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Good practices in energy efficiency: Bogota, Colombia – bus rapid transit for urban transport.

Bogota, Colombia‟s capital, is the largest and most populous city in the nation, with an estimated population of 8.2 million. The city’s roads had become highly congested following significant growth in private car ownership and use. Other issues included a high rate of accidents and extremely severe air pollution during peak travel hours. Prior to the 1990s, Bogotá’s public bus transportation system suffered from under-use, with poor quality service and efficiency. This report is about the experience of setting up the TransMilenio Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in Bogota, Columbia, which provides the city with an efficient and safe mass transit system that encourages high ridership. The program has been a success due to many factors: strong leadership from the City Mayor; careful design and planning; use of state-of-the-art technology; the establishment of a well-managed company; sound investment in infrastructure; and an efficient single-fare pricing system.

The report presents the following lessons learned from this project:

  • BRT projects are complex and require technical, financial, and legal studies to ensure successful implementation
  • One of the great achievements of the TransMilenio BRT system has been the concession contract-based system for regulating service operations
  • TransMilenio BRT‟s policy framework allows it to oversee bidding, contracting, and operations of the system while enforcing checks and balances
  • Some unexpected and adverse effects on the city‟s existing public transportation system did arise like reductions in travel times were limited mainly to TransMilenio users, while average travel time for traditional public transportation systems actually increased by about 10%
  • The slow pace of scrapping buses from the traditional system appears also to be causing additional congestion in corridors not served by the TransMilenio system
  • The system has used an innovative and successful PPP approach that does not require subsidies for operation
  • The project has shown solid financial management by promoting innovative implementation at the design phase. For the TransMilenio BRT project to be successful, it was imperative that fares fully cover operations costs.

The report concludes that encouraged by the project’s success, the Government of Colombia is now embarking on a major program to replicate similar systems in the Colombian cities of Medellín, Pereira, Bucaramanga, Barranquilla, and Cartegena.