Bogotá Secures $600 Million USD Line of Credit for Elevated Metro, Public Transportation Infrastructure
To fund the start of Bogotá’s massive public transportation upgrade, the capital has secured a conditional $600 million USD line of credit from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
This includes an initial loan of $70 million USD that will finance Bogotá’s First Metro Liner (Primera Línea del Metro para Bogotá), a 24-kilometer elevated train that has been hailed as the cornerstone element of the citywide transport infrastructure plan of Mayor Enrique Peñalosa.
Image: An artist’s rendering of the planned elevated metro line in Bogotá. (Credit: Office of the mayor of Bogotá)
The $70 million USD loan has a 20-year term with a 5.5-year disbursement period, a 5.5-year grace period, and a LIBOR-based interest rate, according to IDB.
Peñalosa’s full plan to overhaul the public transportation system in Colombian capital has been budgeted at nearly $5 billion USD and would kick off with this first section of the elevated metro, which would better connect the southern area of the city, starting in the neighborhood of Bosa, to central Bogotá with a final stop at 72nd street.
The master strategy also calls for an expansion of the currently operating TransMilenio rapid bus transit system. New bus routes and stations would be put into service, particularly on the underserved western areas of Bogotá around Avenida Boyacá, Avenida Ciudad de Cali, and 68th Avenue.
From 2007 to 2016, the city saw an 81% surge in the use of private car and a 308% explosion in the use of motorcycles.
Though many have criticized the strategy of building an elevated system, everyone agrees that Bogotá needs better public transportation. The Colombian capital has expanded rapidly in recent decades due to greater economic opportunities and many who formerly lived in rural areas fleeing violence seeking refuge in the relative safety of the city.
Bogotá was home to just 4.4 million people in 1989, according to a joint study by the United Nations and New York University, but this has spiked to more than 8 million now.
From 2007 to 2016, the city also saw an 81% surge in the use of private car and a 308% explosion in the use of motorcycles, according to IDB. Roadways are now over-extended, and the result has been a level of rush-hour congestion and long commute times that make Bogotá one of the worst cities in the region for traffic.
While the launch, in 2000, of TransMilenio in Bogotá was hailed as a major achievement and innovation in public transportation for a metropolis, it too can no longer adequately meet the city’s transportation needs.
Various plans have been put forth to construct a proper metro over the decades, but thus far none have come to fruition.
Even the current plan is controversial. The intention to construct an elevated metro has been dismissed by many critics as inadequate. But Peñalosa has cited the practicality benefits — including the major cost savings and speed to launch — of an above-ground system compared to the massive undertaking of a true subway.
The analysis of IDB offers backs up that view. “The conclusion was that the elevated metro can help save up to $61 million USD in investments per kilometer and its operation will cost 28% less than an underground system,” said the development bank in a statement. “Additionally, it can be finished in a shorter period of time and construction risks are smaller than with the underground option.”
Former leaders of Bogotá and Colombia, however, have opposed Peñalosa’s plan. “I want to call on citizens, Bogotanos, and everyone who lives in Bogotá to oppose this madness,” former President Ernesto Samper told local newspaper El Espectador last September. “The elevated metro is not going to solve the city’s traffic problems.”
Ex-Bogotá mayor, current senator, and 2010 presidential election runner-up Antanas Mockus has also criticized the plan. “The metro is not going so solve a damn thing,” he told El Espectador in July 2017. “It is going to be a symbol The number of people who are going to ride the metro is minuscule compared to the number of people who need transportation.”
The Inter-American Development Bank estimates that the elevated metro, combined with expanded bus service, will be capable of accommodating nearly one million passengers per day.
“The project will serve some 990,000 passengers a day,” stated IDB. “PLMB and the Transmilenio expansion will result in a more efficient system due to their physical and billing integration. Once the totality of the city’s mass transportation network is integrated, nearly 80% of Bogota residents will have a Metro stop within under one kilometer from their location, which is expected to help reduce the use of private means of transportation.”
The bank says that there will be other societal benefits of having an elevated metro. The project will “be not just a transportation project but also a major urban renovation initiative,” stated IDB.
By installing security cameras and improved lighting near stations, the metro will help cut down on the scourge of sexual harassment and violence that has long been a problem on the TransMilenio system as well as generally promote security in these areas.
Because the metro trains will be electric, this will reduce the overall transportation system’s carbon dioxide emissions “in the capital district by 36,000 tons,” according to IDB.