November 2, 2021

Bogotá: mobility at the mercy of a political push

The mayor of Bogotá, Claudia López, would like to go back on TransMilenio, but only a legal recourse would make it possible to suspend the licitation of the articulated bus corridor along Avenida 68.

Faced with his first major infrastructure obstacle three weeks after taking office, López claims to have received from Enrique Peñalosa – two days before the end of his term as mayor – the contract for the bus system along one of the Bogotá’s busiest vehicular arteries. As one of his campaign pledges, to stop TransMilenio’s expansion, the planned 17 km road will be inaugurated this year, while Bogotá is also embarking on another mega infrastructure project, the Bogotá Skytrain.

Claiming “that she has her hands tied” when it comes to breaking the commitments of the previous administration, Mayor López has fiercely defended her position against criticism from her political enemies, including the former candidate for the town hall Hollman Morris of the left coalition Colombia Humana.

“I don’t want this hallway, the electorate did not vote for this hallway, but no one legally opposed the tender,” López said, adding that if a judge or the office Attorney General issued a stay order “we can do it.” Four construction companies – Consorcio Eucarístico Carrera 68, Consorcio Infraestructura Avenida 68, Consorcio LHS and Constructora Concreto SA – are in charge of the execution of the new TM corridor, which will have 21 stations and will cross 10 localities.

According to Morris, López, by continuing the expansion of TransMilenio on Avenida 68, continues “the Peñalosa model of the city, represented by diesel, gas and buses”. Morris also claims that given the metro’s contractual schedule, “not a single brick will be laid during this administration, with Bogotá unfortunately the ultimate loser.”

As mobility prioritizes the agenda for López’s first month in office, the mayor appears to have consolidated her position that TransMilenio requires more intervention from the district, starting with strict security measures.

In another announcement, the mayor confirmed that a drone would take to the skies so that authorities can view “critical areas” where passengers are at risk of being assaulted or injured, or where bus ticket fraudsters enter the system. . Plainclothes police will also patrol the interior of the system and, in cooperation with the city’s Women’s Secretariat, the initiative Me Muevo Segura (Safe to Move), which started under Peñalosa, allows TM staff to apply protocols to women who have been robbed or sexually harassed. In a bid to bolster security in a bus system that recorded more than 20,000 thefts last year, López also confirmed that the motorized police squadrons tasked with patrolling the BRT’s corridors will be reduced from 15 to 50.

With much of Bogotá’s TM infrastructure vandalized in the mass protests of November 21, 2019 and with the resumption of the Paro Nacional (national strike) on January 21, López faced its first public order situation as the demonstrators returned to the streets of the capital.

Faced with the possibility of vandals targeting TransMilenio again, López presented a list of protocols that would be followed by the district before calling on the national police to intervene. As many marches proceeded peacefully, an incident in the morning rush hour at Suba TM station, where masked vandals attacked policemen with bricks and set recycling bins on fire immediately. requested the support of the police riot squad (Esmad). For most of the day and into the early evening, Esmad was embroiled in vandal battles across the city, the most divisive taking place just blocks from the town hall.

As plumes of tear gas rose above Bogotá’s historic district, López picked up the microphones to give an assessment of the day’s events. His speech celebrated the protests, as well as the “successful” implementation of the protocols. Stressing that the 21E protests under his leadership resulted in no deaths, as was the case with the shooting of student Dilan Cruz by an Esmad officer on November 28, Mayor López threw verbal blows at Peñalosa insinuating that his predecessor had “stigmatized” and “militarized social protest.” Throughout the day, people marched in protest against the systematic killing of social leaders, wiretapping, in support of public education and to petitions from the National Strike Committee, ”she declared.

These same petitions were also gathered in the first month of the strike, which resulted in widespread violence in Bogotá, forcing Peñalosa to impose a city-wide curfew.

From the start of her four-year term with an inaugural picnic in Bogotá’s largest park, Parque Simón Bolívar, in which she addressed Peñalosa in the audience, saying: “Thank you for you. join me on such a special occasion for me and our city. Beyond our differences, I recognize in you and in your administration the love for Bogotá and the service to the city with knowledge and understanding.

For the former mayor of Bogotá Gustavo Petro de Colombia Humana and senator of the left party, any recognition by López of Peñalosa’s achievements is greeted on his social networks with vitriolic and criticism. Minutes after López announced that she would abide by the Constitutional Court’s decision to allow bullfights in Plaza Santamaría, Petro turned the debate on Peñalosa by declaring: “As soon as Peñalosa was elected, I attended. an anti-bullfighting march with my daughter, after 10 minutes she left and five minutes later Esmad arrived and gassed us all. In the same tweet, Petro then tells López that the bullfighting ban “is just a matter of political will.”

In another Twitter exchange between Petro and López regarding the extension of the Bogotá metro to Calle 100, the 49-year-old Green Marine politician said: “Gustavo Petro has decided to destroy the office of the mayor of Bogotá and part of his political project. “

If there was a mobility issue that three of the four mayoral candidates (Claudia López, Carlos Fernando Galán and Miguel Uribe) shared during the campaign, it is the need for Bogotá to start the construction of the skytrain, and the most ambitious public works project awarded to Chinese entrepreneurs. Colombia Humana candidate Hollman Morris followed the party line saying that the offer of $ 13.8 billion COP ($ 4.5 billion) presented by the consortium China Harbor Engineering Company and Xi’an Metro Company would bankrupt the city coffers and is the result of an inherently “corrupt” process. OK. Shortly after his inauguration, Mayor López ratified Andrés Escobar as director general of the Bogotá metro. López’s decision to leave corporate governance in the hands of a loyal Peñalosa employee has aroused the ire of Gustavo Petro. “His decision is the continuity of corruption, and the process of awarding the elevated metro is deeply corrupt,” he tweeted.

López is an ardent anti-corruption advocate who has sworn transparency in her administration and enforces the mandates of the anti-corruption consultation organized by her and voted by 12 million Colombians. According to the mayor, “mobility in Bogotá has two faces: on the one hand, we are one of the busiest and most backward cities in terms of metro, on the other hand, we are a global example of alternative transport. , from pedestrians to bicycles. And López is aware that much of the “global recognition” for the city’s 550 km of designated cycle paths, Sunday Cícloruta and the TransMiCable aerial tramway is attributed to both Enrique Peñalosa’s terms. The extension of Bogotá’s cable car system is also a priority, with plans announced by López to build one that connects San Cristobal to Usme and the districts of Usaquén with the East Tramway.

The recently awarded Regiotram de Occidente light rail will connect and integrate central Bogotá with satellite communities by redeveloping a disused network. The fully electric train will enter service in 2023 and includes 17 stations as it crosses from Facatativá through the cities of Madrid, Funza and Mosquera. Some 465,000 live in these satellite communities – according to the 2018 census – and the Regiotram will cut a trip from two hours to 50 minutes.

The TransMilenio, the Bogotá metro, the Regiotram de Occidente and the cable cars are the transport solutions that Mayor Claudia López considers essential to integrate the city and provide clean energy solutions which, in her own words: ‘n’ is not science fiction nor nuclear physics ”.

As Bogotanos prepares for the onslaught of major public works, which will generate even more traffic jams over the next three years, mobility is on everyone’s mind and a key issue that will determine the success of López’s all-inclusive social contract. .


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