Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Growing Pains for TransMilenio

At least the bus is moving. Passengers packed into a TransMilenio bus in central Bogotá.
Ever hear the line about the club which nobody goes to anymore, "because it's too crowded?"

A TM bus cruises past traffic-jammed cars. 
That's the situation these days for Bogotá's much famed - and criticized - TransMilenio express bus system. The combination of a growing economy, growing population and lots of roadwork going on has the buses packed way beyond their intended capacity. 

Street art satirizes crowded TM.
Recently, a court ordered TM to install sensors on the buses which will sound an alarm when the buses reach capacity. But lots of TM's buses already have such sensors - and passengers just ignore them and continue crowding in. 

There's a lesson in that: TM is crowded because it works. The system's buses speed past Bogotá's massive traffic jams and deliver passengers to their much faster than do either normal buses or even private cars. 

Overcrowding isn't TM's recent trouble: a recent three-bus collision injured 80 passengers. And, amidst the debate about overcrowding another court ruled that TM must allow passengers to carry pet animals on board, in pet carriers. Others asked what people with allergies to cat hair will do when packed up against another passenger with his or her feline friend? 

The crowded buses have earned TransMilenio
the nickname 'Transmilleno' or even 'Transmuylleno.'

But improvement is coming, albeit slowly. The city is importing more buses, and work on the 
Improvements coming? Work
on a new TM line advances,
but it's ,way behind schedule.
TM lines to the airport and along Carrera 10 is advancing. City officials promise to have the two new lines operating by early next year (more than a year after they were suppposed to be functioning), which will both add capacity and enable TM to redistribute passenger loads more efficiently. And, officials also promise that by early next year the Integrated System of Public Transit, or SITP, will be implemented, bringing some semblance of rationality to the old private buses and phasing out the most aged clunkers. 

Sooner or later, too, they'll even build some sort of efficient transit line along Carrera 7, but we'll have to wait many years for that. And, possibly someday, Bogotá will build a metro, reducing the passenger load along some of TM's busiest routes.

A better way to go? A cyclist races past a TM bus.
But Bogotá's most pressing traffic problem has gotta be all of those single-passenger vehicles 
The real problem: single-passenger
vehicles  gobble up road space. 
packing the roads. Their passengers are comfortable in their private spaces, but just a few of them fill up as much road space as a single TM bus, which may carry a hundred people. Private cars are being added to Bogotá's streets at an accelerating rate, pushing the city toward gridlock unless it takes strong measures soon. Mayoral candidate Antanas Mockus recently showed his independence by proposing mto charge a fee on private cars entering the city center. That's an idea that's worked in London, Singapore and other cities - and it's the only sustainable, long-term  solution I've seen.
Buses lined up near the Museo de Oro. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

1 comment:

Mike Hower said...

Trans-muy-lleno. haha love it. imagine how me, a huge gringo feels, when smashed inside one of these buses at rush hour!