President Gustavo Petro and the mayor-elect of Bogotá, Carlos Galan, met in Dubai at the COP28 climate summit organized by the United Nations. The Head of State and the future mayor of the capital of Colombia, starting January 1, 2024, discussed transportation systems and voiced their positions regarding the city’s metro.
This was the first meeting between the two politicians since Galan won the local elections on October 29 with an overwhelming majority to take over as the mayor of Bogotá.
The Future Metro of Bogotá
Carlos Galan announced the meeting with the Colombian president on his social media, stating that they discussed “in a respectful conversation……..the need to seek alternatives to cover the operating costs of the transportation system in Bogotá, higher education projects, the fight against hunger, and how to advance comprehensive care for early childhood.” The soon-to-be mayor also announced that they addressed the contentious issue of the city’s future metro.
It’s worth noting that the metro issue has perhaps been the most divisive between the two politicians. While the country’s president supports the option of an underground metro and conducted relevant studies 10 years ago when he was the mayor of Bogotá, Galan has always supported the choice of the current mayor, Claudia Lopez, to continue building an above-ground metro in the city center.
On his X account, President Petro specifically congratulated the capital of Ecuador for the recent launch of its metro system, highlighting the city’s endorsement of the underground model that he champions for Bogotá. “The Ecuadorian capital inaugurated its underground metro. Why has Bogotá completed 9 years of suspending the project’s construction? Due to political sectarianism and social hatred.”
The Costs of Transportation in Bogotá
One of the most pressing problems in the Colombian capital, besides insecurity, is transportation. Decades of contradictory projects and political confrontations have left Bogotá as one of the few large Latin American cities still lacking a metro system for public transportation.
The city regularly experiences endless lines of cars that holds citizens up for hours, especially during the rush hour at each end of the workday. Private transportation congests roads that still rely on deficient public transportation in the form of autonomous buses and articulated buses, part of the TransMilenio system.
What’s more, the public transport system, TransMilenio, operates at a deficit. According to the president, the substantial resources allocated in the city to cover this deficit decrease the budget to fight poverty. However, a few days ago, Petro announced he would present his proposal to the future mayor to seek alternative financing for public transport that is not solely based on fare prices.
Cleaning Up the Bogotá River
Taking into account the context of the COP28 climate summit being held in Dubai recently, Galan also announced that he is seeking funding possibilities for the restoration of the Bogotá River basin, with infrastructure to guarantee potable water and preservation of this important water source.
This river, spanning 380 km, is one of the most important in the country’s central region. Originating about 100 km north of Bogotá, it flows into the Magdalena River, Colombia’s most important river, near Girardot. The river has been suffering from contamination practically at its source, worsening as it passes through the country’s capital. Cleaning up the basin has long been a demand of residents and environmental organizations, yet it has remained unaddressed by local and national authorities until now.