An average of six accidents occur every day on Bogota’s Mass Transit and Public Transport System, which was responsible for 32 fatalities in 2013, according to a report by national news media.
El Tiempo, Colombia’s largest national newspaper, claims to be in possession of a Transmilenio Mass Transit System file documenting an increase of over 300% in the number of accidents involving Transmilenio vehicles in 2013, including 205 accidents in the first two months of 2014 that left 601 people injured and four dead.
Bogota is one of the few Latin American capital cities that has no metro, and one of the few cities in the world of its size to lack one, as well. Instead, the Transmilenio bus system carries more than 2.4 million people every day, almost one-third of Bogota’s total number of inhabitants. Transmilenio accidents have made news for several years, and even more so since the introduction of Integrated Public Transport System (SITP) buses in 2012.
El Tiempo reports that, according to the document, Transmilenio buses were involved in a total of 732 collisions in in 2012, including 347 new SITP buses that had only been in operation for three months.
In 2013, these same buses were involved in 2,215 road accidents in Bogota, more than tripling the number of accidents from the previous year. Among the 2013 crashes, SITP buses were involved in 1,474 incidents, or 66% of the total Transmilenio accidents.
After a SIPT accident in June 2013 left four dead and dozens injured, it was discovered that 87 SITP buses had been shelved — due to technical damage, mostly for brake problems, worn tires, and engines — after less than a year of operation.
Representatives for Transmilenio told El Tiempo that all medical and funeral expenses are covered by Compulsory Accident Insurance and the vehicle liability policies of each bus operator, and that Transmilenio has only been convicted of accidents involving infrastructure damage. It has no direct liability for other accidents, according to officials, and currently is only listed as a defendant in 38 direct repair processes and seven criminal complaints.
Transmilenio also told El Tiempo that it has initiated training programs for operators to focus on road safety and the use of stimulants, and has developed six annual seminars that also address these issues.
Bogota’s bigger transportation problem
In March, Bogota’s Transmilenio mass transit system partially shut down when protesters blocked bus lines, demanding a drastic improvement of the Colombian capital’s public transport. Despite its extensive network and capacity, Transmilenio is heavily criticized for its overcrowded buses.
Moreover, a 2013 report issued by the Bogota Mayor’s office stated that car traffic in the capital has doubled over the past decade. The number of cars on the road daily increased from 509,000 in 2002 to 1,290,000 in 2012. In order to try and control traffic, the city issues “pico y placa” rules for alternating street permits, restricting drivers during the peak traffic hours of 7:00 to 8:30AM and 5:30 to 7:00 PM.
During a speech at the World Urban Forum in April, President Santos talked about the public transport issues that Bogota faces and the importance of a metro system. “A Metro is a necessity to Bogota. We are among three cities in the world with more than 7 million people and no metro,” said Santos. The president added that “the metro on its own is not the solution, neither is the Transmilenio on its own.”
However, an internationally renowned urban planning expert advised Bogota to invest further in its Transmilenio bus system instead, saying that a metro system in Bogota would be costly and would not have a significant impact on the Colombian capital’s notorious traffic problems.
- TransMilenio y Sitp: 32 muertos en 2013 y 6 accidentes al día (El Tiempo)
- “Parecía un bólido”: testigos relatan accidente del bus del SITP (Noticias Caracol)
- Informe Estratégico Plan De Desarrollo Bogotá Humana Año 2013 (Bogota City Government)