Locale Bogotá, Colombia
Transit type bus rapid transit
Number of lines 12[1]
Number of stations 147 (4 under construction)
Daily ridership 2,2 million
Began operation December 2000
Operator(s) TransMilenio S.A.
System length 88 km (55 mi)[2]

TransMilenio is a bus rapid transit (BRT) system that serves Bogotá, the capital of Colombia. The system opened to the public in December 2000, covering Av. Caracas and Calle 80. Other lines were added gradually over the next several years, and as of 2012, 12 lines totalling 112 km (70 mi)[2] run throughout the city, making it the world's largest bus rapid transit system.

TransMilenio bus at a station
Bi-articulated bus on Avenida Jiménez
Construction of Line K on 26 Avenue
Calle 100 station

Inspired by Curitiba's Rede Integrada de Transporte (Integrated Transportation Network), 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 to bus traffic. There are both express and local buses, the latter stopping at every station to pick up passengers. The outer lanes allow express buses to bypass buses stopped at a station.

Users pay at the station entrance using a smart card, pass through a turnstile, and wait for buses inside the station, which is typically 5 m wide.[3] The bus and station doors open simultaneously, and passengers board by simply walking across the threshold. Like in a subway system, the elevated station platform and the bus floor are at the same height.

The buses are diesel-powered, purchased from such manufacturers as the Colombian-Brazilian company Marcopolo-Superior, German conglomerate Mercedes-Benz, and Swedish companies such as Volvo and Scania.

The buses are articulated (split into two sections with an accordion-like rotating middle to allow for sharp turns) and have a capacity of 160 passengers. In May 2007, a new, larger bi-articulated bus, with capacity for 270 passengers, was presented to the public.

TransMilenio buses are not equipped with transponders to give them traffic signal priority, a regret voiced by the general manager of the system, Angelica Castro.[3]

As of October 2014, up to 1,500 buses were circulating on the trunk line system[2] and the fare was 2,000 Colombian pesos for a single trip (about EUR 0.75 or USD 0.9). An off-peak fare of 1,500 pesos has been introduced. Cards use a contactless smart card (MIFARE) system, and multiple trips may be purchased using one card.

An additional set of 410 regular buses, known as "feeders" (alimentadores, in Spanish), transport users from certain important stations to many different locations that the main route does not reach. Unlike the main TransMilenio buses, feeders operate without dedicated lanes, are not articulated and are green (regular TransMilenio buses are red). There is no additional fare to use the feeder buses.

TransMilenio stations at each end of a line have large bicycle parking facilities to facilitate cyclists using the system.

Costs, ridership, and impact

According to a United States Transportation Research Board (TRB) case study report, the construction cost for the first phase of $8 million per mile (41 km) was US $240 million, or US $5.9 million/km. The system is overseen by a public body, which awards contracts to private bus companies on a competitive basis. According to TRB, private contractors are paid based upon the total number of kilometers that their vehicles operate.[4]

Daily ridership quickly reached 800,000 after the system opened. TransMilenio has since been expanded. Ridership in early 2006 was 1,050,000 daily, and in 2009 it was 1,400,000 daily. As of 2008, seventy-five percent of Bogotans rated the system as good or very good.[5]

There is a plan to eventually build 388 km of route, which will provide a very dense network of rapid transit for an urban area with an estimated land area of approximately 500 km2. TRB reports that the 388 km system is projected to cost $3.3 billion, only 10% more than a previously proposed Metro of 30 km would have cost.

Most Bogotans have found Transmilenio to be an improvement over previous bus service. An independent survey in 2005 reported that a majority of respondents thought the new bus system superior, and only 15% thought it worse. Transmilenio was also found faster and more convenient than other competing transport choices. When asked about problems, many survey takers complained about overcrowded buses. Between 20 and 30% cited pickpockets and long wait times as problems.[6]

The price of the ticket is 2.000 Colombian pesos (approximately US $0.70). This has not prevented the buses from being congested even during off-peak times.

Routes and stations

TransMilenio has 12 lines serving 144 stations in the city of Bogotá:

Transmilenio system map as of September 2013

Since the May 2006 expansion, the TransMilenio route system has changed dramatically, with new sections added to the system. Instead of being numbered, routes have a combination of letters and numbers. In order to fill the information gap, TransMilenio made available an interactive guide that includes routes, stations, nearby places and route combinations.[7]

New lines are being constructed, including one on Calle 26 (Downtown-West (Airport)) and the other on Carrera 10 (Downtown-South). They were scheduled to become operational in late 2012.[8]

Construction of a new line in Carrera 7 (North-Downtown) is under consideration. This has been criticized as there are certain locations where the system might not fit.

There are five types of stations:

All stations have electronic boards announcing the approximate arrival time of the next bus. Wait times are short as there is usually a bus serving the station. There are also station attendants to provide assistance to the passengers, and posted system maps.


Before TransMilenio, Bogotá's mass transit "system" consisted of thousands of independently operated and uncoordinated mini buses. There was also a plan for a network of elevated highways throughout Bogota, and plans to build a subway as Medellín had done seven years prior. When Enrique Peñalosa was elected mayor he cancelled these projects and oversaw the construction of the initial TransMilenio system at a fraction of the cost.[9]

Within three years after the initiation of the project, the first phase opened in December 2000. A second phase has been completed, and a third is underway. Prior to construction, a 30km trip by public transport would take 2 hours 15 minutes in 1998; the same trip using TransMilenio now takes 55 minutes.[9]

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 with the financial structuring of the project led by Capitalcorp S.A., a local investment bank. Most of the money required to build TransMilenio was provided by the Colombian central government, while the city of Bogotá provided the remaining 30%.[10]

Other cities are building systems modeled on Transmilenio, for example, Mexico City,[11] and Transantiago in Santiago, Chile.

TransMilenio stations comply with easy access regulations because they are elevated and have ramps leading to the entrance. The alimentadores (feeders) are normal buses without handicapped accessibility. A lawsuit by disabled user Daniel Bermúdez caused a ruling that all feeder systems must comply with easy access regulations by 2004, but this has not happened yet.

2006 protests

On May 2 and 3, 2006, several groups of bus drivers not associated with TransMilenio held a strike, protesting against some elements and consequences of the system. They disagreed with the amount of monetary compensation that they would receive in exchange for the disposal of old buses (10 to more than 20 years old), traffic restrictions on the TransMilenio main lines, and a new Pico y Placa Ambiental in some city areas, that would restrict the schedules of buses older than 10 years to early morning hours to reduce pollution in the city.

Some of the larger bus companies which participate in TransMilenio also retired their conventional bus lines during the strike. Public transportation ground to a halt in much of the city. Although TransMilenio and a number of other buses continued operating, they could not cope with all of the demand. Acts of individual intimidation and violence against some private vehicles, TransMilenio and conventional buses occurred during the strike, as well as clashes between some of the strikers and the police.

Bogotá's Mayor Luis Eduardo Garzón rejected the strike, firmly defended all of the measures as necessary for the city's transportation future, and stated that he was only willing to discuss the specific details of their implementation, as well as a further democratization of TransMilenio's operations, after the situation calmed down. During the second and final day of the strike, the local administration, the strikers and their companies agreed to begin talks.

During the strike, some protests included users of TransMilenio who complained because the buses were passing at a very low frequency. Several stations became so filled up that some people fell from them into the street. Even after the strike ended, some TransMilenio passengers have subsequently protested because they still find aspects of the system to be inefficient and uncomfortable.

2012 protests

Due to the relatively high price ($1) and overcrowding, students protested and some vandals looted and broke windows on March 9, 2012, causing half a million dollars of damage and 11 injuries.[12]


According to recent polling, Transmilenio has an 86% disapproval rating from users.[13] User strikes have erupted over the bad quality of the service, with users blocking the dedicated roads used for the buses, at times collapsing the entire system.[14] This protest sometimes devolve into riots involving heavy police presence and the use of crowd control measures such as tear gas and water cannons.[15]

The system has been described by the users, independent bodies and the media from suffering from overcrowding, insecurity and providing bad customer service. At rush hours "stations are so packed that people can't get off the bus".

During construction there were problems with the concrete used to pave the dedicated roads, which had an estimated cost to the city of 1.6 trillion pesos (500 million dollars).

Dario Hidalgo, former deputy general manager for TransMilenio and director of research and practice for EMBARQ,[16] analyses the problems of the system as follows:[17]

Transmilenio lacks traffic engineering procedures, which means that there is no certainty for users about bus schedules. During peak hours, the system is overloaded, which sometimes leads to serious accidents. Green buses or "alimentadores" also lack schedules, so drivers normally do not drive defensively, but try to compensate for the absence of proper schedules or frequencies by driving carelessly.

See also


  1. "TRANSMILENIO S.A. - Servicios Troncales - Servicios por Zona" (in Spanish).
  2. 1 2 3 (in Spanish) Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. 1 2 "Bogota Transmilenio", Bus Rapid Transit Policy Center (February 2007)
  4. TRB Online Case Studies, "TransMilenio BRT", ca. 2001
  5. "Why Is TransMilenio Still So Special?", by Dario Hidalgo,, August 5, 2008
  6. Applicability of Bogotá’s TransMilenio BRT System to the United States, p. ix, by Alasdair Cain, Georges Darido, Michael R. Baltes, Pilar Rodriguez, Johan C. Barrios, National Bus Rapid Transit Institute (2006)
  7. "Portal de Rutas TransMilenio Mapa Bogota". Retrieved 2012-10-11.
  8. Diario El Tiempo (5 June 2010). "Le Metieron El 'Acelerador' A La 26". Retrieved 5 June 2010.
  9. 1 2 "Bus Rapid Transit: Bogotá". StreetFilms.
  10. Roger East. "Bogota's bus rapid transit system and cycle lanes". London. Archived from the original on December 12, 2007.
  11. William L. Hamilton (2006-01-12). "A Global Look at Urban Planning". New York Times.
  12. "Bogota's Vaunted Transit System — Model for Transjakarta — in Distress". March 14, 2012.
  13. "Peñalosa: lo ocurrido contra Transmilenio fue "prácticamente terrorismo"". Retrieved 2016-02-18.
  14. "Colombia: TransMilenio bus protests paralyse Bogota - BBC News". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-02-18.
  15. "Why Are People Rioting Over Bogota's Public Transit System?". CityLab. Retrieved 2016-02-18.
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