New Mayor Peñalosa Promises To ‘Recover’ Bogota’s Transport Infrastructure
Enrique Peñalosa has been re-elected as Bogota mayor, following a first term which centered around the launch of the world’s first BRT network, has committed to improving security, transport and infrastructure, with the metro still a cornerstone of plans.
“We desire a more secure city, with better mobility, faster, more comfortable, with projects for its development that compete with the best cities of Latin America, for the city of which we and our children are proud,” the new mayor explained.
Peñalosa has promised to focus on security, with tackling local drug sales, rising homeless numbers, street crime and police reform key promises.
Alongside security, one of the key themes underlying Peñalosa’s administration is a focus on urban mobility. Bogota is one of the largest and most densely populated cities in Latin America, and yet only has a limited number of BRT routes known as the Transmilenio.
The Transmilenio was the first BRT route of his kind in the world, and was considered internationally as an innovative success of Peñalosa’s previous administration. The network is now severely overcrowded, and while still considered a success, peak time congestion has meant long queues and an unpleasant onboard experience.
The solution backed by Peñalosa’s predecessor has been a subterranean metro network. Bogota’s next mayor has echoed calls for a metro, however, has said repeatedly asserted that he will look to amend plans to incorporate as much elevated sections as possible, to reduce overall costs of the project.
While there is understandable appreciation of cost-saving initiatives, many fear that this will once again delay the vitally important project which is promised many times by administrations over the past 50 years.
The theme underlying the Peñalosa administration is mobility.
And the main item on Peñalosa’s agenda to solve the traffic problem: the long-awaited Bogota metro system.
As well as the metro, Peñalosa is also working with Vice President Vice President German Vargas Lleras, to create a public private partnership (PPP) to fund future road infrastructure, including his big project: the West Longitudinal Avenue (ALO).
The ALO would be a large highway around the parameters of the city, rather than one passing directly through the urban center.
A controversial project, the ALO represents one of the strongest ideological clashes between former mayor Gustavo Petro and Peñalosa since 1999. Critics of the mayor-elect have opposed the route for the effects it would have on wetlands like Juan Amarillo and the environmental balance of the savannah of Bogota, allowing for the urban sprawl of the city into the key natural areas.
Regardless, Peñalosa stated he has already begun purchasing the land for the construction and has managed to obtain an environmental license for the plans.
The proposed PPP of the Peñalosa-Vargas team would also result in the construction of other various highways to the city and a new district infrastructure agency to manage the multiple projects.
The new mayor has also promised to provide more housing for the cities growing population, which has a current shortfall of over 400,000 units.
“In 2015, 27% less houses are being built in the city than in 2010”, asserted Sandra Forero, president of Camacol in September, in spite of the cities growing population numbers.
Peñalosa has acknowledged this, and is looking at creating new urban centers around the capitals prolifery, which will be served by new transport corridors and networks.
“We need to enact urban development, not building by building, but by reconstructing entire sectors and industries. Bogota has one of the largest densities in the world and needs to grow three times the size it is today; to do urban redevelopment and expansion, we must make agreements with neighboring municipalities to know where to grow outwards,” stated the new mayor.
Of course, meeting the needs of an expanding cities with increasingly urgent infrastructure demands will bring a significant strain.
“Today we find a messed up city, that has had levels of historic economic growth but still the costs have more than doubled,” the new official described. “The financing problem of the District is huge; public space is in disarray, there is chaos in the city.”
After winning the election, the new mayor elect spent his first day in office in a meeting with President Juan Manuel Santos to discuss the main problems of the capital and the commitments the state has made to the district in recent months, mainly resources for the metro.
Although there are no known details of the end of the meeting, Santos stated that, with Peñalosa, “We agree to work together for the future of Bogota.”
The people of Bogota have spoken and afforded Peñalosa a second chance to ensure that the needs of the city are met, banking on the hope that the mayor’s plan to ‘recover Bogota’ is more than just a campaign slogan.