The promise and challenges of integrating public transportation in Bogotá, Colombia
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Several cities in the developing world are transforming decentralized bus transit services into integrated transit systems. These programs aspire to improve service quality and mitigate negative impacts such as pollution and traffic injuries and fatalities. However, implementation processes in Santiago, Chile and elsewhere have proven difficult. One contributing factor has been a lack of integration of community concerns in the planning process. In this paper, we provide a framework for direct identification of user needs and apply it to an ongoing transit reform process in Bogotá, Colombia. Bogotá is integrating its bus rapid transit system with reorganized bus services throughout the city. Using expert interviews and a semi-structured community survey, we identify awareness, expectations and aspiration gaps between transit users and planners, as well as equity concerns. These gaps are part of a conflict we refer to as vision dissonance. We suggest specific actions to mitigate these problems in Bogotá and actions that may help reformers in other cities avoid encountering similar problems. A key lesson is that user consultation is valuable for identifying incompatibilities between users’ self-identified needs and project goals. If such consultation is conducted early in a planning process, planners of future projects may be able to prevent rather than correct unanticipated incompatibilities. The methods developed for this research can help planners in other large-scale transit integration processes conduct effective user consultation.