By Andrés Jara-Moreno, Country Director, Colombia
TransMilenio, Bogota’s world-class BRT system, celebrated ten years of successful operations on October 28th. ITDP President and former Mayor of Bogota, Enrique Penalosa, described TransMilenio as “the best bus system in the word’ in his key-note address at the anniversary celebrations. Penalosa commissioned its creation during his tenure as Mayor. He reminded people that TransMilenio was a crucial part of his more comprehensive mobility policy that included car restrictions, the implementation of hundreds of kilometers of pedestrian promenades and separated bicycle paths, and the construction of public libraries, schools and nurseries.
TransMilenio started operations in late 2000 and functions as an above-ground system with high-capacity, quality buses. It was inspired by the BRT of Curitiba in Brazil, which was constructed in the 1970’s during Jaime Lerner’s time as Mayor. Penalosa was keen to pay homage: “I want to offer my gratitude to the Former Mayor of Curitiba, Jaime Lerner. But, I have to say that one of the main differences between the BRT systems of Bogota and Curitiba is that we gave a name to our BRT system; a meaningful name that implies major changes in the people’s behavior and a huge transformation in the City’s landscape. Today nobody says they are going to take a bus when they talk about TransMilenio,” Peñalosa argued.
Over the past 10 years, TransMilenio has transported more than 3,000,000,000 passengers and currently serves 1.7 million users per day. It has helped reduce carbon emissions, being characterized by the United Nations as a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Water and oil savings are up 40%, while the rate of accidents on the road has decreased by 80%. The system is also integrated with the bicycle network, offering bicycle parking for more than 1,600 bicycles at various stations.
Furthermore, TransMilenio has emerged as an international symbol for urban transportation success, with over 200 delegations from every part of the globe traveling to Bogota to learn first-hand about technical, operational and maintenance issues. Bogota’s BRT system has also spurred further exchange of knowledge between countries as those involved in the development of TransMilenio have gone on to help with other BRT systems in China, Indonesia, Africa, and around Latin America. Edgar Enrique Sandoval, who was the First General Manager of the system and has worked with ITDP, was awarded and recognized at the 10-year celebration as one of the crucial founders of TransMilenio.
The main challenge facing TransMilenio as it enters its second decade is popularity. According to Peñalosa, the system should expand service and capacity as its ridership continues to grow daily. Such additions would include more stations, increased accessibility to the City’s suburbs, more services, more operational returns, and underground tunnels along the system’s backbone Avenida Caracas.