METRO: IF MEDELLIN COULD, CAN DO BOGOTA TOO...?

publicado a la‎(s)‎ 31 dic. 2011 9:23 por Carlos A. Gonzalez G.   [ actualizado el 31 dic. 2011 9:44 ]

Carlos A. González G.

Dinero Magazine
Digital Edition, Opinion Section
Colombia. 12th May 2008

Opinion Article


Original title: 'Metro: ¿Si Medellín pudo Bogotá también...?'


The irresponsible management of the local administration of Medellín of that time, that got involved with the metro even knowing that they didn’t have the money to pay for it and therefore all the Colombians would end up paying for it, the waste of money in cost overrun and fiddling with contracts, and the picturesque vision of a multimillion dollar metro flying over roads invaded with scrap buses, are all aspects that , without a thought, the ruling class of Bogotá will be able to imitate in great detail as our large history proves that it is not a problem of lack of experience. 

I don’t formulate a categorical refusal to a project which is clearly necessary for a city such as Bogotá where there are nearly seven million citizens, but I formulate a frontal criticism that  decisions that imply a multimillion investment such as this one continue being made by a politician during the election campaign who, by what it seems has the occurrence of a metro while, whistling under the shower, he rubs his head with shampoo; and not by the exhaustive and continuous work of a team of experts on the subject linked to the local administration. 

The spatial coverage of TransMilenio(1) is still minimal and in addition, it doesn’t have a rate integration, two big reasons to continue investing on its development. Nevertheless, there are the ones who already dare to consider that this is "an  insufficient system for the city", when this system still doesn’t exist, and what is worse, they plan to embark the capital upon the adventure of a metro because of a political whim, moving away from the effort that is being done for the last years of a more responsible management of the public expenses. 

The transport problem in Bogotá, in particular the one with the public transport, will not be resolved with one single metro line, which is the most the city can aspire to have in the next fifty years; in the same way as it has not been resolved with only a few TransMilenio lines, since this resembles in nothing what an integrated transport system should be in the future, the high coverage of which should be able to benefit the whole city. 

And how about if this time we finish first what we are doing well, and only then do we study what needs to be done next? It is more serious to bet on the development of TransMilenio on a larger scale, in coverage and in services, and with the course of time the evolution of the system and the rigorous follow-up of the behaviour of the demand, will clearly indicate us what corridor to reinforce strategically with a system of greater capacity such as the metro. 

A determined bet on the democratisation of the road space of the city and a clear policy for a more sustainable mobility, will put Bogotá again under the spotlights of the international scene as happened the time of the initiative of the day without car. Then the ministers of the ones called “friendly countries” will visit us, which is something the Creole politicians like very much, but this time not to see how the distribution of the contracts will be done, but to follow the example of how to plan the transport in a responsible way in Latin American cities, the same way as in the seventies Curitiba (Brazil) became a world paradigm. 

The zeal for popularity of a mayor, the electoral opportunism of a president, and so much regionalism and manipulative partisanship, have been and continue being the culture medium so that the improvisation, inseparable friend of corruption, ends up spoiling the longing of millions of Colombians of making their cities a better place. 

A piece of information for everybody, there is only one metro in the world which is completely self-financed with the collection of the sale of tickets: the metro of Tangamandapio, “…beautiful village with red cloud twilights …”, Yes, the one of Chespirito(2). 

So it is better to be honest and understand that a city that wants a metro first has to know, amongst other things, not only with what money to build it and to pay its financing, but also where the money to assume part of the costs of operation impossible to cover with the sale of tickets of heavy transport systems such as the metro, will come from. And, above all, because it is a lie that the rabbits come out from the magician’s hat, to know what this will mean for the pockets of the taxpayers from Bogotá. 

Therefore, to those who cry out with irresponsible fanaticism “If Medellín could, Bogotá can too!”, I agree with them: If Medellín could do it so bad, Bogotá, if we don’t watch out, is able to do it worse.

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This is a translation of the original version in Spanish entitled 'Metro:¿Si Medellin pudo Bogotá también...?'. The opinions expressed in this article are solely responsibility of the author and they do not compromise the point of view of any related institution. (1) 'TransMilenio' is the Bus Rapid Transit system of the city of Bogotá, Colombia. (2) 'Chespirito' is a television series for children audience widely known in Latin America

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