Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fiddling While Bogotá Waits

Waiting for a solution
Bogotá has, for many years, had a policy called Pico y Placa which prohibits vehicles from driving in the city two days of each week, according to the last digit on the license plate.

The system successfully reduced traffic congestion -  in the short term. In the longer term, however, the policy is counterproductive, because it encourages the purchase of second cars with different license plate numbers by those who can afford to. A glance at the city's tremendous traffic jams shows patently that Pico y Placa has failed.

This week is particularly dramatic, because the city government suspended Pico y Placa during the holidays, when many people leave the city. However, while the city started back up on the 11th, the suspension extends until the 15th, condemning us to a week of really infernal traffic jams.

Last year, the city government expanded the restriction to 14 hours per day because of the traffic problems generated by roadwork. That change is scheduled to expire Feb. 15 - when the road projects were supposed to  be wrapped up. However, those projects are way behind, and so city hall is talking about extending the 14-hour  Pico y Placa - an inevitable decision. More broadly, officials may add Saturdays to the Pico y Placa rotation, banning cars from the streets three out of every six days.
Bogotá needs more bikes, fewer cars.

But does anybody realy believe that will make more than an incremental reduction in traffic congestion? Particularly when 140,000 cars and 40,000 motorcycles were registered in Bogotá last year?

What Bogotá needs is a congestion charge, the only solution which will take cars off of the road, while also generating income for public transit.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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