Monday, January 16, 2012

Bogotá's Traffic Jams Return From Vacation

Nothing moving: Third Ave. in La Candelaria this afternoon. 
With thousands of middle- and upper-class Bogotanos back from vacation and to their usual commutes, Bogotá's monumental traffic jams are back, too. 

These photos illustrate what too many cars do to a city's transit - and what taking cars off the road does for transit. 

This was one of two minor accidents I saw in the traffic jam. 
I'm reminded of an episode I saw in Caracas, Venezuela in 2002, when an oil industry strike transformed the country from an almost free gasoline situation to an almost no-gasoline situation. I was a member of the Foreign Press Association, which employed a receptionist who normally commuted to work in her car by herself from one of the city's outer suburbs. (She, as an upper class Venezuelan, was one of the main financial beneficiaries of Venezuela's insane gasoline subsidy.) Naturally, the huge traffic jams meant that her relatively short commute took hours.

On Jimenez, the Transmilenio buses WERE advancing. 
Then the petroleum workers went on strike, gasoline disappeared, the roads emptied except for buses (and Caracas became much less polluted and more liveable). In practice, the city had turned its streets, avenues and freeways into bus-only lanes. 

Our receptionist hated this, of course, because she couldn't drive her car. But, even tho she had to take three different buses to get from home to the city center, she got to work faster than in her car. 

Naturally, once the strike ended the Chavez government began giving away gasoline again, commuters returned to their private cars, and to their traffic jams.

New Bogotá mayor Gustavo Petro isn't likely to turn the city into a no-car zone (altho I wish he would). But his ideas of bus-only lanes and a congetion charge could go a long way to freeing us from horrific traffic congestion.

Related posts: Why Expensive Car Fuel is a Bargain for Colombia.

Petro's Brave Transit Plan

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

No comments: