September 24 2013

Bogotá: Social Transformation by Improving Transportation?

Siemens and C40, the cities Climate Leadership Group, recently announced the ten winners of the inaugural City Climate Leadership Awards, which are given to different cities around the world that demonstrate “excellence in urban sustainability and leadership in the fight against climate change.”

For me it wasn’t a surprise that Bogotá, Colombia won the award for Urban Transportation, even considering the problems that have challenged the city’s transportation system recently.

'Transmilenio' BRT System Bogota, Colombia

The Bus Rapid Transit system, “TransMilenio,” launched in 2000, has reached almost 75% of the city and its metropolitan area is near ten million inhabitants. Future projects involve replacing all of the bus fleet with hybrid and electric vehicles and an even more ambitious plan involves the replacement of the entire taxi fleet with electric cars, while completing the transportation system of the city with new “Metro” lines.

However, one may ask, can there be a true social change within cities of the developing world (with all the social and economic problems that those cities confront), by only improving the efficiency with which people move from ‘A’ to ‘B’?

The answer is, for cities like Bogotá, that yes, there can be.

Transmilenio system map Bogota, Colombia

Transportation, especially public transportation, is a marker of democracy and social equality. As former mayor of Bogotá Enrique Peñalosa said many times: “True democracy is when the city shows by its urban design that a person on a $10 bike or who pays a $2 ticket is equally important to that in a $20,000 car.” Peñalosa also declared that “a developed city isn’t one where the poor have cars but one where the rich use public transit,” making the issue more popular than ever.

New electric taxis Bogota, Colombia

Improved transportation can improve the quality of life for the lower and middle classes by making it easier and more comfortable for them to get to work. Additionally, the quality of urban design that develops along new projects helps the city’s evolution into a new identity.

Do you think investing in transportation is a good start for changing a city? Or should social change come from some other place?

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

Luis Lozano-Paredes

Luis Lozano-Paredes is currently a student seeking a Diploma of Architecture and Urban Planning at Belgrano University in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Born in Colombia in 1987, he grew between the cities of Bogotá and Santiago de Cali, and then moved to Argentina in 2006. There, he finished the Common Basic Cycle of Architecture, Design, and Urbanism at the University of Buenos Aires before pursuing studies in Landscape Design at the same Institution. Inspired by the Urban Transformation of Bogotá in the past decades, his interests evolved from Landscape Architecture to his current passion; Urban Planning, Policy Making, and Sustainable Development. He plans to continue his studies in Urban Planning and Sustainability in Canada, Chile, or the U.S.; but for the moment he currently works as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Center of Metropolitan Transport Studies of the University of Buenos Aires and is a Member of the Observatory of Urban Sustainability at Belgrano University. Luis’ main interests lay within the study of Smart Cities, Urban Sustainable Development, and Social Architecture in Latin America.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 24th, 2013 at 9:51 am and is filed under Environment, Government/Politics, Infrastructure, Transportation, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


4 Responses to “Bogotá: Social Transformation by Improving Transportation?”

  1. Robert Poole Says:

    This kind of project would take decades in San Francisco. How long did it take to get the BRT system running, from proposal to implementation?

  2. Luis Says:

    Hi Robert! ‘Transmilenio’ is a project in constant evolution, the original plan included 3 phases, planned for development from 2000 to 2010 (The third phase got delayed by a scandal of corruption involving the building contractor) and was finished in 2012.

    But now Transmilenio is being included in the new ‘Sistema Integrado de Transporte de Bogotá’ a more ambitious plan integrating Bicycle lanes and the Metro line, and more phases are being planned for the next five years.

    The idea is to reach to 100% of the city by public transportation, being the metro line, the BRT or the so called ‘Alimentadores’ small hybrid buses for connecting the more unreachable parts, mainly the slums in the mountains.

  3. Netro Says:

    @Robert, it took 3 years till 1st line was open

  4. Medellin: How Transportation & Innovation Have Given This Failing City A Chance | The GRID | Global Site Plans Says:

    […] my last post I described the huge change in Bogotá (the country’s capital) due to its investment in […]

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