly-fechas-de-cierre-y-ruta-circular-alternativa-por-las-obras-del-metro-de-bogota.html

 

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