Saturday, June 30, 2007

Colombia: Some facts about Bogota´s transportation system

Bogota, the capital of Colombia, sits on a high plain 8,600 feet (2,600 meters) above sea level, and has a cool climate, with highs never passing 70 degrees (21 Celsius) and lows often in the 40s (6-8 C).

Bogota´s population is now estimated at 8 million. From the time I first came to Bogota in 1980, when the population was at 3 million, the city has experienced an extraordinary growth in construction, which means that new access roads are created all the time and maps become out of date quickly. One of the most significant changes to Bogota´s landscape was the development of an above-ground transportation system called the TransMilenio, starting about the year 2000. As Bogota was never dug up to create an actual metro or subway, the way that the city decided to go was to create special routes for buses that would not have to deal with the huge amount of traffic. The network was sorely needed in Bogota and now the TransMilenio is often a faster alternative than driving (especially because there are some days or times that you are not allowed to drive your vehicle based on the numbers on your license plate), in spite of the large number of people that use it. The network has been expanded regularly to include more of the city.

There are things that one deals with here that are not found in most US cities: lots of bicycles and pedestrians, even on roads that are supposed to be freeways; plenty of potholes; and the occasional horse and carriage of a poor vendor. Even so, Bogota is a modern city through and through, with a seemingly infinite number of modern apartment buildings, shopping centers and malls with an excellent selection of goods and restaurants, cable and satellite TV, tons of cell phones, ATMs and concerts featuring heavy metal groups. The city has a varied and active nightlife.

See my webpage on Colombia at http://www.latinandcaribbeantravel.com/colombia.html
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