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]


About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.