Saturday, November 12, 2011

Petro Gets on the Train

Heading to Bogota?
Mayor-elect Gustavo Petro, like Samuel Moreno and many another mayor before, wants to build a subway. And not just any subway - the line along Bogotá's eastern border which various technical studies have recommended - but instead one that goes both north and south AND east and west.

Possible map of Bogota metro....

That would be great - if it were to happen affordably, and within our lifetimes. Other Latin American cities, like Medellin and Lima, Peru, have taken decades to build even basic subway lines. Do we have reason to believe that Bogotá would be particularly more efficient than them - particularly when we've all seen that basic road work and TM expansion projects drag on for years?

But every mayor dreams of leaving some great concrete-and-steel accomplishment behind him, and Petro's no different.

On other transit issues, however, Petro's ideas seem more sensible.

and another proposed metro route.
He wants to build a streetcar line in north Bogota. That has several advantages: streetcars (also known as surface light rail) are much cheaper than subways to build and less expensive to maintain than bus lines, as well as less polluting. (But they're also less flexible). Another strong point in favor of a streetcar line in the north is that, for cultural reasons, many upper class people who won't lower themselves to get onto a bus, will ride trains - perhaps because that makes them feel European.

Samuel also promised a subway. (Photo: La Cariñosa)

Another proposal with support is a regional commuter train line along the existing rail line extending north from central Bogotá. This corridor, which now carries only a weekend tourist train, is terribly underused. However, a high-speed train, which would require protective fences along the lines, would create a barrier dividing the city. And, such a train could promote sprawl along its route.

The little-used rail line could carry commuters - but would require lots of investment.

A crowded TransMilenio bus...but if all these people were in private cars, the city would strangle. 
TransMilenio moves, while other vehicles wait. 
Petro also said in a post-election interview that private car users will subsidize mass transit. That's good economics, as well as social justice, since private car owners are wealthier and consume an inordinate quantity of public resources, such as space, air and everybody's peace of mind.

Onto the list of Bogotá transit fantasies, we can add this proposal in today's El Tiempo: to permit only low-emission vehicles in parts of Bogotá, most likely Ave. Septima. Septima is, some may recall, the same dirty, chaotic, congested avenue which municipal fantasizers say they'll transform into a 'green corridor.'

Until this miracle happens, however, those same officials are managing to ignore the city's tremendous pollution, which a World Bank study of a few years ago concluded cost society more than did the country's armed conflict.

Smoke rises from a fire near Palo Quemao. Nobody pays attention. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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