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Bogotá's Bus Rapid Transit Under Attack

In spite of international recognition from planners and transit officials, Bogotá's bus rapid transit system faced riots this month over high fares and overcrowding, Eric Jaffe reports.
March 24, 2012, 5am PDT | Ryan Lue
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Riders of TransMilenio, Bogotá's widely acclaimed bus rapid transit system, rioted in protest over a lack of transportation options earlier this month, destroying five bus stations and bringing out roughly 1,200 law enforcement officers. Complaints centered around high fares and overcrowding.

According to Jaffe, public dissatisfaction with the system began as early as 2004, just four years after the system opened. While the system garnered acclaim from planners around the world for cutting carbon emissions, reducing traffic fatalities nearly 90 percent, and slimming travel time by as much as a third in some corridors, rider experience was less than glowing.

"At rush hour, stations are so packed that people can't get off the bus, let alone on it," Jaffe writes. "Meanwhile the fare, at $1, is considered high for a city whose low-income users earn daily salaries only three times that, on average."

Furthermore, development of the system has been hampered by constrained funding: at present, TransMilenio covers only half of the footprint that it was slated to cover a year ago. It must also compete with "the city's decades-long, unrequited obsession with building a metro system that would cost much more than bus-rapid transit and cover far less of the city."

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Published on Tuesday, March 20, 2012 in The Atlantic Cities
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