Bogotá’s TransMilenio project is a bus rapid transit system that
presents all the basic characteristics of this new mode of urban transportation:
exclusive lanes; stations where the fare is paid before boarding; high– capacity
articulated buses; differentiated local and express services; priority at intersections;
coordination with feeder services; integrated fare; advanced scheduling and
control technologies; user information systems; integration with pedestrian
and bicycle infrastructure; adequate contracting and compensation of private
operators; good access for people with disabilities; mechanisms to improve
service quality and marketing; and user education schemes. Despite a lack of
operational subsidies, the project’s performance so far shows that its
capacity is comparable to that of heavy rail transit systems (metro and regional
rail), at a fraction of their capital cost. Phase I of the system, implemented
between 1999 and 2002, comprises 41 Km of exclusive busways, 61 stations, 470
articulated buses, and 235 feeder buses, providing service to 792,000 passengers
daily. The system is currently under expansion for 40 additional kilometres,
with 335 articulated buses and 170 feeder buses which will be gradually introduced
between 2003 and 2005. Concepts applied to the development of the TransMilenio
system are applicable to other cities, and are an example of best practices
in the implementation of high– capacity, low– cost transit systems.
Photo Source: TRANSMILENIO S.A.
Bogotá is Colombia’s capital and its most important city. It has a population of 6.4 million people (15.2% of the nation’s total). The city’s population grows at an annual rate of 2.5%, and it is mainly composed of people 15 – 54 years of age. The city is located 2,640 meters (8,500 feet) above sea level, in the highest plateau of the Colombian Andes. The city covers an area of 1,737 sq. km. (173,000 ha) and has a high density (3,717 inhabitants per sq. km.). Most of its urban area is flat, with some informal development in the hilly areas south of the city (Figure 1).
The local administration has been implementing an ambitious mobility strategy aimed at overcoming the city’s transportation problems, which have resulted from a brisk and unplanned population growth and a rapid increase in the use and ownership of private vehicles. The strategy has drawn private sector participation as well as support from the National government. It seeks to promote non-motorized transportation, reduce the use of private vehicles, and prioritize the use of public transportation. The TransMilenio (TM) bus rapid transit system (BRT) was developed within this framework as a privately–operated, high–quality, and dependable service that enhances quality of life, accessibility, and travel times, at an accessible cost for users.
The TransMilenio System
According to Lloyd Wright, of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, a BRT is a “high-quality, customer-oriented transit [system] that delivers fast, comfortable and low-cost urban mobility” (IEA, 2002). Following is a brief description of how some of the distinctive elements of these systems have been implemented in the case of TM:
• Dedicated bus lanes
Bus lanes are longitudinally segregated, have one or two carriageways per direction, and are built to specifications for high-capacity transit vehicles. The width of the exclusive bus-ways is 7 meters for dual carriageways and 3.5 meters for single carriageways, with overpass lanes at the stations.
• Pre-board fare collection at stations
The bus stops are closed and have platforms at grade with the bus floor. Access is controlled by electronic turnstiles that collect the fare, thus avoiding fare collection by the driver. Single stations have between one to five platforms, one or two access points, are 5 meters wide, and between 25 to 190 meters long. They are located, on average, every 500 to 750 meters.
• Large, high–capacity, and
The articulated buses are 18 meters long. Their maximum carrying capacity is 160 passengers (48 seated), and have high platforms, automatic transmission, pneumatic suspension, anti-lock breaks, and other passenger transport specifications. Their engines also comply with diesel emissions standards being applied in Europe. Each bus has four large doors on the left hand side which are synchronized with station doors, so they stand in each station for only 25 seconds, on average.
• Differentiated local and express
Trunk line services operate on a strict schedule and share the road as well as the station infrastructure. Commercial speeds are between 21 Km/hr for local services stopping at all stations, and 32 Km/hr for express services stopping at designated stations, with an average speed of 26 Km/hr for the entire system.
• Priority at intersections (including
The signal network has been programmed to minimize waiting time for the users of the articulated buses. Elevated intersections have been constructed at critical points.
• Coordination with small bus operators
The articulated bus services are integrated with the feeder services through infrastructure built at intermediate and terminal points on the trunk lines.
• Integrated fare
Users pay one flat fare for both trunk and feeder services. This allows free transfers and a cross subsidy between short trips on the trunk network and long trips that may include use of feeder buses (most areas served by feeder buses are low–income).
• Use of advanced scheduling and
The system’s control center schedules bus services and controls operations on–line. GPS and advanced software is used to locate vehicles automatically and register, save, and report all operations. All buses and on–site supervisors carry voice (trunking) and data (cellular) units.
• User information
Service maps and signs have been installed in all stations. The maps are also available as handouts or online. Trained staff provides support to users in all stations.
• Access to pedestrians and cyclists
There are sidewalks and plazas along the trunk lines, as well as signalized intersections with pedestrian crossings and overpasses in the corridors with the heaviest traffic. There is a network of longitudinal and transversal bikeways aimed at multimodal integration.
• Contracting and compensation of
the private operators
The city implemented competitive bidding processes by issuing public requests for proposals. Points were awarded on the basis of the bidders’ experience in public transport in Bogotá, their financial capacity, their economic bid for the ten-year concession contracts to be executed with the city, and the buses’ environmental specifications, among other factors. Compensation for the trunk services rendered is based on the kilometers served by each bus, plus or minus bonuses or penalties to incentivize service quality.
• Increasing density around the stations
Land use and transportation planning have been integrated in the city’s master plan.
• Parking facilities
The city’s Parking Master Plan provides incentives to the private sector to provide off-road parking areas.
• Access for the disabled
The trunk services are fully accessible through ramps and elevators to platforms. The buses provide space for wheelchairs as well as designated seating for the elderly, pregnant women, and the disabled. Selected feeder buses have special platforms that provide wheelchair access.
• Costumer service
User satisfaction is monitored through periodic surveys and other mechanisms that receive and process complaints and suggestions (e.g. direct mail, e-mail, call center). Cleaning, maintenance, and security teams service all stations.
• Marketing strategies
There is a communications plan to position services, educate users and generate a sense of belonging and pride.
A comparison between TM and other transit technologies
The combination of a specialized infrastructure (i.e. dedicated lanes and stations, pre-board fare collection, and multiple platforms) and the operation of express and local services supported by advanced control technologies allows a very high frequency (up to 280 units/hr). This is well above heavy rail rapid transit (metro) and semi-rapid rail (light rail transit), as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Capacity vs. Frequency
Source: Vuchic (1992) and author’s calculations for TM
The high frequency allows high-capacity trunk services; up to 45,000 passengers/hour/direction.
As of April 2003, the system carries 35,000 passengers/hour/direction in the
heaviest-loaded sections. High commercial speeds (up to 26 Km/hour) have been
achieved given the segregated operation of the trunk services and their short
dwelling times, combined with a coordinated traffic signal network and non-at-grade
intersections in critical points. These indicators are better than the ones
for semi- rapid transit (busways and light rail), and are comparable to high
capacity rail systems (metro and regional rail), as shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Capacity vs. Comercial Speed
Source: Vuchic (1992) and author’s calculations for TM
The combination of capacity and speed, termed “Productive Capacity” by
Vuchic (1992), is 1,164,800 for all the articulated buses. These numbers are
also much better than the ones for semi- rapid transit and comparable to heavy
rail transit. Nevertheless, the cost of the infrastructure is only a fraction
of those systems (US$5.1 million/Km), as shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4. Productive Capacity (Capacity*Commercial Speed) vs. Infrastructure
Source: Vuchic (1992) and author’s calculations for TM.
TM’s operation (i.e. manual-visual) generates less confidence and safety than grade-separated rail systems (metro and regional rail) despite the fact that it is centrally controlled with advanced technologies.
The Implementation of Phase I (2000-2002 )
Phase I includes three trunk corridors that run 41 Km. in length, and seven feeder zones with routes that cover 309 Km. in length The system has four terminal stations, four integration stations, and fifty-three standard stations. There are also thirty pedestrian overpasses, as well as plazas and sidewalks.
The infrastructure was built by Bogotá’s Urban Development Institute,
with a total investment of $213 million funded by a local surcharge on gasoline
(46%), general city revenues (28%), a World Bank loan (6%), and grants from
the National government (20%).
The system was developed gradually, starting on December 18, 2000. By April of 2003, 470 articulated buses and 235 feeder buses were transporting 792,000 passengers /weekday, operating 18 hours /day with 9 express services and 3 local services. The minimum headway was 2 minutes (peak) and the maximum was 6 minutes (non-peak). There were 45 feeder services, with a minimum headway of 3 minutes (peak). The maximum load was 35,000 passengers /hour/direction.
Some operational indicators show that the system is highly efficient. The passengers /kilometre index has been around 5.2. Each bus moves 1,596 passengers /day, in average, five times more than traditional transit buses in the city. Daily kilometres per bus have been increasing from 216 to 370 as a result of the system’s expansions, extended hours of operation, and an increase in express services.
There are four trunk line concession holders (for the articulated buses) and seven feeder service contractors. As of April 2003, trunk operators received up to 66% of the system’s farebox revenues, while feeder service providers received up to 20% of such revenues.
By the end of Phase 1 in April of 2003, the system included 90 ticket booths, 359 turnstiles, and approximately 1,300,000 smart cards. Daily revenue hovered around $270,000. Fares are collected by a private concession holder that deposits the revenue in a trust fund on a daily basis. Moneys are distributed weekly to the system’s agents, in accordance with the provisions of their respective concession contracts. The fare collector receives up to 11% of the system’s revenues.
The system’s control center is equipped with six workstations, each able to control up to eighty articulated buses. The control centre is in permanent communication (voice and data) with all articulated buses and the system’s supervisors.
Each bus has a computer equipped with GPS, as well as an odometer, and a door opening system. The computer reports the location of the bus every 6 seconds, with a two meter error margin. Each operator at the control center has a monitor to control an assigned number of articulated buses. The monitor displays each service schematically and in a digital map that shows each bus’s physical location. The software verifies schedule compliance, giving the controllers the opportunity to make supply and demand adjustments in real time.
TRANSMILENIO S.A. is the local public authority in charge of planning, coordinating, and controlling the system. It receives 4% of the system’s farebox revenues.
The System’s Expansion – Phase II (2002-2005)
Phase II of the TM system is currently underway. The construction of forty new kilometres of busways and sixty new stations, which include three terminals and four integration stations, began in 2002. The concession contracts to operate 335 articulated buses were awarded to three private companies in March 2003. A bidding process for fare collection in the new stations was completed by July 2003 and new feeder zone concessions granted in December 2003]. Phase II is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2005.When completed, the system is expected to serve a total of 1.3 million daily passengers. Figure 5 shows the trunk corridors of the two phases of the System.
The TM BRT is a component of Bogotá’s mobility strategy, and is an integral part of a structural change in the city’s transportation systems. Its first years of operation have demonstrated the system’s potential to provide efficient and high-quality mass transportation at a very low cost to users and the government. They also show that it is possible to introduce innovative private participation mechanisms, particularly from traditional private providers, in conditions that ensure sustainability and profitability.
The project was designed and built in a short time span. It evolved from a very general idea to being commissioned within 36 months. The first phase was completed in 48 months. This was made possible by a strong political commitment, adequate financial support for the development of the infrastructure, hard work from a committed and enthusiastic technical team, as well as a great deal of luck.
The system’s productivity is very high: 792,000 passengers/weekday; 35,000 passengers/hour/direction in the most heavily loaded section of the busways; average commercial speed of 26.3 Km/hour, 5.2 passengers per kilometre; 1,596 passengers/bus/per day; and 325 kilometres/day/bus. Some of the project’s achievements are already evident: 89% reduction in traffic accident fatalities; 40% CO reduction; 32% decline in travel times; 78% level of acceptance level; and an affordable fare (US$=0.36) without operational subsidies.
The TM project is being expanded and its future, along with Bogotá’s
transportation system, is promising. Bogotá’s experience can serve
as an example for efforts to improve transportation conditions in other cities
of the world.
Figure 5. Exclusive Busways for Phase I (2000-2002) and II (2003-2005)
Source: TRANSMILENIO S.A.
Hidalgo, Dario (2003) “TransMilenio: A high capacity-low cost bus rapid transit system developed for Bogotá, Colombia” 55TH UITP World Congress – Madrid 4-9 May 2003.
International Energy Agency IEA (2002) “Bus Systems for the Future: Achieving Sustainable Transport Worldwide”, Paris, France.
Vuchic, Vukan (1992) “Urban Passenger Transportation Modes” Chapter 4, Public Transportation, Second Edition, George Gray and Lester Hoel (Editors), Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, USA.
Darío Hidalgo-Guerrero graduated as a civil engineer from Bogotá’s Universidad de los Andes. He obtained a specialization in Project Evaluation at the same university and holds M. Sc. and Ph. D. degrees in Civil Engineering with a sector specialization in transportation planning from Ohio State University. Darío was Graduate Research Assistant in OSU and has lectured in the area of transportation Bogotá’s Universidad de los Andes and Universidad Javeriana. He is author of 21 papers and articles. He worked at the Transportation Division and the Private Participation in Physical Infrastructure Office of Colombia’s National Planning Department He was also main advisor to Bogotá’s Mayor in connection with the proposed Metro subway project. He was Deputy General Manager at Bogotá’s mass transit authority, TRANSMILENIO S.A., between June 2000 and September 2003. Currently, Darío is a consultant in transport planning, with recent projects in Colombia, Chile, Nigeria, Tanzania and Thailand.