Management was a huge issue in the old traditional bus system, where the various bus companies tried to obtain licenses to operate in the most profitable routes, leading to too many buses at the city center and too few in the outskirts. The competitive nature of the system meant poor bus maintenance and little regard for the well-being of other road users or the passengers. Transmilenio was born out of a desire to modernize the transportation infrastructure without paying the hefty amounts for a Metro. While the concept of BRT isn’t new, Transmilenio was revolutionary for its expansive network and high accolade during the first few years of operation. With dedicated bus lanes and quick loading time, a 2001 survey gave Transmilenio a rating of 4.64 out of 5, with general consensus of saved time and city’s improved cohesion.
Yet criticisms were inevitable, from decay of roads to overcrowding and eventual fare hike. One issue is that a trip on Transmilenio is more expensive than one on traditional bus. This is most pressing for the poorest, and together with overcrowding, has led to slow growth in passenger count. The central agency of Transmilenio, which receives no operating subsidy, has complained about the “unfair competition” from the traditional bus. Gilbert proposes that one solution is to reduce the number of old buses. Scrapping of old buses, in exchange for the license to run new buses, has been remarkably slow though, and many illegal “pirate” buses are still in operation. This is the core of Gilbert’s message that while Transmilenio is a great concept, “complementary changes have to be made in the rest of the sector” if the system is to be sustainable for the future, for Transmilenio by itself cannot solve the city’s transportation challenges.
- Alan Gilbert: “Bus Rapid Transit: Is Transmilenio a Miracle Cure?"