Monday, June 7, 2010

The City Paper's View of Bogotá Transit

A writer for The City Paper, Bogotá's English-language monthly, has published his take on the Colombian capital's traffic troubles. But, unfortunately, in the best tradition of expatriates, his perspective is far removed from the reality of most bogotanos.

Most of David Noto's commentary - which is not on their website - discusses efforts to expand the city's avenues. But expanding road space is only a sop to car owners, and in any case only relieves congestion for a short while - until more motorists fill up the roads, making congestion and pollution worse than ever. In Bogotá, unlike most of the countries we native English speakers hail from, cars move only a small minority of commuters - but, even here, cars occupy the great majority of road space. So, Noto is looking at things from the perspective of the small minority who do the most to worsen the city's congestion, and asking how we can improve things for them - if only futiley and temporarily.

Just look at the United States, which has paved over tremendous areas of its surface and turned its cities into broiling urban jungles, but where traffic congestion just keeps getting worse. Also because of its addiction to the private car, America's oil addiction has become a national concern and filled the Gulf of Mexico with gook.

Does Colombia want to go down the same expensive, environmentally-destructive road, when real solutions are staring at it in the face?

In fact, Noto's commentary does end with compliments for Bogotá's widely admired and imitated Transmilenio express bus system, which begs the question of why he didn't start out by supporting the mayor's efforts to expand this system. Noto might also have endorsed a congestion-tax similar to the one which has dramatically reduced traffic jams and pollution there.

But, instead, Noto wrote from the perspective of the minority auto addict, a mindset which will set Bogotá on the same destructive route which the United States has already taken.

Should this city really continue taking money and space away from schools, parks and housing in order to build more roads, which cars will soon fill up, anyway?

This blog written by Mike Ceaser, of Bogota Bike Tours

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