March 31, 2010—Getting around in Bogotá, Colombia, used to be chaotic. Thousands of independently operated buses competed for customers on congested streets, without organized stops.
Today, a modern and financially self-sustaining bus rapid transit system, TransMilenio, has 114 stations and 84 kilometers of segregated bus lanes. Recent data show big drops in commuters' average travel time, accidents and pollution in the city of 7 million as a result of the system.
“Bogotá has changed 100 percent since the arrival of TransMilenio. In 2002, I used to struggle a lot,” says Amelia Cuestas.
Now, she's among 1.64 million people who use the bus rapid transit (BRT) system daily—about 27 percent of the city's public transport demand.
TransMilenio is the model for Colombia's ambitious national urban transportation plan, Programa Nacional de Transporte Urbano, aimed at creating efficient and accessible transportation networks in 10 cities over a decade at a fraction of the cost of rail systems.
The World Bank-backed program has three other BRT systems up and running—Megabus in Pereira-Dosquebradas, Mio in Cali (financed by Inter-American Development Bank) and Metrolinea in Bucaramanga —with plans to develop BRTs in Barranquilla, Bello, Cartagena, Cucuta, Medellin-Valle de Aburra, and Soacha.
Network Reaches Six Cities
Since 2003, the World Bank's International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) has provided $757 million in financing for studies and BRT construction in six cities--Bogotá, Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, Cartagena, Medellin and Pereira—as well as technical advice on a regulatory and institutional framework for urban transport in Colombia.
The Colombian government has committed $1.4 billion to the program so far. Total government commitments from 2009 until the program’s completion in 2016 amount to $1.9 billion for nine of the 10 participating cities, of which $1.1 billion can be drawn from IBRD financing.
Other partners include the Inter-American Development Bank and the Andean Development Bank. A gasoline surtax, mostly paid by car users, covers about 30 percent of the program’s total cost.