Saturday, November 30, 2013

Real Mobility?

A 'green' all-electric bus on display.
Bogotá's 6th Transit Fair, mostly a sales show for buses and related products, ended yesterday in Corferias. Most of the products, at least, had an environmental bent.

A hybrid bus. The city plans to place
such buses on Carrer Septima.
Bogotá's government has made a big deal recently of placing modern, relatively clean, buses, particularly on Ave, Septima. Still, their numbers are still tiny compared to the many thousands of old, polluting buses.

Bogotá's transit planners have committed two logical failures: Congestion and pollution won't be cut by adding newer, cleaner buses to the streets - unless they also retire the old, dirty vehicles. And, to promote sustainable transit, it's fundamental to discourage the use of private cars, which generally carry just one or two passengers, but occupy most of the road space. Altho Mayor Petro has talked the talk about rationalizing transit, he hasn't walked the walk of discouraging driving, such as by creating a congestion charge and banning free parking.

Sexiness sells nire than cars.
A suspended bus.
Rather than - or in addition to - spending a fortune on hi-tech buses, Bogotá could take some obvious steps to clean the air and reduc traffic jams, which often go hand in hand. Mayor Petro has talked about imposing a congestion charge on vehicles which enter the city center, but he appears to lack the political will to do so. In London, Singapore and other large cities, such charges have reduced congestion and pollution while financing public transit. In this interview, a London transit expert talks about the benefits of such a charge. He also suggests coordinating stoplights to give priority to TransMilenio buses - a very basic policy which Bogotá should have implemented years ago.

And what about ticketing vehicles which stop in the middle of intersections, causing gridlock? And then there are all those ancient, smoke-belching vehicles (and even many new vehicles) which flout the pollution and other laws, cause thousands of premature deaths annually - and are ignored by authorities.

Spending a fortune on hi-tech buses might be worthwhile - but Bogotá should first implement some basic, common sense policies which could reduce congestion and polllution relatively cheaply and quickly.

Ironically, of course, the same companies producing these cleaner buses are also trying to persuade us to buy cars to congest the roads so that bus systems become unsustainable and buses get trapped in traffic jams.

The sign on the left promises that Carrera Septima will be a 'green corridor.' (It hasn't happened yet.) 

A new clean bus, on the right, shares Ave. Septima with old buses. Mayor Petro appears to lack the will to antagonize the bus companies by ordering old buses off of the street.

Bogotá plans to build Medellin-style cable cars to carry residents to hillside neighborhoods.

A taxi tries to manuever past cars which have halted in the middle of an intersection. In many cities, stopping here would merit a fine, but not in Bogotá. Yet, eliminating this practice could speed up traffic considerably.

A SITP bus in its usual condition - empty. 

Cars and packed buses stuck in traffic on Carrera 13. A congestion charge wouild reduce traffic jams, but Petro doesn't appear to be willing to take the political heat.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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