Annex 5 Case Studies and Lessons

TransMilenio, Bogota (Colombia): Bus System Similar to that of Curitiba with a Few Improvements, Emerging over a Period of Three Years

Source: Bus Rapid Transit Policy Center

Exclusive bus lanes designed for both trunk lines and feeder bus road

Control of the quantity of buses

Express and local service on two lanes in each direction

Frequent bus service at 2–3 minute intervals

High speed BRT system of 26 kph

Summary of the System
Capacity 45,000 passengers per hour per direction
Users (whole system) 800,000 passengers per day
Segregated busways on trunk roads 85 km
Headway 2–3 minutes (peak period)
Number of Buses 600–700 (whole system)
Bus vehicle capacity per unit 160 passengers (trunk bus)
Infrastructure cost US$7.6 million/km (average of Phase 1 and 2)
Ticket price US$0.40

City Characteristics

Source: Wikipedia

  • Bogota has an area of 1,587 km2, an urban population of 6,778,691, and a population density of 22,300/km2.
  • The city is surrounded by mountains.
  • The urban layout dates back to colonial times with a square layout adopted from Spain.
  • Colombia’s GDP per capita (2006) is US$8,600.

The “Before” Situation

Source: Unknown

  • By 1994, the city had too many (22,000) small and old, but highly polluting bus units in operation, controlled by over 60 loosely formed “companies” or “associations”.
  • The buses had an average age of 14 years and an average occupancy of only 45%.
  • An average trip took 1 hour and 10 minutes because of the low speed of the bus system.
  • Private vehicles were using 95% of available road space for only 19% of all motorized trips.
  • 70% of particles released to the atmosphere came from mobile sources. 1,200 deaths per year resulted from pneumonia associated with air pollution.

BRT Scheme Characteristics:

The whole system, consisting of four phases, was planned to cover 95% of the urban area over a period of 28 years, to meet the mobility needs of a majority of the population. It is a trunk and feeder system as well as closed system, including a trunk route extension of 388 km to serve 5.5 million passengers/day. In 2002–2003, TransMilenio phase 1, comprising three trunk corridors with a total length of 42km and seven feeder routes with a length of 346km, started to operate. Phase 2 consisting of three trunk corridors, a total of 43 km, opened in 2005. Transmilenio is now planning a third phase of trunk lines with the goal of having at least 80% of the city population within 500 m of a trunk line.

Scheme Cost: Public funds for phase 1 (42km of trunk corridors and 346km of feeder roads) totaled US$297 million equivalent covering planning and infrastructure. They were used to construct the exclusive bus lanes, enclosed bus stations, terminals, control center, part of the Global Positioning System (GPS), and sidewalks and bicycle paths in the same corridor.

Source: TransMilenioo homepage

Two Dedicated Lanes in Each Direction: On major trunk lines, TransMilenio uses two dedicated lanes in each direction and operates express and local services. The express operates at 26kph on the outside lane and stops at selected stations only. The local services operate at 21kph, on the inside lane, and stop at all stations. This system makes transferring between two services easier.

Public Control of Bus Operation: The municipality organized TransMilenio S.A., which is a state stock company for planning, management, and operation control of the TransMilenio bus system. The existing bus companies were forced to reorganize and formed four corporations, which financed the procurement of new large buses under government oversight. In addition, at the same time as giving the four private operating corporations legal right to operate TransMilenio buses, the city relocated all existing private buses onto parallel corridors to limit the number of buses on the busways. The city also gave TransMilenio the right to reduce the total number of bus kilometers in the system to maximize the profitability of the corridor.

Bus Procurement and Operation without Subsidies: TransMilenio requires no operating subsidies and earns substantial profits for its operators. The operating companies are paid roughly US$2.2/km of bus service provided. Also, the procurement of new large buses was financed by private operators.

Subsidies for Public Investment in Planning and Infrastructure: In the financial structure of TransMilenio, public funds cover planning and infrastructure. For the development of the BRT system, the district established a continuous financing process through the allotment of 50% of a fuel surcharge and also obtained the commitment of funds to the project by the national government. Phase 1 was financed with the fuel surcharge, contributions from the Central District sector, a World Bank credit facility, and a national government subsidy.

Detailed Planning to Develop a Financially Sustainable BRT System: For phase 1, TransMilenio invested about US$1 million in traffic demand modeling and planning studies to estimate developed public transit trip demand for the three initial corridors. The city implemented the BRT system based on these studies, which worked well in establishing a financially sustainable BRT system.

Dramatic Increase in Busway Capacity: At the beginning of the project, based on demand estimations, bus size and bus occupancy were maximized achieving a maximum reduction in transit service cost per passenger kilometer. Larger buses were installed and the number of buses was reduced. As a result, transport capacity, which was 30,000 persons/h per direction before implementation, increased to 45,000 persons/h.

Bus Fare Increases without Public Outcry: One year before the system opened TransMilenio calculated the fare needed to reach financial self sufficiency based on the demand estimation. According to the calculation, the required fare for TransMilenio was US$0.40 equivalent while that of private buses at the time was US$0.30. Then, one year before its opening, Bogota approved an increase in the normal bus fare from US$0.30 to US$0.40 for private buses operating in Bogota. There was considerable pubic outcry against this fare increase implemented by the private bus operators but when TransMilenio opened, people had become accustomed to the new fare. In addition, because the fare for TransMilenio was the same as for private buses but travel on TransMilenio was much faster and of higher quality, these private independent operators quickly lost passengers on the parallel routes and cut back services.

A High-Frequency and High-Speed Bus System: Both express and local services on the trunk lanes are operated at 2–3 minute intervals during peak hours. The frequency of feeder buses is about five minutes. In addition, the speed of express buses is 26kph and that of local services is 21kph, while the average bus speed before TransMilenio’s opening was 18kph.

Bus Supply Control by Intelligent Transport System: An Intelligent Transport System (ITS) is one of the elements enabling the effective operation of TransMilenio, which operates a control center that supervises services. Each articulated bus is equipped with a GPS and a processing unit that reports its location every six seconds. The control center also receives information from turnstiles that report the number of passengers entering and leaving. The supply of buses and service demand are then coordinated and contingencies managed in real time.

Bus Stations like Subway Stations: TransMilenio’s stations are like rail or subway stations, with multiple doors, level-boarding to vehicles, fare collection at the station entrance, electric information signs showing arrival times for vehicles, and glass door partitions between the stations and vehicles. These systems make passenger boarding smooth, enable on-time operation, and improve service levels.

Source: Bus Rapid Transit Policy Center
Bus Station Platform Station Entrance Transit Mall


A bus-based mass transit system can be built and operated more efficiently than a railway system in an urban area. A significant achievement of TransMilenio is that it established a bus-based mass transit system with a transport capacity of 45,000 persons/h in each direction and operating at high speed, on time, with frequent and comfortable service, and at a relatively low capital cost. It shows that buses operated on the surface using vehicles with rubber tires, without any electricity, can be used for such a high quality system.

Public funds for TransMilenio were only used for planning and infrastructure but it has not required any operating subsidies, funding for bus procurement, or municipal bank guarantees. This long-term economic and financial sustainability beyond the initial capital investment was achieved because it was the primary goal of the planning process from inception to implementation.

Strong control by a single public entity enables well-coordinated bus operation. TransMilenio S.A. is a single state stock company carrying out planning, management, and operation control of the TransMilenio bus system. It also operates the control center and controls the number of buses. All bus operating companies provide bus operations based on TransMilenio S.A.’s direction and are paid per operating km. This strong control by a single public entity has led to the successful operation of TransMilenio.

Connection with the existing road transport system is important for a BRT system. Efficient connection with the existing road transport system, such as feeder buses, enhances the quality of service and passenger convenience.

ITS makes bus operation more effective. TransMilenio controls the supply of buses to meet service demand in order to maximize the profitability of the corridor with ITS in the system control center.

Dr. Walter Hook, Institutional and Regulatory Options for Bus Rapid Transit in Developing Countries – Lessons from International Experience–, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, 2005; TransMilenio homepage; Bus Rapid Transit Policy Center homepage; Asia-Pacific Environmental Innovation Strategies, TransMilenio Bus Rapid Transit System of Bogota, Colombia

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