Will the Bogota Transit Police Stand up to the Bus Companies?

Look at this fine Bogota bus!

Is it wrong that I smirk and my tiny cast iron heart quivers contentedly when I see that members of the Bogota Transit Police have finally come to their senses and pulled over a public bus for some infraction or another? Bogota Public 1 – Bus Company 0. Small victories.

But frankly it’s not enough.

Last week a bus driver, with no less than 8 million pesos (US$4,500) in fines to his name, ran a red light and ploughed into two school children crossing the road. One child remains in intensive care and tragically the other one was killed. Perhaps riling people more was the fact that the driver tried to flee the scene.

Why was this driver even behind the wheel of a public transport vehicle, why was he not suspended for his previous misdemeanors?  And why did a bus company employ this man and why did they proceed to employ him with so many infractions? Frankly there are too many questions.


11 Traffic Police to One Car in Bogota…incredible!

Bogota is in chaos and the transit and transportation systems are abysmal. Polluting buses that wouldn’t run elsewhere in the world let alone in a city that’s trying to stake a claim for being an international business and tourism hub continue to ply their trade along rutted streets.

Today a low mist clung to Bogota’s Cerros Orientales and trapped the noxious fumes belched out by the buses in the low air that we all breathe. There was no breeze to clear the fug away. It was appalling. And yet no one is doing anything. For every bus company or driver reprimanded there are dozens more that remain unpunished.

There are too few transit police in this city and those that are on duty don’t perform enough to keep the city’s choked thoroughfares from gridlock due to accidents, breakdowns, poor decisions and so on.

Some possible solutions to the chaos in Bogota in no particular order.

  • A proper comprehensive driving test for all drivers. Not just a 10 hour course and then the license being handed over.
  • Fines being handed out and implemented with points being docked from the person in question’s license. Straight year ban for drunk driving.
  • More traffic lights at key junctions. More speed bumps and adequate and clear signage to clarify the traffic flow.
  • Obviously a comprehensive overhaul of the city’s public transport is required. Clean fuel for buses, affordable prices for the elderly and students, a new fleet of buses and a metro system.
  • Get rid of the dated Pico y Placa system and create a congestion charge like London’s.
  • Urge companies to encourage their employees to take public transport. Perhaps start the working day in some offices at a later hour to vary arrival times.
  • More traffic police.
  • Buses should stop at assigned bus stops and nowhere else.
  • Is there a way of ensuring that the bus cannot travel above a certain speed?


In my opinion the transport companies should be held responsible for whom they employ and the infractions these people commit. Is it naïve to think that forcing bus companies into overhauling their fleets and have them presentable and environmentally friendly would encourage the drivers to take some pride in what they do?

I, and I imagine many other residents of Bogota, am tired of seeing buses run red lights, swerve across three lanes without indicating, cut off drivers, harass other motorists, terrify cyclists and compete for the Guerra del Centavo*.

Police stopping cars in the Parque Nacional

As a final point regarding the bus driver that killed the child with his reckless driving, he is not in jail as he awaits trial. Even then, he could negotiate a financial agreement with the family whose child he killed and escape incarceration. Then, presumably, he could return to driving a bus. Shudder the thought.

*Guerra del Centavowhen you see buses competing with one another racing along the road and swinging in to the curb rapidly to gather more passengers, this is the Guerra del Centavo.

About Richard

Anglo-Canadian resident in Colombia. Journalist, Writer, Hotelier, Expedition Guide
This entry was posted in Journalism and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Will the Bogota Transit Police Stand up to the Bus Companies?

  1. RJB says:

    In Singapore, the commercial vehicals have a roof top light that ia conected to the speedo, and flashes when the speed limit is exceeded. Easy to spot for the police; apparently quite effective

    • Richard says:

      That would be an excellent option here. There is a speedometer installed within intercity public transport that beeps once the speed limit is broken, but in my travels I have seen that many drivers have disabled the device.

  2. sarah_bama says:

    Wow.. there's no actual driving test? Sounds like I'll have to walk carefully when in Bogota!

    • Richard says:

      No, my wife did a ten hour course, passed a sort of medical test and then was presented with a license. Really, when you are here, wait until every vehicle comes to a complete stop and don't think being on a zebra crossing gives you any rights!

  3. Mark says:

    I got my UK license "homogolizised" or whatever they call it. I was offered the choice of B1-Carros particulars (Yellow placas) C1-Servicio Publico (White placas cars and mini buses)

    I opted for C2, All of the above plus fixed axel heavy goods vehicles and full sized passenger buses. I asked them if they actually wanted to see my UK license to confirm I had these entitlements. They said "Nah no importa"

    So there you have it, "qualifying" as a bus driver in Colombia costs 300 mil pesos and nothing more.

  4. Rubio says:

    The driving tests here are administered directly by the driving schools who then report back to the SIM that you've passed, so it's easy to bribe your way out of the actual test.

    The big problem with the bus drivers is that they are swimming in cash and have an easy time bribing the police. They take bags of money to the police stations and the transit cops wind up letting them literally get away with murder.

    They need to create a separate division of transit cops who are very well paid and put them on the warpath.

    The actual transit laws here are incredibly strict but not that well enforced, therefore changing laws won't do anything.

    I have a still current NY driver's license which is valid here, but to ride a motorcycle I needed to get a separate license through that and went through the system. If you do everything legally it's actually very rigorous compared to the US or Canada. I had to go through a full psych profile, reaction time tests, the whole nine.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.