It has a population bigger than Hong Kong, Rio de Janeiro and Berlin, but the construction of a metro for the Colombian city of Bogotá after decades of discussion could finally be inching forward. The construction of the Metro de Bogotá has been the subject of debates and studies since the 1950s when the old trolley car network collapsed. Rapidly growing Bogotá, with a metropolitan area of in excess of eight million, currently depends on an under-pressure two-tier bus system as its sole public transport. Taxis, commercial vehicles and private cars all add to the congestion on the streets and high levels of pollution. But new mayor, Enrique Peñalosa, who had previously worked as a consultant on urban and transportation policy has returned to the Mayor’s office for a second time and is making public transport a priority.
A completely underground Bogotá metro is not feasible due to the cost and existing geography of the city, but this month has seen Mayor Peñalosa announce a press conference that a tender for the city’s first metro line – a mixed system of elevated, surface and underground stretches will be issued in December of this year. The Colombian central government has pledged to cover the cost of 70% of the metro system. And in October the country’s fiscal policy board Confis officially approved the 9.7tn pesos – US$3.3bn at the time – it had committed to the project, but with the current exchange rate the amount is approximately US$3bn. The exchange rate is a big factor here, with the plummeting oil prices damaging Colombia’s export rates, and the US dollar high it’s a tough time fto pay for big ticket investments.
Phase one is mapped out to the left here and could be in operation as early as 2021. Though quoted in Colombia Reports via El Tiempo last year, Ricardo Montezuma, a NGO Human City focused on the country’s urban development, highlighted the financial obstacles of the metro and put the emphasis on the Mayor for a solution: “I don’t worry about the money because it doesn’t exist, less now that the budget is being cut, inflation is going to reach 6% and the dollar is at almost $3,000 pesos. The question isn’t if Peñalosa can create the metro, it’s if he wants to or not.”
The announcement from Mayor Peñalosa of a tender for a mixed system was also met with disdain from the director of Bogotá's Urban Development Institute (The IDU) , William Camargo, who described it as "a step back in time…. the recommendation of an underground line is based on a serious study that [Spanish engineering firm] Sener did with a team of experts that analyzed information in all of the city and recommended the underground system," Camargo said, according to an interview first published by Metro en Bogotá and featured on BN Americas.
Editorial Comment: There is no doubt over the need for Bogotá to finally secure its metro network, and there is clearly political will and (some) funding behind this latest iniative, yet it still may be some time before its citizens are able to step out of their buses and cars and onto a train.
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