Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Now It's Official: Bogotá Can't Afford a Subway

Coming to Bogotá? Seattle was digging a car tunnel under the city, but the huge digging machine got stuck, obliging the city to dig this huge pit to reach and repair the machine. (Photo: Grist)
First, its price tag zoomed up to 15 billion pesos. Then, the price of oil, which once provided more than half of Colombia's export income, took a dive. And now, the national government has explained to Bogotá that it won't be able to ante up its traditional 70% of the project's cost.

A map of Bogotá's proposed first subway line. 
And that's all before the inevitable cost over-runs, corruption scandals and other problems even start.

For decades, Bogotá has dreamed of building a subway, but never figured out a way to pay for it.

Bogotá leaders seem to want to have a subway more for reasons of status than of practicality. After
all, a subway is about the most expensive sort of mass transit and takes the longest time to build.

Bogotá wants a subway for two mistaken reasons:

    A) Bogotanos believe that a tunnel will cure its traffic jams.

A traffic jam on Calle 26.
A subway line won't solve this.
Perhaps they should visit capitals such as Caracas, Mexico City and Santiago, Chile, to see whether their subway networks have eliminated traffic jams there. (Bogotá, of course, would at most have a single line a decade from now.)

    B) Bogotá wants to be a world-class city like New York, London and Paris.

Perhaps Bogotá leaders would do well to see that being a world class city means much more than having an underground train. It means having a strong, varied, economy, world-class universities, impressive parks and architecture, great culture, science, little corruption, and on and on. Bogotá still has a long way to go.

Rather than recognizing that a subway is beyond reach, and focusing on faster, cheaper forms of transit, such as light rail, elevated rail or more bus rapid transit, Bogotá is scrambling for other financing formulas. The city will dig itself into a massive debt and have to suspend other, more pressing transit projects. By the time a subway line is finally finished - if that day comes - the city will be overwhelmed by car traffic and the streets gridlocked.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


susan peeters said...

How about they us it for this? :)

Miguel said...

Thanks Susan.

Maybe Bogotá will leave its subway half finished and finally use it for its long-promised public bicycles program.


Travelover27 said...

BS they can't afford it. The Japanese approached Bogota in the early 90s and offered to build a metro for free, with the one stipulation being they could run it for 50 years....The offer was refused.........Two decades later...

Miguel said...

maybe would have been a bad deal for the Japanese. 50 years is a long, long time to bet on. And would be a sovereignety issue for Colombia. Can you imagine having a foreign nation in charge of your capital's mass transit?