Bogota’s famous TransMilineo is the largest Bus Rapid Transit system in the world. Opened in 2000 the system has 144 stations and serves an average of 2.2 million passengers, who cram into approximately 1000 busses, each day.
I am one of them.
Passengers reach the stations, which are located in the middle of the city’s large avenues, via a bridge over the street. Four lanes down the center of the street are dedicated to bus traffic only. 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, and to playfully race the slower busses that are trying to make up for lost time between the local stops.
The bus drivers receive their training at the Indy 500 Race Track, and they demonstrate their skills – especially at braking and accelerating — every day on the streets of Bogota. The only reason that there are not more injuries from broken bones due to this breakneck style of driving is due to the sheer volume of riders. There is nowhere to fall down and get hurt!
Users pay at the station entrance using a smart card (a nominal fee of about 55 cents US), pass through a turnstile, and wait for buses inside the station, which is about 16 feet wide. The bus and station doors open simultaneously, and passengers board by simply (?) walking across the threshold.
At rush hour, any given station contains at least 1500 people. At each stop, when the automated doors open at the platform, no less than 30 people struggle to insert themselves into the bus. At the same time, no less than 25 people are trying to exit the bus, which is only about 6 feet wide. Those who wish to exit are forcefully impeded by those who were not able to board that bus, for no particular reason other than the fact that they are not happy about having to wait for the next bus.
On the bus one is treated to street performers playing music, school kids, vendors selling questionable packets of home-made food, the disabled and homeless, soda and agua vendors, grandpas, business executives, robbers, tourists, moms with babies and security guards, on their way to somewhere.
Bogota’s cool weather is rapidly remedied by boarding a TransMilineo bus. Windows and skylights can be opened to provide ventilation, but rarely relieve the body heat of hundreds of heavily clothed Bogotanos. Those who ride the bus frequently, and have survived numerous communicable diseases, are given notarized Certificados of Bueno Salud by the Mayor’s office.
Special classes are offered at various Cuidadanos Avoiding Desperación (CAD) locations around the city to teach the bus-riding public the proper etiquette and body alignment needed to maximize the experience of riding the TransMilineo.
Participants are first shown how to achieve a stance that ensures the traveler doesn’t fall during a sudden stop. Exercises that strengthen the thighs and biceps are especially important to those who must hang on for dear life between stops. (An optional course offers pole-dancing techniques, which supplement basic strength training exercises). Courses in Motivational Pushing and Shoving are the most popular, with lessons on How to Manage and Safeguard your Possessions while Clutching Handrails and Stanchions, are Segundo in popularity. Hygiene courses, such as How to Keep your Hands Clean (or use gloves), Coughing into a Sleeve, Scarf or Someone Else’s Hair (or use a mask), and How to Sneeze Vertically (instead of horizontally) are optional.
At Universidad Naciónal, Universidad de los Andes, and Universidad Militar Nueva Grenada, advanced courses in reading bus route maps are offered to Masters Degree and Ph.D. students, or those holding degrees in advanced linguistics, physics or math.
For more information, or to obtain a TransMilineo pre-paid credit card, go to the cashier at any Transmilineo station, call (+57) 310 243-7098, or email TransMilineo at ¿howf-*/#?ingmanypeoplecanyoupossiblycramontoabus?.com