TransMilenio 3.0: Integrating Metro and Informal Transit Citywide

Bi-articulated bus in downtown Bogotá. Photo (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by Galo Naranjo
A CNG SITP bus. Photo credit: People-Oriented Cities
  1. Problems with the smart card. The SITP fare collection system was tendered with an entirely new smart card, different from the one used on the BRT, so passengers had to carry two different cards, and there was no discounted transfer. The smart card top-up network was very weak in the poor neighborhoods, so passengers had a hard time using the system. Fare evasion skyrocketed.
  2. Weak negotiations. The small owner operators were reluctant to sell/rent their buses to the winning bidders at the ToR interest rate/rental price. During the public review period on the draft tender they held a strike. Their demand was to increase the ‘rent’ (or interest on the purchase) that winning bidders must pay them. Mayor Moreno agreed. However, this would significantly increase the SITP operators’ costs. To compensate them, Moreno changed the original SITP contract terms from 12 to 24 years. Not only did this tie the government’s hands with very long term, poorly negotiated contracts, it imposed very high costs on the new companies which to a large extent got passed on to TM.
  3. Some companies were under-capitalized. Some of the winning bidders were companies fully composed of former informal bus owner/operators. These companies were very weak and lacked sufficient operating capital to purchase new buses and start a new business. Others were TM trunk operators that also had buses operating outside TM in the informal system. These were much stronger companies with more working capital. When the system opened, two of the under-capitalized companies failed immediately and reverted to informal operations. Legally, the administration had to terminate those contracts to tender the zones again, but this never happened under either Moreno or Mayor Petro (2012–2015). Instead, they reverted to the old, informal service, which came to be called the ‘provisional services.’ These were supposed to operate according to their route licenses, but they were weakly regulated, and often changed routes to compete with SITP routes.
TransMilenio routes are stuck in mixed traffic on Ave. Septima because wealthy communities have resisted extending the BRT trunk infrastructure through their neighborhood.



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Reorientations is a blog by the staff of People-Oriented Cities. Each post provides a novel idea for “reorienting” cities away from cars and towards people.