Monday, April 29, 2013

A Milestone for TransMilenio

The entrance to the new Universidades TransMilenio station.
This weekend the Universidades TransMilenio station finally opened, years behind schedule, but it is there.

More than two years late, TM bus pulls
into the new station.
Getting the station open has been a long, long saga. TransMilenio's expansion project along Carreras Septima and Decima is more than two years behind schedule, and counting, thanks to alleged corruption and mismanagement by Mayor Samuel Moreno's administration. We're still waiting for the Museo Nacional station to open, which is supposed to happen in June, and for the Calle 26 line to be extended to the airport, tentatively set for late next year.

Buses have no way to get from one station to the other.
But the Universidades station's opening was delayed further by a legal battle over an expansion of Parque de la Independencia which bridges over 26th. Only after a judge ruled recently that construction there could continue did workmen finish the lanes leading to Universidades, which is near Los Andes and Jorge Tadeo universities and the Centro Colombo-Americano and the Aliance Francesa.

A line of buses waiting at Las Aguas. Why can't some go
directly on to the Universidades station and up Calle 26. 
Today I saw that the station was getting use, but buses appeared only infrequently. The new station is connected to the Las Aguas TM station, located only about 200 meters south, by an underground pedestrian walkway. But I don't understand why they didn't find a way to build a lane connecting the two stations. As it is, both stations are at the ends of their respective lines, obliging buses reaching them to turn around and head back.

Multimodal transit. A horsecart waits near
the new station.

The city hasn't removed the old traditional
buses from the road.
Another obvious failing is City Hall's lack of will to oblige the private companies to retire the old buses which compete against TransMilenio's service. El Tiempo reports today that these buses, in addition to contributing to traffic congestion and a vehicle surplus, also cause many of the nation's express bus systems to operate in the red.

One of the Museo Nacional station's futuristic entrances.
When the Museo Nacional station finally opens, supposedly in June, Bogotá will  face the next decision for its transit plans: What sort of transit system to build along Ave. Septima to the north.

Belching its way up the Eje Ambiental
(the Envionmental Axis)
I also took several photos, including this one, of TransMilenio buses belching clouds of smoke and showed one to a TM employee who was coordinating bus arrivals. She first informed me that I was "not authorized to take photos of TransMilenio stations." (Why don't they also prohibit people from looking at TM stations, which would go a long way to solving the pollution problem).

"So, it's okay for them to poison us, but prohibited for us to photograph the pollution?"

She seemed to become sympathetic. "There are functionaries in the portales who pull buses out of circulation if they're harmful," she explained.

"So this isn't harming us," I asked her, showing the photo again.

She apologized that she was not authorized to remove buses from service for polluting. "You can help us a lot," she told me, "by showing your photo" to the functionaries in the portales.

But maybe not, since the bus's own pollution makes its plate number almost unreadable. It's also absurd to expect me to do this: Can't they see for themselves? But nobody wants to invest the money in maintenance to stop TM from sickening bogotanos.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Stuart Oswald said...

Public companies must be allowed to compete on equal grounds with private companies. Simply providing something by the state and removing the right of private to operate, is a gross injustice. Reducing consumers' choice is not a progressive way to work an industry or an economy. It'll end in tears.

Miguel said...

I certainly believe in competition. But there are some areas, including maybe transport, where a government-administered system has advantages.

Just a glance at the chaotic, inefficient and dirty bus fleet will show that.