The Bogota Affair

DQI Bureau
New Update

When we think of Colombia, the first thing that comes to mind is the drug

lords and their intercenine warfare. Still remember when one Colombian

footballer Escobar was killed by them after returning home from the World Cup.

His faulthis own goal eliminated Colombia from the tournament. So is the power

of these lords. Well, Colombia has a lot to offer on other fronts toocolorful

footballers like Valderamma or, for global citizens like us, the rich brew of

Colombian coffee. Not to mention the pretty, svelte and sensuous senoritas.


For India and especially Delhi, Colombia has another interesting connection,

though not many are aware of it. The bus rapid transit system, TransMilenio,

that serves the Colombian capital of Bogota was the model for Delhis BRT

system. While Delhi BRT has caused lots of headache and heartburn (even snide

epithets like Bahut Rulaya Tumne), the TransMilenio system implemented in 2000

has turned out to be a roaring success for Bogota. The system runs throughout

nine lines throughout the city. When it was opened to the public in December

2000, it covered Av. Caracas and Calle 80. Other lines were added gradually over

the next several years, and the total length of the system is now 84 km.

TransMilenio runs through nine lines

across Bogota; the Control Center regulates the operation of each of the

1649 buses

TransMilenio: A Roaring Success

The TransMilenio system runs a control center to manage and regulate the

operation as well as collection through fulfillment of all services during

twenty-one hours of operation daily. The quality of service offered to the final

user depends on the program and control systems at this control center. The key

functions at the center include regulating the operation of all main buses

(frequencies and times of services), monitoring control of each one of the main

buses as well as supervise agents that interact with the system which can

generate some kind of complication within the system. Part of it requires manual

interventionone person is in-charge of receiving and coordinating all the

actions between the personal on the road and the Control Center; there is also

a control technician who controls and regulates the operation of each

articulated bus from the control center.


The TransMilenio service programming optimization software in place at the

control center defines the optimal itinerary that each bus has to fulfill in

order to attend adequately the needs of displacement of users. There are 1,649

buses (1,132 main buses plus 517 suburban buses) covering 409 km each working

day. The control interface monitors the position of each bus and the information

is updated every 20 seconds. This interface has three modulesthe geographical

information tool, the consulting module and finally the screen to analyze the

different results and data. The control scheme operated from the central server

involves operations like system monitoring, system operations and fleet



The data communications with the buses is done through a digital platform

terrestrial trunked radio(TETRA). The data is transmitted initially through CDPD-Cellular

technology. This technology was out of the market due to commercial reasons of

the only provider (Telefonica Movilstar).

Voice communication with the buses is done using a digital platform (TETRA).

This system replaced the analog communication system that operated initially.

The GPS signal is through satellite system. For the control center an

emplacement was installed with Nebula infrastructure to centralize the

communications. The equipment are connected to the network through switches,

servers and control equipment.

TransMilenio consists of several interconnecting BRT lines, each composed of

numerous elevated stations in the center of a main avenue, or troncal.

Passengers typically reach the stations via a bridge over the street. Usually,

four lanes down the center of the street are dedicated for the bus traffic.

There are both express and local buses, the latter stopping at all stations. The

outer lanes allow express buses to bypass buses stopped at a station. Users pay

at the station entrance via a smart card, pass through a turnstile, and await

the arrival of the bus inside the station, which is typically 5 m wide. The bus

and station doors open simultaneously, and passengers board by simply walking

across the threshold. Like a subway system, the elevated station platform and

the bus floor are at the same height. Passengers use a contacless smartcard

system (MIFARE) system, and it is possible to purchase multiple trips for one

card. Most users are distrustful and purchase only one or two trips at a time,

due to problems with the cards at the launch of the system.


Before TransMilenio, Bogotas mass transit system was thousands of

independently operated, uncoordinated mini buses. Mayor Enrique Pealosa oversaw

the construction of the initial Transmilenio system, which took only three years

from conception to opening. The mayor created a special company to build the

project and run the central system. The operational design of TransMilenio was

undertaken by transport consultants Steer Davies Gleave. McKinsey was hired as a

project manager and leading local investment bank Capitalcorp was assigned the

financial structuring of the project. Most of the money required to build

TransMilenio was provided by the Colombian central government, while the city of

Bogota provided the remaining 30%. The system opened in December 2000. A second

phase has been completed, and a third is underway.

Rajneesh De