In the Universidad de los Andes, we meet María Alejandra Pardo, who is in the study group of the university about urban and regional sustainability.This group of the university is funded by the Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, by the Ministry of Transport of Colombia, by the Secretary of Transport of Bogotá. They also have a laboratory that can be used to measure the emissions of a vehicle. Since Bogotá is in altitude, it is a much in demand test bench, by both private companies (vehicle constructors) or public agencies (from other South American countries which have the same altitude problem, but no installations).

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Transmilenio system

The city of Bogota is making investments on the Transmilenio buses system. Bogotá was the first city to implement this service of buses, running in separated lanes, with a functioning more like a metro (trustworthy travel times since there is no traffic on the lane, fixed journeys and stops, you pay the ticket when you enter at the station not when you climb on the bus, you can change as many time as you want as long as you keep inside the turnstile, !). The goal of this system of buses is to reduce the indexes of pollution. In Bogotá, the pollution has effectively decreased thanks to the Transmilenio. The economic (not financial) balance of Transmilenio, is very positive, in terms of increase mobility, time saved, health conditions improved thanks to the reduction of emissions, !. As a consequence, the government of Colombia promotes the development of this kind of system in the big cities of the country. In the frame of the Kyoto protocol, the Transmilenio project received credits as part of a CDM. On the same model, the bus system MIO in Cali received CDM acceptation. And they are currently in negotiation for the cities of Barranquilla and Pereira.

Buses improvements:

Along with the Transmilenio, Bogotá counts with the integrated buses, which bring the users from the different neighbourhoods to the Transmilenio stations. These buses are renovated (the age of the fleet is 14 years in average), for much cleaner vehicles. There is currently a study about the acquisition of hybrid buses. Hybrid buses suppose a diminution of 12% in CO2 emissions and 50% in the ppm emissions. These studies are funded by the Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo (in total, this bank gives 300 million US$ to improve the infrastructure in Colombia, focusing also on rivers, trucks, quality of the combustible). In Bogotá, it has been calculated that the diminution of 1 tons in the emission of ppm would save 450 000 US$ to the city (better health conditions). Thanks to this study, it can be calculated if economically the change to hybrid buses is worthy. The result is that it is too expensive. There are also studies with changing the Transmilenio buses to electric ones, like trolleys, but they don’t have flexibility or with electric engine, but they have poor autonomy (especially in Bogotá, with long routes of some 40km, and strong slopes). It is a pity because as 80% of Colombian electricity comes from hydro, switching to electric buses is consistent in terms of emissions reduction.

In Medellin, in addition to the metro network and cable-car they have, they invested in buses running on natural gas. This will come soon to other cities like Bogotá, Calí and Barranquilla, allowing a diminution of the emissions. But this technology is very expensive. In addition, as Bogotá is high in altitude, with strong slopes, the natural gas buses do not develop a sufficient torque to carry loads.

Electric taxis:

In the capital, there is a pilot project of electric taxis. But behind the good idea, there are many problems, provoking the resistance of the drivers: the electric taxis are a very expensive purchase, and when they need to be repaired, it is difficult to find a mechanic who can take care of electric engines.

Improvement of the combustible:

A strong effort is made all over Colombia to improve the quality of the combustible: it contains a lot of sulphur. With a better elaboration, the particles emitted by an efficient engine decreased from 500 ppm to 50 ppm. For example, in Bogotá, the buses of the Transmilenio are of the family of Euro 5, but they behave as Euro 4 because of the poor quality of the combustible.

Other alternatives to the car:

In Cali, there was a train line from North to South to carry heavy loads. Now, of course, this train is not used any more. But there is the project of recuperating this route, to make it a green corridor, with bicycle lanes, green transports, ! there are many proposals, and the authorities are now looking for funds.

All the big cities in Colombia want to rationalise the use of the car. They foster the car sharing. Here in Bogotá, in the centre, some areas are restricted to the cars with at least 3 people on board.

Also, Bogotá is transforming streets to pedestrian areas, and installing a system of bicycle renting, like we have in many cities. In two years, it’ll be ready. In the meantime, the Universidad de los Andes already has some 20 bikes at the disposition of the students (for free once you have registered, like in a library).

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Another project conducted on the university is the computation and analysis of the mobility footprint. At the request of a company or agency, they perform this analysis, in order to determine which measures can be taken to reduce the footprint of the employees: is it worth to set up a bus service, how to implement the car sharing locally, should there be incentive to make the employees come by bike, !