Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Mayor and the Metro

Samuel Moreno was elected mayor to a great extent on his promise to build a subway system.

That system has not been built or even contracted yet - but it's already being questioned. Two university studies suggested the soil was sufficiently stable for digging tunnels, that the construction could damage buildings overhead, that the trains might not be be fast enough to justify the system, that construction will impact natural areas and that passenger flows will overwhelm some stations.

But the most fundamental question is whether the city has the money to pay for this megaproject.

I can promise you right now that metro construction will go tremendously over-budget and cost way more than expected. Just look at what's happening with the Transmilenio system's expansion: one line was supposed to be finished this November, but is now going to take until mid-2011 - at least. And building a metro system is hugely more complex and expensive.

Bogotá desperately needs to keep expanding its public transit system and phase out the existing chaotic and polluting old private buses. But do Bogotanos really want to live amidst rubble, blocked roads and noise - for many years, maybe even decades?

Is a subway system really a practical, realistic solution, or a boondoggle intended to boost the mayor's legacy and make Bogotanos feel like they've got a world-class city?

I suspect the second. Bogotá should continue to expand the Transmilenio, consider light rail and institute a congestion tax like London's.

This blog written by Mike Ceaser of Bogota Bike Tours

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