On some streets in Bogotá over the past few weeks, traffic has been traveling at an average speed of 2 kilometers per hour during rush hour, slightly slower than the average human walking speed. The general average for the Colombian capital is, according to the official count, about 25 km. More than the average speed at which a bicycle travels.
this, Along with other nuances taken into account in the measurements, make Bogotá, according to the Tomtom traffic index, has the worst traffic in the US and the fourth worst in the world after Istanbul, Moscow and Kyiv. The Inrix index, which measures traffic differently, ranks Bogota eighth in the world. Its average speed in 2021 was 17 km/h, while the next Latin American city, Quito, had a speed of 18 km/h. Mexico City traveled at 20 km/h.
“Bogotá has been in the top positions for many years and everything points to the fact that this 2022 it is going to enter the top 5 again. Delays are up 36% from the first half of last year”, Inrix analyst Bob Bishu tells BBC Mundo. In August, Bogotá entered a new operational crisis. More than 500 construction projects are underway: bridges, tunnels, bike lanes, and after decades of failed attempts, the first subway line.
“Bogota has 50 years of delayed works”, said Mayor Claudia Lopez when work began in May. “Today, together with President Ivan Duque, the largest investment in the history of Colombia in infrastructure was announced.” Later, in an interview, López added: “Bogota will be 10 years in construction, that’s why we have to be patient and organize ourselves.”
Unlike previous mayors, López focused his efforts on major construction that would transform this metropolis of 10 million people, the fifth largest in the region. He decided to start almost all at once. But previous mayors did too: Transmilinio, the rapid transit bus system, is considered a model for dozens of cities and the bike path network, which completes almost 600 kilometers, is the largest in Latin America.
paradoxically, A city with high mobility problems can be considered a model in some respectsDaniel Moser, transport expert at the World Bank, says: “I’ve been working on this for decades, and Bogotá is a case that always comes up, sometimes an example of what needs to be done, a kind of innovation laboratory. , and An example of the challenges that all large cities face at times.
Perhaps this is not so ironic. Perhaps this is a complex problem that even the most developed cities cannot fully solve.
However, Bogatans feel like the protagonists of a horror story every time they leave home for work. Two-thirds of them say in surveys that they are dissatisfied with Transmilenio. Mobility complaints dominate the press. Pundits are often cornered in the media to point to the former mayor as a “criminal”. Every time a “traffic jam”, as they call it here, it becomes a meme on social media.
“I love living in Bogotá. The transition between Bogotá and death is almost imperceptible. A famous phrase from humorist Santiago Maurer says:
But Bogotá’s problems are not so different from those of Mexico City, Sao Paulo or Lima. All experts consulted for this report. In all of these cities, public transportation and routes are inadequate, and traffic jams are common, despite the fact that some have subways or major highways. Neither London nor Tokyo could solve their traffic.
Those cities also have motoring rates—the number of trips people take in private transportation—higher than Bogotá. Only 11% of trips are made by private car. According to official statistics. So, what is so special about Bogotá? Why does it often lead slow motion charts?
Colombian cities are among the most populous cities in the world. The forced migration of 8 million people due to war, considered one of the largest in history, filled the cities informally in the second half of the 20th century, unplanned and under the logic of inequality, which makes this country so united. Inequality in the world.
The list of the Urban Reform Institute, an American think tank that measures density by common parameters, is headed by dozens of African and Asian cities and in 39th place, with almost 18,000 people per square kilometer, Bogotá appears. The next Latin American city is Medellin. Bukharamanga follows. Sao Paulo and Mexico City, the most populous cities in the region, do not appear on the density list.
“Bogotá is a particularly dense city And that’s usually a major predictor of problems in motion,” says Inrix’s Bishu. The World Bank’s Mosher explains: “Two things stand out about Bogotá. One is the residential distribution of people concentrated in one area, and the other is its geography, because it’s not a circular city, it’s vertical.” .
These are insights that support research by the Urban Sustainability Group at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, which argues that traffic in the capital has a lot to do with it. The area where most people live and the area where most people work.
“Because of the way the city has grown informally on the fringes since the 1950s, Today we have neighborhoods that are very dense and there are no jobs.”Luis Ángel Guzmán, an urban planner at the research center, says:
Few cities in the region show social segregation as blatantly as Bogotá: Generally, the rich live in the north and the poor live in the south. “It’s like we’re kind of living Apartheid”, says Ricardo Montezuma, urban planner of the National University. The jobs, Guzmán analyzed, are almost all in the north: 33% of jobs in Bogotá and 10% in urban areas.
Low-income Pogotanos make an average of 0.55 trips per day, while in well-off areas they make a maximum of 0.2 trips per day. A quarter of the ex-salary is also earmarked for transport.
“Segmentation and inequality are fundamental factors in the problem of mobility, and it is something that is usually absent from the discussion about traffic congestion,” says Guzmán, referring to the variables that usually focus the debate: the problems of the transmilenio, the “irrational” use of the car, the “deficiency” of civic culture, The corruption or “incompetence” of this or that former mayor.
They are problematic factors, but they repeat themselves from one metropolis to another. Bogotá’s special feature is that in a vertical city, jobs are crowded on one side and workers are crowded on the other, and the number of trips made simultaneously on the same routes is huge, with significant effects on traffic.
For the socio-spatial aspect, experts add another variable, which also has versions in other cities of the world, but in Bogotá, for historical and geographical reasons, occurs in a specific way.
Montezuma of the National University maintains: “The problem is with the politicians, not the policiesBecause political management, if not politicization, has led us to the absurdity of fiercely debating whether the subway should go up or down, for example, when the movement is not the central debate.
Colombia has always been a country particularly centralized in its capital. In that it is similar to Buenos Aires and Mexico City, with the difference that it is not a federal state. The capital’s problems are, according to the national media, the country’s problems. For this reason, your mayor’s office is a political platform: All mayors in the last 40 years have been presidential candidates and two of them have reached the head of state. The office of mayor in Bogotá is often said to be the second most important position in the country.
The political role of capital is, according to experts, A technical discussion has become almost symbolic.
“That’s not the case in Mexico City,” said Manuel Suarez Lastra, an expert in urban geography at the Autonomous University of Mexico. Politicization is the exception, not the rule”.
Although each of Bogotá’s mayors has come to change projects from previous projects, experts agree that a certain continuity has been achieved in the last 30 years without projects such as Transmilino or bike lanes or vehicle restrictions. Peak and Plate -conducted abroad- would not have developed.
“I emphasize: it is not principles, but Politicians are the ones who create expectations in the people that distort the problems and solutions And they created a huge disconnect between the technical and objective and budgetary reality and the expression of the citizen,” says Montezuma.
Radical politicization also has technological consequences. Part of the reason Bogotá doesn’t have a metro, and that’s because politicians haven’t agreed in 50 years on how to do it.And requests in a legal country were able to stop approved projects.
Another example is the Land Management Plan, a long-term consensus strategy that, however, could not be renewed since 2004 due to demands and legislative obstacles. “The politicization of urban planning has left us trapped in indecision and ineffectiveness”, Guzman says.
As a result some Pogotanos, many of them women in domestic service, could spend You can go to work for up to 5 hours a day. A situation for at least the next 10 years – as the mayor said – can only be resolved with patience.
*By Daniel Pardo.*
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