By the end of the 1990s, Santiago’s transport system was suffering from serious problems, including (1) increased car ownership and use, (ii) declines in public transport, (iii) deficiencies in the organization of the bus system (fragmented bus ownership, competition by operators for passengers, informality and lack of professional management, and lack of integration between the buses and the metro system), (iv) limited coordination on transport issues at the metropolitan level, and (v) high bus-related accident and air pollution levels.
In 2000, the Government published the 2000-2010 Santiago Urban Transport Plan. This plan envisaged the transformation of the public transport system. Its unprecedented scope and complexity applied to the city as a whole and affected all public transport modes. The World Bank supported the implementation of the Santiago Urban Transport Plan through a technical assistance loan, which helped in the implementation of the public transport reform arrangements and provided guidance and advice to support this difficult process of transformation.
The project helped the Government of Chile to establish a foundation for a more efficient and sustainable urban transport system. The results achieved included:
- Illuminated bus stops in the suburbs, which make the system safer (2011 – 2012).
- Colored bus lanes to reduce incursion by cars and speed up bus travel (2011 – 2012).
- More stringent environmental standards for public transport vehicles, which in 2011 led to 19.9 percent less particulate matter emissions and 1.7 percent less NOx emissions compared to 2010.
- Changes in bus services to reduce transfers, increase coverage, and avoid interference of the bus system with the operation of street markets (2010 – 2012).
- Thorough knowledge about the operation of bus depots and terminals and guidance for improvements.
- More robust transport planning tools.
- Organizational improvements within the Executive Secretary of the Committee of Ministers for Urban Transport in Metropolitan Santiago (Transantiago – SE), the entity in charge of the bus system (2010 - 2012).