The cost to ride on the Colombian largest BRT system reached to $2,300 pesos. Is the company providing an efficient service for the inhabitants of Bogotá?
Transmilenio, Colombia’s largest BRT system, has announced that fares for buses will increase by 100 pesos.
This means the cost to ride on the mass public system in Bogotá will reach $2,300 pesos – $0.80 USD – starting in February 2018.
The announcement – made on the 10th of January 2018 – came in the same month as the resignation notice of its former CEO, Alexandra Rojas, who had fronted the private-public company since 2016.
Thousands of the capital’s inhabitants say Transmilenio is not cost-effective. Nohora Guerrero, who lives in Altos del Pino, a slum on the southern outskirts of Bogotá, takes around 2:30 hours just to get back home after working in the northern part of the city.
“Sometimes it’s a bit frustrating. It’s really hard to get on a bus in rush hours”, she said.
Nohora’s home is 38 kilometres away from where she works. She takes three buses on a daily basis and sometimes has to wait up to 40 minutes for a single bus.
However, her biggest concern is not how long she spends on the system, but the money she spends on it.
“I spend $2,200 pesos per ride, which means $4,400 for a round trip – $1.5 USD”, she said.
Colombia’s minimum wage reached $781.242 pesos per month in 2018. This is $273 USD. Therefore, a person such as Nohora that uses Transmilenio twice a day—five days per week—will invest around 12% of their salary in the system.
The story is similar for Diana Villamarín, a communications official that lives in Suba Rincón, on the western side of Bogotá.
“The most important thing, regardless of if you are a man or a woman, is to thrust yourself into the depths of the bus in order to arrive at work on time,” she said.
Bogotá’s mayor Enrique Peñalosa – who recently completed two years of his second term in Bogotá– said that fares for both Transmilenio and SITP – Bogotá’s Integrated Public Transport System— will increase according to last year’s inflation, and with consideration of the economic issues, the latter is facing.
In fact, Peñalosa announced the construction of the capital’s first metro line and the expansion of Transmilenio in points such as Carrera Séptima in 2017.
But half of the city’s inhabitants are against these declarations and the administration as a whole.
Manuel Sarmiento, a city councillor representing the Polo Democratico party said last October that Peñalosa is a “BRT salesman”.
“He worked for ITDP, an organisation that receives donations from Volvo (one of the most seen TM bus brands in Bogotá) and that offers BRT systems around the world. Peñalosa benefited with $468.000 USD from ITDP for his job with them”, Sarmiento said.
This statement was published three months before Tower Transit CEO Adam Leishman’s tweet went viral in Colombia, comparing Peñalosa with Steve Jobs.
“Great to meet the Steve Jobs of BRT last night, mayor of Bogotá Enrique Peñalosa—what a hero of our industry,” he said.
According to Transmilenio, more than 2 million people depend on it, a system with 2,006 buses circulating every day in Bogotá.
These buses “make around 2,5 million trips covering 9 lines with 97 routes”, Transmilenio stated in a report.
They said a Ruta Fácil – a bus stopping at all stations of a line—takes four minutes to arrive at a station. However, that’s without considering uncontrolled issues such as accidents, protests or traffic jams.
But for Nohora and Diana, those facts don’t seem to be encouraging at all.