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.
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*.
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 Centavo – when 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.