In 2018, Bogotá witnessed about 6,556 traffic-related deaths. High levels of risky road use behaviors by pedestrians and drivers and inadequate infrastructure for the safe mobility of pedestrians remain contributing factors to traffic violence.
In order to curb traffic violence, Bogotá’s Plan de Desarrollo’s (PDD) plans to construct a metro system in the capital by the end of 2028. The new metro represents an opportunity to improve the lives of 2.8 million people, 88 percent of which are in the 3 lowest income brackets. The metro system aims to replace automobile activity on roads by providing a viable transportation alternative and parking structures to strongly encourage use. Moreover, the fair is estimated to be about the same price as a single trip (USD 50 cents) on the TransMilenio system. Working-class families will spend less time commuting and more time engaging with their loved ones.
The initial idea of a metro system in Bogotá was proposed in 1942 by the mayor Carlos Sanz Santamaría. With a population of about 400,000 residents and the city’s trams transporting about 200,000 passengers daily, the idea of a metro system was sensible. Despite various attempts by many mayors, it wasn’t until 2006 that a Master Plan was adopted for the design of Bogotá’s current Integrated Public Transportation System (SiTP).
The introduction of TransMilenio (a bus rapid transit system) into the SiTP allowed working-class Colombians to save an average of 223 hours annually. Moreover, drastic reductions in death, injury, and collisions (92 percent, 75 percent, 79 percent, respectively) occurred in the areas that TransMilenio had stations. Most importantly, air pollution decreased by 40 percent.
Under President Manuel Santos (2010-2018) and Bogotá Mayor Enrique Peñalosa, both the national and district government came to a consensus on creating the joint-stock company Bogotá Metro Corporation (Empresa Metro Bogotá, or EMB) and the First Metro Line of Bogotá (Primera Línea del Metro de Bogotá, or PLMB) in 2016. With the Bogotá City Council approving and expediting the creation of EMB, operations began in 2017. The EMB oversees planning, structuring, construction, operations, line development, and maintenance, all of which are incorporated into the Integrated Public Transportation System of Bogotá (Sistema Integrado de Transporte Público de Bogotá, or SiTP).
One major issue with this proposed metro system, however, is the displacement of the Monument of the Heroes and the overall effect on the environment. Inaugurated in 1963 to memorialize the soldiers who participated in the independence movements of Bolivarian countries, the metro’s construction cuts through the monument’s location. This isn’t the first time a national monument has been displaced by infrastructure projects. The office building Cudecom, built in 1969, was successfully relocated in 1974 for street expansion. For city government officials, “[t]his is the opportunity to transform the monument and re-integrate it into pedestrian flows, all as part of the bicentennial celebration.”
Another potential danger is damage to water sources. The city of Bogotá is flanked by three large water sources that basically divide it into three drainage basins: Salitre, Fucha, and Tunjuelo. The metro’s construction will cause water contamination from increased industrial wastewater, and threaten flora and fauna communities. With concerns raised back in 2014 by the Bogota City Council, the Bogota Metro Corporation will continue to modify existing development plans to lessen potential damage. On the other hand, a study conducted by the Bogotá Metro Corporation concluded that the Air Quality Index for the areas where the metro will operate produced a classification between “Good Air Quality” and “Moderate Air Quality.”
Despite these potential negative effects on the environment, Colombians are demanding the swift construction of not just one metro line, but a robust and extensive metro system. As the metro system becomes delayed further, Colombians have taken to social and news media to express their frustrations. In a recent Noticias Caracol segment on Bogotá mayor Claudia Lopez’s announcement of the metro’s due date of 2028, reporters interviewed locals about the impact the delay would have on the city:
“The delay is worrying because Bogotá needs this metro system.”
“Eight years sounds like a lot, but again, there are other projects that will be implemented in the meantime to improve public transportation.”
Other projects that are being explored are expanding route operations under the TransMilenio system and SITP, but COVID-19 has also halted any concrete policy efforts.
Moreover, Colombians have taken to social media to express their frustration as well, with Fabián Puentes of Bogotá’s City Council taking to Twitter:
“The discussion is that we need a metro NOW. We cannot continue with these conversations about the metro being above ground or below ground…metro NOW. It’s been over 70 years with the promise of a metro system…Bogotá needs a metro with many lines!”
#BogotáYSuMetro Para promover el uso de la bicicleta?, el proyecto metro de @Bogota incluirá un total de 1??9?? km de ciclorrutas a lo largo de la línea de metro. Además, en los sótanos de las estaciones se habilitarán casi 10.000 cupos de estacionamiento para bicicletas?. pic.twitter.com/zlYHwfEANi
— Metro de Bogotá (@MetroBogota) April 24, 2020
Translation: To promote the use of bicycles, the metro project will include a total of 19 km of bike paths
According to the most recent information released by the Bogotá Metro Corporation, the First Metro Line of Bogotá was determined to be 23.9 kilometers and have the capacity to move about 990 thousand passengers daily. Due to COVID-19, however, a temporary suspension of about 1,200 rural land purchases for the metro line was announced in late March. This will also delay the voluntary resettlement of families who have sold their land, all of which will resume once quarantine measures are lifted (quarantine measures have been extended to May 11th). Moreover, the construction of the metro line is scheduled to begin once quarantine measures are lifted. The EMB’s head, Andrés Escobar, says that the primary task at hand is to obey quarantine guidelines and secure the health of the Colombian people.
In order to make the metro system possible, the Institute of Urban Development (IDU) is purchasing occupied land near the following intersections: Av. Villavicencio with Av. 1 de mayo, Av. 1 de Mayo with Av. Boyacá, Av. NQS with Calle 8 Sur, and Av. Calle 1 with Av. Caracas. For residents who find themselves within the metro’s aforementioned areas of operation, IDU officials provide a thorough explanation of the land acquisition process, providing payment to residents in exchange for monetary compensation.
Through its Twitter account, Metro de Bogotá, the Bogotá Metro Corporation continues to engage with Colombian citizens and publish updates in a timely manner. Bogotá’s first metro line represents a key step forward to expanding access to economic opportunities for Colombians, particularly working-class families who will spend less time commuting. With increased productivity, however, comes new environmental challenges to Bogotá’s delicate ecosystems.
Angel Ornelas | Claremont McKenna College
Angel is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in History and International Relations at Claremont McKenna College. Born and raised in Dallas, TX, Angel is the son of Mexican immigrants. His father is from Leon, Guanajuato, and his mother is from Juárez, Chihuahua. On campus, Angel is actively involved with the Chicano Latino Student Affairs center and the Queer Resource Center as a mentor. Throughout his undergraduate career thus far, Angel has done fieldwork in Los Angeles and Mexico City. As a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, Angel plans to pursue a Ph.D. program in Anthropology in the hopes of becoming an anthropologist. He hopes to make significant contributions to Latina Republic and is excited to forge friendships with leaders in América Latina.