Sunday, April 28, 2013

Equity in Bogotá, Colombia

The City of Bogotá has dealt with many issues of equity and fairness within their transportation systems and even with the revolutionary programs that swept through the city during ex-Mayor Peñalosa’s time in office, the city is still not rid of its equity woes. However, it’s important to compare and contrast the situations before and after the programs were in place.According to “Bus Rapid Transit: Is Transmilenio a Miracle Cure?”[1] the following is a useful way of describing the bus system prior to Peñalosa’s enhancements: “Gómez (2004, p. 39) accused the model of being inherently exploitative: “the owners of the companies exploit the bus owners, the latter exploit the drivers and the conductors exploit and maltreat the passengers.” Due to the complicated ownership and management organization of the different aspects with the bus system, there were several parties getting taken advantage of by other parties, and the ones that usually suffered the most were the low-income residents with no other transportation options outside of the dangerous and unreliable bus structure.

The introduction of Transmilenio has alleviated some of the equity issues but has not resolved them. According to the article, there are some differing analysis results of a survey done by the Transmilenio agency regarding social classes served by the BRT system. While the poorest social groups make up a significant portion of ridership, the middle-class takes the biggest portion. The goal of the Transmilenio implementation was to focus on the low-income accessibility the most. However, due to this information, there is debate on whether that goal has truly been achieved.

[1] Gilbert, Alan. "Bus Rapid Transit: Is Transmilenio a Miracle Cure?" Transport Reviews. 28.4 (2008): 439-467. Print.


  1. Has the City of Bogota ever considered removing some of the bureaucracy from their bus system? Perhaps if the company that operated the system also owned the buses and fairly employed the bus drivers, there would be less conflict. This would also create a less hostile environment for the rider. It might be an overly simplistic model, but from the complaint cited above, I think it may be a good place to start.

    1. They actually tried doing that I believe shortly after the implementation of the Transmilenio. It was part of a package of changes being made to the transportation system, but it didn't end up passing due to the pushback from the existing route owners, business owners, etc (the usual suspects). The Transmilenio system has an efficient owner/employee system but the previous bus system still exists and they are having a difficult time combating it's inefficiency.

  2. I had the distinct opportunity of learning from Mayor Pinalosa at the Gerding Theatre in the Pearl last spring. While I was there, my laptop was out and I emphasize that I was typing as quickly as I could. The notes from that lecture are posted below. Enjoy, he is an incredibly intelligent person.


    Mobility and the quality of life

    - Bogota has about a million people biking every Sunday, it is because the act of cycling has been ritualized in a way that rids the city of cars. On Sundays, no cars aloud out except taxis and buses. During 13 hours all citizens meet as equals in public transport, this builds community. Pinalosa is systematically eliminating the use of vehicles. Currently they are trying to rid the use of cars during peak hours.
    - He asks, can we design a city out of transportation wants. We have to ask what kind of city we want, we have to ask what kind of life we want. How does a city like Amsterdam, move 40% (of 2 million) of its population by bicycle.
    - What makes a good city? A good city is one where we want to be out in public space.
    - We are pedestrians: walking beings
    - We need to walk… not to survive, but to be happy…. Just as deer need to run, or birds need to fly. We want to be with people, we are social beings. We need to see people, to have contact with them. We also need to have contact with nature, with trees and water. A city that is good for vulnerable people and children is a good city. We need not to feel inferior. In a democratic city all citizens are equal before the law. The constitution of the US says all citizens are equal before the law. That is that a bus with 100 people deserves 100 times more space than a car of one.
    o Quality of life
    o Technical… arithmetical
    • CARS KILL PEOPLE, our children grow in danger of being hit, we have gone out of our way to accommodate this. In larger cities, children must be afraid of cars. The number one cause of death in children under 15 is the automobile…. The amazing thing about this is that people think this is relatively normal.
    - But then, cities have been around for thousands or years, it is only in the last 80 years that people have had to be concerned for their safety.
    o So then we have a conflict between, car needs and people needs. High velocity streets are a impassable unsafe car pasture that works as a fence for people.
    - A measure to evaluate anything to be done in a city? DOES IT MAKE THE PLACE BETTER? What does the addition of this new thing give to the city?
    - Very wealthy cities and very sophisticated cities existed very well before the car. The 20th century was a disastrous century for urban planning. How then can we change?
    - We realized that we had designed the city for the car rather than peoples happiness.

    - In Bogota they did a 17-kilometer pedestrian only street. Some of the poorest neighborhoods of Bogota had the chance to use public facilities through this addition. Those without cars were reminded that they inability to afford one did not separate them from citizenship. In Japan JICA proposed an 8 lane highway, Pinalosa created a 35 kilometer greenway.
    - Bicycling is a more efficient way of walking.
    - What then, would a city with hundred of miles of miles of bikeways look like. They are a serious matter that requires a serious investment in infrastructure. In Bogota almost 500,000 thousand bicyclist ride completely protected bikeways every day. A protected bikeway is a symbol of democracy. It increases the social status of the citizen. Is it a cute architectural feature? OR IS IT A RIGHT? If someone got hit by a car in a unprotected place, do they have the right to sue? If someone gets hit in a car, they of course do have access to certain avenues of legislation. This is not very democratic that the auto is a mechanism of separation between classes.

  3. - When he was elected, not one person in a wheelchair could get from one corner to another! We tend to think that sidewalks are relatives of streets because they live next to one another…. This is not the case, they are closer relatives to plazas or parks. The sidewalk is not a mechanism of transportation, it is a mechanism of commerce. Ideally, sidewalks should exist in a graded area where it is clear that the car is entering the pedestrian space. Because the city is for the people, not for the car.
    - TRANSPORT IS A PECULIAR PROBLEM: why unlike healthcare or education has transportation not been solved as wealth has been accumulated. It would seem to us that the number of lanes, would the an issue in congestion. This is not the case, 10 cars doing one Kilo create the same amount of traffic as 1 car going 10 kilos.
    - LOW COST, HIGH FREQUENCY PUBLIC TRANSPORT IS A NECESSITY. So then, density is the answer. If Bogota were the same density as Portland, it would 10 times its geographical size. If we need to take a car to get groceries, the city is not well designed. THE BIGGEST PROBLEM WITH PORTLAND IS IT IS NOT DENSE ENOUGH. Higher densities are not just a matter of brownfield redevelopment, In Portland demolish 300 acres of Portland’s inner suburbs in order to redo them in a totally different way and get 30,000 people to live in that same area. So then, is it really traumatic to get people to change homes? People change homes all the time. IN every conservation building truly worth conserving. We need to think about our cities not in the context of our generation or even the following several, we need to plan our cities to last millennia. If high density is not going to be possible to accommodate the population of tomorrow.
    - He proposes leveling the eastside and building up. Light Rail is totally underutilized in low density. If you have high density, the train comes far more often. Zoning restrictions are a major roadblock. People live in the burbs because of choice… because of safety for kids and better schools. So then when we have density, what does that offer. What is important is what happens on the ground regardless of the height of the building. The new density he is suggesting is about tall buildings, but with a radically different terrestrial surrounding. PORTLAND IS A LEADER and can be one in this. The tall spires must be surrounded with excellent public space. High density does not need to be 30 stories. Why do wealthy citizen use public transport? It is not because they love the environment, or public transport… IT IS BECAUSE THEY HAVE TOO. Mass transit will solve transit issues but not traffic jams. Mobility can be solved with public transport, but not traffic jams. How then do we solve traffic jams? Restrict parking. Where there is space for curbside parking… there is space for larger sidewalks! PARKING IS NOT A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT! If you come to the mayor asking where to park, it is the same if you ask where you should put your clothes.

  4. ROADSPACE is the most valuable asset a city has. If there is more space for cars, there will be more cars. If there is less space for cars, there will be less cars. Cars and their drivers do not have rights people do not. If a car carries so many social environmental costs, and public transport uses so many, why don’t the car people pay a tax that pays for the transit???
    - ON BUSES, because they are the only means to cover all the area needed in the worlds public transport. Upper income people support the subway because it keeps lower income earners underground so they can use their car. When a bus filled with lower income people is able to speed by a $100,000 car in a lane just for buses…. That is democracy at work.
    - If they are so great then, did NYC or London or Paris create subways instead. Because when the technology of the car was available the subway rams look had already been adopted. When buses appeared, trams disappear.
    - The main cost for trains is rail depreciation. Trams are pretty, but busses can be pretty too. Buses can spur private investment just a trams. WHEN THERE IS SURFACE PARKING, THE PRICE OF LAND IS TOO LOW AS IS DENSITY.
    - When you create plans for trams and buses, it increases outside investment. It is right that sometimes the space is not enough for both cars and people… This is correct, only buses and pedestrians should be aloud in these places. Why not create a huge network of public transport, this is a new way of organizing cities.
    - The issue is not technical, it is political
    - If there was fuel for only 5% of the city, where then does it go? Very car less cities are not a hippies dream. They exist and they are the most successful cities in the world. NYC Paris, London, Zurich.


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