How Public Transportation's Past Is Haunting Its Future in Bogotá, Colombia


Arturo Ardila

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - service quality, policy - fares, economics - profitability, economics - profitability, technology - intelligent transport systems, mode - bus, mode - mass transit, mode - bus rapid transit


Transportation policy, TransMilenio, Transit operating agencies, Transit lines, Service quality, Quality of service, Public transit lines, Profitability, Passenger service quality, Mass transit lines, Lessons learned, Fares, Bus transit operations, Bus rapid transit, Bogota (Colombia)


Bogotá, Colombia, is internationally known for recent innovations in public transportation, namely, the Transmilenio bus rapid transit system. Transmilenio carries close to 1.3 million trips per day, or 20% of bus trips in the city, on an 84-km network. Transmilenio’s original plan called for implementing a system that covered the entire city, replacing the previous bus system. However, the institutional arrangement for service provision in the traditional bus system is plagued with negative incentives that lead to poor-quality service, oversupply of buses, and inflated fares. In addition, the government agency in charge of controlling the traditional bus system is weak and lacks the authority to carry out the required policies. The result is a pervasive oversupply of buses despite Transmilenio’s efforts to reduce it and powerful vested interests that have organized against the project. As a result, the analysis suggests that Transmilenio’s original plan faces obstacles that can hamper the implementation of future stages because of the problems in the traditional mode. This paper analyzes Bogotá’s current public transportation situation and seeks to draw lessons for cities in developing countries, particularly Latin America, that try to replicate Bogotá’s reforms. Although the paper does not question Transmilenio’s success, it does raise issues that need to be addressed to make bus rapid transit planning and public transit reform more effective.