TransMilenio Bus Rapid Transit System

Bogotá, Colombia

The TransMilenio Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in the city of Bogotá, Colombia provides residents with efficient and safe mass transit that encourages high ridership.

During the 1990s, Bogotá’s population increased rapidly, largely due to internal migration from the countryside, simultaneously the public transport system was in decline and not able to cope with the increase in users. 
In 1999, Bogotá’s mayor, Enrique Peñalosa, proposed a plan for a Bus Rapid Transit system, the TransMilenio, that would improve the efficiency and safety of public passenger transport services by providing access to the urban poor, enhance private sector involvement in service provision, reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and lay the foundation for a comprehensive urban development process for the city. 
TransMilenio is based on high-capacity buses operating on dedicated bus lanes on trunk routes, being supplied with passengers by feeder buses that connect residential areas to BRT bus stops. From the initial 41km of bus lanes completed in 2000 to the expansion to 207km in 2015, the TransMilenio system has become the largest BRT in the world.


City information

Size and population development
2011: 8,743,000; 1990: 4,740,000; 2025: 11,369,000; 2010-2015: +2.53% / year

Population composition
Rapid expansion mainly due to rural urban migration

Main functions
Capital City, economic and cultural centre in Colombia

Main industries / business
Food and textile industries, mechanical engineering and electrical industries

Political structure
The city is ruled by a mayor and a city council, both elected by popular vote

Administrative structure
Bogotá is composed of 20 localities governed by an administrative board

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Background and objectives
Bogotá’s previous public transportation system was dangerous, underused and offered poor quality service. It consisted of 15,000 buses owned and operated by 66 private companies. The system was inefficient, the bus fleet was old and required large amounts of fuel and operated at low average speeds; there were no designated bus stops, and trips were paid in cash on the bus. Moreover, there were almost 50,000 taxis operated by private companies on the roads. The city had significant growth in private car ownership, causing high accident rates, long commuting times and severe air pollution. 
TransMilenio is a sustainable mass urban transport system based on a BRT scheme. The objectives of the project are:
  • improve the public transport system with respect to accessibility, efficiency, safety, speed, convenience and comfort ensuring high ridership
  • restrict private automobile use
  • expand and improve bicycle paths 
  • enhance public space
  • reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions

TransMilenio was developed via a public-private partnership. Representatives from the national and local business sector, public agencies, government officials and bus operators from the previous public transportation system were involved in the planning and implementation of the new BRT system. The public sector is responsible for the implementation of the infrastructure and also for the planning, control and monitoring of the system operation, while the private sector is in charge of operating and maintaining the buses.

The implementation of TransMilenio has four phases. The first phase of 42km was completed in 2000. Phase 2 provides additional busways of 131.4 km: 42 km more was completed in 2006, 22 km was completed in 2012, and 7 km in 2015. Phase 3 and 4 are currently under feasability studies. The system consists of dedicated bus routes, large-capacity buses and elevated bus stations. By 2024, it is planned to include a metro train system that will expand the network by 388 km.

The City of Bogotá has also implemented car-free days, peak hour car restrictions, bicycle schemes and pedestrian and public space improvements.

Financing and resources
The lead agencies for the project are the national government of Colombia and the District of Bogotá. The national government has provided 64% of the total investment costs and the District of Bogotá has contributed the remaining 36%. Total costs are estimated at US $2.2 billion (4,091,989 million pesos). 

The total cost of Phase 1 was US $240 million, funded by a local 46% fuel surcharge, general local revenues, grants from the National Government (20%), and a loan from the World Bank (6%).

The total cost of Phase 2 was US $545 million, with 66% financed by the national government. The higher cost of phase 2 was primarily due to increased investment in public spaces (bridges, interchanges, etc.) and associated transportation infrastructure improvements.
Results and impacts
The BRT provides a variety of benefits to the city of Bogotá and its residents:
  • improved fuel efficiency per passenger due to new and larger buses. The reduced transport times, along with increased safety, reliability and comfort attract many car and taxi drivers to the new system, which in turn leads to an improved traffic flow in the city. 

  • environmental benefits in the form of reduced GHG and other air pollutant emissions (CO₂, PM and NOx). From 2013 to 2019, the annual average estimated reduction of CO₂ emissions amounts to 578,918 tCO₂eq which is equivalent to the emissions of around 123,174 cars per year. Furthermore, a reduced number of vehicles in the city leads to less noise pollution.

  • the  social well-being of residents has increased as a result of less time spent in congestion, less respiratory diseases, less noise pollution and fewer accidents per passenger transported. 

  • in the areas where TransMilenio operates, there has been a reduction of 92% in road related deaths, 75% in injuries and 79% in collisions. Robberies at bus stops have been reduced by 83%.

  • approximately 1,500 temporary jobs are created during the construction period.
Barriers and challenges

When the TransMilenio was launched, 90% of bogotanos supported the new system, more recently that support has declined, as a number of problems remain unresolved. Recurrent problems include crowded buses, low frequency of service and high fares. During rush hour, it can take up to 20 minutes to board at some stations. Furthermore, pollution is generated by the old system buses operating with low maintenance and with bad emissions index.

The remaining challenges include:

  • Improving the quality of the public transport system;
  • Integrating the BRT system within the cable car and metro systems;
  • Modifying some bad conception contract aspects in the Integrated Public Transport System (the operator of public transportation in Bogotá), especially concerning urban buses;
  • Implementing more ecofriendly buses. All the developments regarding the improvement of the quality of the diesel fuel in Colombia were a result of the successful tests made in the TransMilenio System with biodiesel mix of 5%, hybrid buses and electric buses.
Lessons learned and transferability
Bogotá’s TransMilenio system has led to the development of a National Urban Transport Plan in Colombia. BRT projects are complex and require technical, financial, and legal feasibility studies to ensure successful implementation. 
The success of implementing the TransMilenio system was contingent upon many factors.
  1. ensuring equity within the system and establishing coordination mechanisms and adequate institutional arrangements. 
  2. allocating sufficient technical and financial resources for the preparation and execution of the project and including stakeholders in the process to secure their on-going support. 
  3. assuring financial sustainability by using measures, even if unpopular with residents such as, gas tax, general revenue funds and private vehicle restrictions.
  4. provision of adequate incentives for private sector operation such as performance based contracts for defined periods of time and competitive tendering.
  5. connection with existing road transport systems.
  6. marketing campaigns promoting the system to gain public buy-in. 
Encouraged by the successful implementation of TransMilenio in Bogotá, the government of Colombia embarked on a major program to replicate similar systems in other Colombian cities. The project has been successfully replicated in the cities of Pereira and Cali. The TransMilenio model can be successfully scaled down and adapted to metropolitan areas of less than 1 million inhabitants while the performance and economic viability of the bus system remains unaffected.

Center for public impact: TransMilenio: renewing Bogotá’s transport system on 25th August 2017)

Pocacito: Transport and mobility - Bus Rapid Transit:TransMilenio  (accessed on 25th August 2017)

Index mundi: Colombia Demographics Profile 2017 (accessed on 25th August 2017)

Colombia Reports: Bogota socio-economic statistics (accessed on 25th August 2017)

PPP IRC: Transmilenio Phase I PPP Contract for Bus Transport System (accessed on 25th August 2017)

Good Practices in City Energy Efficiency - Bogota, Colombia – Bus Rapid Transit for Urban

Transport (accessed on 25th August 2017)

Bogotá, Colombia Bus Rapid Transit Project - Transmilenio

Quality public transport: A model BRT? Transmilenio in Bogotá (accessed on 25th August 2017)

Jan Marco Müller in Megacities: Our Global Urban Future (2014), page 179 to 184 (accessed on 25th August 2017)

PRI: 8 million people. No subway. Can this city thrive without one? (accessed on 25th August 2017)

Citylab: Why Are People Rioting Over Bogota's Public Transit System?  (accessed on 25th August 2017)

Transmilenio Busway – Based Mass Transit, Bogotá, Colombia

External links / documents