The promise and challenges of integrating public transportation in Bogotá, Colombia


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.

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  1. 1.

    The launch was planned for December 2011, but actually occurred in September 2012.

  2. 2.

    The number of companies in operation will reduce during SITP’s gradual implementation process. The basic conditions we describe here, however, continue to apply to the remaining CPT service.

  3. 3.

    The existing informal regulation of buses is comprised of people who earn their living by standing at bus stops and marking at what time buses pass on a clipboard. They share this information with drivers in exchange for tips. Buses are not centrally regulated by the companies or any municipal authority.

  4. 4.

    Contractual issues prevented the implementation of a single ticketing system during the first months of SITP’s operation. As of writing, the system was still operating with two different fare collection systems, which have not yet been fully integrated.

  5. 5.

    It is not possible to know the exact passenger capacity reduction as it depends on the size of the vehicles to be scrapped and may change if TM adjusts the vehicle occupancy standards for SITP.

  6. 6.

    The five sites were in Normandía (in the locality of Engativá), San Cristobal Norte (Usaquén), Las Lomas (Rafael Uribe Uribe), Kennedy Central (Kennedy), and Fontibón Centro (Fontibón). The number of complete interviews at each site ranged from 32 (Normandía) to 46 (Kennedy).

  7. 7.

    93 % of respondents were either waiting for or exiting the bus; the remaining respondents were on the street for another purpose.

  8. 8.

    TM provided two staff members, with knowledge of the SITP, to assist with survey data collection. They were trained by one of the authors, who also joined them in the field for supervision, additional data collection, and proactive quality control (Axinn and Pearce 2006).

  9. 9.

    One group of operators, APETRANS, staged two brief strikes. As a result, the rate of compensation to current bus owners for the use of their vehicles nearly doubled.


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We are grateful for the financial support of the Institute for the Study of the Americas at UNC Chapel Hill and EMBARQ—a member of the BRT-ALC Center of Excellence ( We would also like to thank María Andrea Agudelo, Johanna Burbano, María Carolina Lecompte, Johann Murcia, Carlos Pardo, Ana Quintero, Daniel Rodríguez, Eva Sclippa, and the staff of TM, especially Martha Gomez and Diana Martinez, who supported the survey field work. An abridged version of this paper was presented at the 2012 TRB Annual Meeting. We would also like to thank the following individuals for granting interviews:

TRANSMILENIO S.A. Staff (2011) Sandra Ángel, Director, Transportation Planning; Javier Hernández, SITP General Manager; Fernando Páez, General Manager TM; Adriana Ruiz, Legal Coordinator

Bus Operators Alfonso Montáño, Driver, UCOLBUS; Héctor Morales, President, COPROTUR; Alfonso Pérez, President, APETRANS (Assoc. of Small Transport Providers); Ramiro Serna, Technical Director, Este Es Mi Bus

Other Interviewees Fernando Álvarez, Secretary of Mobility, City of Bogotá; Carlos Córdoba, Former Director, and Vladimir Daza, Program Assistant, Bogotá Como Vamos; Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor, City of Bogotá; Germán Prieto, Professor of Engineering, Universidad de Bogotá Jorge Tadeo Lozano, former staff member, Bogotá Chamber of Commerce; Edgar Sandoval, consultant, former General Manager, TM.

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Correspondence to Gwen Kash.

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Kash, G., Hidalgo, D. The promise and challenges of integrating public transportation in Bogotá, Colombia. Public Transp 6, 107–135 (2014).

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  • Public transportation
  • Transport systems integration
  • Institutional settings
  • User perception
  • Mixed methods research
  • Bogotá