The plans for the Bogota Metro may once again have to be re-written, as Enrique Peñalosa, currently leading in the polls, outlines his plans for urban transport in the city and changes he would make to the strategy approved by the incumbent Gustavo Petro.
During an interview with Blu Radio, Peñalosa confirmed that he would back plans to construct a metro system, but affirmed he would scrap current underground plans for a cheaper elevated alternative.
“We are going to build the subway line, but it should be elevated, not underground,” he said, adding, “an elevated subway costs half that of an underground one, there are less risks of overspend”.
The mayoral candidate added, according to his studies, an underground metro will cost $300 million per kilometer, while elevated metro would cost $150 million per kilometer.
Peñalosa is seeking reelection following a stint as mayor between 1998 and 2001, and, according to the Ipsos Napoleon Franco poll, he is the favorite to win next months election, with a projected 33 percent, while presidential ally Rafael Pardo is in second place with 16 percent.
In the interview, the capital’s leading candidate went on to criticize the SITP (Sistema de Transporte Público de Bogotá – Bogota Public Transport System), which incorporates buses, mini-buses and the Transmilenio (BRT network).
Peñalosa described the situation related to public transport as “critical”, adding “it is an atomic bomb that we have been left, it’s a disaster”
“Created during the administrations of Samuel Moreno and Clara López and implemented under the administration of Gustavo Petro, they are leaving a seriously broken system”.
Peñalosa however defended the Transmilenio, a network inaugurated during his previous term as mayor. The network has received much criticism from disgruntled passengers, who use the, at times slow and overcrowded, service. Peñalosa noted that the system transports more passengers per hour than almost all of the metro lines in the world.
“This is why it has to be fixed, not finished”, Enrique Peñalosa affirmed.
In addition to the elevated metro and upgrades to the BRT in the city, Peñalosa is a strong supporter of investment in bicycles as a transport alternative.
During the interview he said that he aims to have 20% of journeys completed by bicycle and that he will invest heavily in cycle lanes. Pointing to the example of Copenhagen, where 40% of journeys are completed by bicycle, Peñalosa believes with more cycling infrastructure this can also be achieved in Colombia.
Studies for the Bogota Metro project have been commissioned in 1949, 1964, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1981, 1988, 1996 and 2010, so it is once again concerning that with the possible election of Peñalosa this process may have to begin again.
While concerns over costs and the current weak peso had meant that minor amendments were being considered, it appeared as though the project was now on track, with funding agreed by the state and city governments. However, next months elections may set back progress and force at least a further year of planning and discussions before construction on the desperately needed metro can begin.