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Bogota: Home of the World's Most Advanced Bus System?


Urban planners know a secret that you probably don't: The world's most advanced bus system is in Bogota, of all places. The city' ex-mayor, who created the system, is frequently asked to explain Bogota's bus system to city officials hoping to emulate their best practices at home. As GOOD reports:

"It's hard to believe until you've seen it for yourself, but the city bus can, in fact, be a sleek, fast, efficient, and first-class way to get around town. Unfortunately, you can't find that kind of bus service in any U.S. city. You've got to travel down to Bogotá, Colombia, and ride the TransMilenio bus-rapid-transit system."

"As you step aboard your first TransMilenio vehicle, it hits you pretty quickly: When it comes to buses, the United States is a Third World nation."

What makes the TransMilenio so great? Dedicated bus lanes for one, which the RAND corporation recently recommended for L.A. Meanwhile, to increase the robustness of the network, smaller "feeder" buses trundle through outlying areas, bringing them to centralized stations—much like the hub-and-spoke system for airlines, or train systems across the world. The buses themselves are designed to minimize waits: The fare is collected beforehand, and the floor of the bus is low slung, so that passengers can board more quickly. Real-time systems let riders know exactly when the next bus arrives—a key component in encouraging ridership.

But what's really stunning about the system is how small-bore all those features are: None of them pose the enormous infrastructure challenges of light rail, for example. RAND estimates that the most complicated part, the dedicated bus lanes, could be a reality in L.A. with just a couple years' work. Cool as high-speed rail might be, it won't kill cars without a robust public transit system. Bogota's bus system might be the answer.

Related: Better Buses Through Psychology
Related: Coming Soon: America's High-Speed Rail Network

[image and story via GOOD]

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  • Rafael Puyana

    @cliffkuang As I mentioned in my first comment Transmilenio is a wonderful example of a great city project in the middle of a country with so many difficulties: High levels Corruption, poor community participation and interest, the old and bold transport mafias that have been for years manipulating the decisions etc.. If the local government evolve this system and also defeat this mayor cultural and social problems, the system will survive and grow as a unique organism through all the city, giving the benefits that a city like Bogotá deserves.

  • Cliff Kuang

    @Rafael---Thanks for your insight Rafael! The downside is definitely sobering---it's always good to remember that any public transit system is a dynamic organism, prone to die under its own weight unless managed carefully. What would your recommendations for improvements be? Is it simply a matter of not enough resources, or are there design flaws in the system?

  • Rafael Puyana

    I've been living in Bogotá all my life and the new bus system is an excellent achievement compared with the traditional systems and previous transport solutions years ago. However, part of the story is that the systems is collapsing more and more everyday due the huge amount of users in rush hours compared with the bus availability and schedulling. You can be in a station for 30 minutes surrounded by 40 people and then accessing a bus full of people for entering n the middle of a traffic jam of transmilenio buses that have dedicated roads. The system is wonderful and we all love it but needs to be revised when it should be more useful: RUSH HOURS.

    Check this photo flickr pool >