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
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.