Boston isn’t the only city that is revolutionizing mass transit. Bogota, Colombia, has quietly built the world’s largest Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, known as TransMilenio. The system, which opened in 2000, has grown to encompass 12 routes and serves over 2 million passengers a day.
This is a true BRT system, with an average of four dedicated lanes of traffic for the buses in the center of the street. That means no waiting in traffic, unlike many public transit sytems. Riders catch the bus by entering raised stations via pedestrian overpasses. Each station is accessible to those using strollers or wheelchairs: the platforms are level with the bus floors, and buses pull up centimeters away from the curb. Boston’s Government Center station is under construction for the next year and a half to solve this issue (among others), so we’ll have to wait to see whether it will be as effective as TransMilenio’s solution.
One more word on the stations. TransMilenio is a hierarchical system, with 5 “tiers” of stations ranging from Sencillas (simple stops), which can be found approximately every 500 meters along a route, to Cabecera (portals), which are termini of routes and can efficiently accommodate a massive influx of people from rail lines, intercity buses, and alimetadores, or “feeder” buses (pictured below). These green buses connect outer neighborhoods to the TransMilenio network, and are completely free, thereby increasing affordability and expanding access for all residents.
Each non-feeder bus is painted bright red, and can accommodate 160 passengers -- and there are over 1400 buses in circulation! Over half the world’s population now lives in an urban environment, and Bogota has come up with a viable, and pretty cool, mass transit system for the 21st century. However, the system is not without its problems. Recently, citizens have been protesting over long wait times and overcrowded buses.
Ultimately, there are two ways cities can improve buses; make them less flexible, but capable of higher capacity, or we can make them more flexible with lower capacity and more direct service. We beleive that Transmilenio is an example of the former and Bridj is an example of the later.