TransMilenio Bus Rapid Transit System

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Main actors

City Government, National Government, Supranational / Intergovernmental Institutions, Private Sector, Public Utility

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Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region

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Ongoing since 2000

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

During the 1990s, Bogota’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, Bogota’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.

Sustainable Development Goals

Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Reduce inequality within and among countries
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Bogotá, Colombia

Size and population development
The city of Bogotá has a total population of 8,080,734, while its metropolitan area has a population of over 10,700,000. (world population review 2018)

Population composition
The 2005 census put the population density for the city at approximately 4,310 people per square kilometer. The rural area of the capital district only has about 15,810 inhabitants. The majority of the population is European or of European-mixed descent. The people of mixed descent are those of Mestizo origin. There is a small minority of Afro-Colombian and Indigenous people as well. The city has recorded significant growth for a number of years and is still growing at a rate of 2.65%, this is largely due to internal migration. Historically, Bogota’s main religion was Roman Catholic and the city is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese. In the most recent census, a large portion of the population declared they are non-practicing. (world population review 2018)

Main functions
Bogotá lies in central Colombia and is 2,640 metres about sea level in the Northern Andes Mountains. It is the capital and largest city of Colombia and the educational, cultural, commercial, administrative, financial, and political center. Bogotá is a territorial entity and has the same administrative status as the Departments of Colombia.

Main industries / business
Bogotá is the headquarters for all major commercial banks, and the Banco de la República, Colombia's central bank as well as Colombia's main stock market. As the capital city, it houses a number of government agencies including the national military headquarters and is the center of Colombia's telecommunications network. Additionally, most companies (domestic and international) in Colombia have their headquarters in Bogotá. Bogotá is a major center for the import and export of goods for Colombia and the Andean Community in Latin America and is the home of Colombia's tire, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries. Bogotá is the hub of air travel in the nation and the home of South America's first commercial airline Avianca (Aerovías Nacionales de Colombia). Railroads connect Bogotá with the Caribbean coast to the north and via (Puerto Beriro) with the Pacific coast to the west. Bogotá is on the Colombian section of the Pan-American and Simón Bolívar highways and has road connections with all major Colombian cities.

Sources for city budget
The City of Bogotá draws its budget for public expenditure largely from taxes, fees, fines, operating revenues.

Political structure
Bogotá, as the capital of the Republic of Colombia, houses the executive branch (Office of the President), the legislative branch (Congress of Colombia) and the judicial branch (Supreme Court of Justice, Constitutional Court, Council of State and the Superior Council of Judicature) of the Colombian government.

Administrative structure
The Mayor of Bogotá and the City Council, both elected by popular vote, are responsible for city administration. The City is divided into 20 localities and each of these is governed by an administrative board elected by popular vote, made up of no fewer than seven members. The Mayor designates local mayors from candidates nominated by the respective administrative board.

Bogota’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 Bogota has also implemented car-free days, peak hour car restrictions, bicycle schemes and pedestrian and public space improvements.

The lead agencies for the project are the national government of Colombia and the District of Bogota. 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.
The BRT provides a variety of benefits to the city of Bogota 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.

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.
Bogota’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 Bogota, 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 Bogota’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)

Bogota, 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, Bogota, Colombia

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Jakki Mann
Melbourne , Australia

Jakki Mann

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