Hello everyone again,
So after 1 update I got lazy, sorry about that. Here’s a recap of my second and third days in Bogota:
Day 2: In the morning of Day 2, following the nice email from Camilo, I was quite eager to get out and see what I could. Especially trying out the TransMilenio and seeing some of the interventions Camilo had spoke about. To be completely honest, it was a big bust. I got on at the station nearest to us, was able to somehow get tickets. Astonishing fact here, Bogota has an electronic payment system! A card with a declining balance, we can’t even have that in Toronto! Anyway, I digress, I was able to get on, transfer to the next line I was supposed to take (maybe, I might have been wrong), but then its not like a subway line, where every ‘train’ that goes on the line stops at every stop. There were all these different buses, with strange schedules that I didn’t understand. So needless to say I just guessed, and ended up taking the thing all the way to the end! The wrong end, as the line split and some buses went to where I went (the wrong place) and some went to the Biblioteca, where I wanted to go. Turns out Bogota is a giant, sprawling city. Just taking the Blue line all the way to where I did felt like I had exited the city (there were hills with many favelas on them, a military base, and some farms). With so many people on the near outskirts of the city, its hard to believe they have any connectivity at all, I guess the Transmilenio is the only way possible.
At that station at the ‘end’ of the line, I did notice some things. If you live in a favela on the top of a hill you are at least able to somehow make it into the city to work or enjoy many of the recreation spaces in the city without requiring a vehicle. Many of the underdeveloped areas are also serviced by buses, which then connect back to the main station. I didn’t notice any bicycles in the far reaches of the city, at least in this place, although further in I did notice some of the cycle ways. I guess if I had taken the correct bus, it would have brought me to where I was supposed to go. These stations are also congregations of other uses, like supermarkets or places of employment. The main lines of the TransMilenio are located between very busy roads, the buses will drive on two dedicated lanes, and then there will be up to 5 lanes of traffic on either side. This creates huge spans, that require very elaborate pedestrian flyovers to reach the other side. While it is good that these dedicated lanes exist, you would think it would create divisions between areas, and make it difficult or just plain annoying for people to move across the city.
The station design, with a ticket seller at the end, and then the sliding glass doors for access, are done fairly well. They are able to handle large amounts of people entering and exiting, although I could imagine them getting quite full during rush hours. Many are spread over 300 m or more, so there’s always space for people to move down, since many of the buses stop more than once at each station. On the stations that are between the 5 lanes of traffic, the access to them can be very elaborate. Many ramps and crossovers to get the individual in the station. Having clear, direct access would make it easier for people to get to the station, and would definitely increase chances that they are used. Grade access to these buses at least ensures that people with any level of mobility can get on the bus.
**Update: I observed a station during rush hour, we were traveling south into the center of the city, and these people were trying to travel north to the outskirts. The line to get into the station was nearly 25 meters long, and the entire width of the station (which isn’t anymore than 4 m wide) were full of people. It basically is a control for a giant queue, which bottlenecks at the one entrance to the city.
Next I traveled back to the city, really having at that moment no idea where I had gone or what I had done wrong. I ended up walking the streets that had many markets in full swing on sidewalks, with many people out and about. The roads were jam packed with cars. I walked north along Carrera 7 to Parque Santander, Iglesia de Las Nieves (which was closed) and then to the Torres del Parque that Camilo had mentioned. When I got up there, I stopped at the Bull Fighting ring to take a photo, and it started raining. Which was fine. I stood under a tree and waited for the rain to stop, it sort of did and I kept going. I decided to go up the Mirador Torre Colpatria, to the 46th floor, to see the whole of the city. I could see the three towers created by Rogelio Salmona, which seem quite interesting, as well as the huge amount of sprawl that heads out of the main city to the south-west. The large transport corridors are quite wide as I mentioned and do create wide fissures through the city. The ‘secondary’ roads, like Carrera 7, are slightly narrower, and are like deep canyons, with 4 - 6 storey buildings one either side. Traffic is quite congested on these routes, and it was quite apparent from the height of the Mirador.
After this I walked south again, before visiting the Modern Art Museum (they need some work, although they did try), and headed back to the hostel. Overall an interesting day I guess.
Sunday! The Ciclovia! I was quite excited to get up semi-early and head out into the streets to see everyone cycling and walking on the closed off streets. The closed-off roads create a circuit that are frequented by fruit sellers, food sellers, and of course the famous BikeWatch (name inspired by Bay Watch, which is quite popular here). There were people out from all walks of life, and I was excited to see that people really get out and use it, for recreation and exercise.
I was going to go rent a bicycle myself, but when I arrived at the bike shop, a tour was about to depart, so I joined it instead. It was quite a lucky coincidence, because the tour guide was able to take us far into the north of the city following the closed off streets. I got to weave in and out of children riding with training wheels, and people on roller skates, it was pretty amazing. The route also connects to a lot of public open space throughout the city, like squares with dancing, or other large parks with aerobics. Free aerobics put on by the city!
Following the Ciclovia route we ended up at a market in the north, sort of quaint with stalls that people could walk through, and neat little restaurants. After this the Ciclovia was unfortunately over, so we rode on the road to the west to hit up some park space. The first stop was at the Biblioteca Virgilio Barco, a library complex designed by Rogelio Salmona. Adjacent to the Cycle Way, and lots of beautiful park space, it is definitely a destination for those moving in and out of the city using their bicycle. Getting to the park did mean fighting through some of the disjointed Cycle Ways (at one point we went over grass and a ditch, and there were some rather unorthodox moves going against traffic). At least the routes exist though, especially on the busier main road with the TransMilenio that has 5 lanes of traffic, being separated entirely does give better sense of safety. While it did seem odd that the path system was so disjointed, our Tour Guide didn’t have any issues riding them. Perhaps an indication that once you know your route, or potential routes, the system becomes easier.
** The Library could be coupled with other facilities as well, creating reasons for people to not only stay in their community but come out also, having it on a main transportation route like an LRT, rapid bus system, or bicycle route would make it easier and convenient for movement in and out of the settlement.
Next we drove to Simon Bolivar Park, just a little ways from the Biblioteca. It is quite a large park, featuring theatre spaces, an artificial / real lake, and lots of walking / biking paths. The park is well serviced, drawing many families on weekends and during the week for recreation. It is also host to many cultural events, which can draw thousands of Bogotans. This was the end of the tour, and we began our drive back to La Canderalia, far in the south. We followed some very long cycle ways, but had to abandon them once we reached the more historical part of the city (as discussed earlier, there just isn’t enough room for a dedicated cycling lane).
This was quite an influential day for many reasons, and if you weren’t already bored at the beginning, I would appreciate some comments on these ideas.
1. You can’t promote Public Transportation while still providing over 80% of the space to transportation (ie. roads) to private vehicles (taxis are “communal” in essence, but are still private vehicles and drive on these roads, I say this because it seems like the amount of taxis in the city was astronomical). What is a good percentage of private vehicle / public transportation? I want to say: 40% / 60%, and then continue to move to a 20% / 80% split. Those incredibly wide roads, with 10 lanes of highway (in the middle of the city!) for cars was just too much. These created huge fissures through the city, but also eliminated any sort of activity other than transportation happening directly on those routes. Its just too loud and too busy. While the TransMilenio (and even the highways) are trying to connect different parts of the city on a larger scale, these fissures separate the city at the most human level, between adjacent neighbourhoods. A system that reduces the amount of hard surfaces for transportation, but perhaps increases the open or green space for commuting by bicycle, or recreation, would attempt to connect adjacent communities that happen to have these systems running through them, especially if it isn’t possible for time or money to have everything be put underground. Which is part of the reason why the city of Bogota invested in a rapid bus system.
2. A transportation connection between an isolated settlement or community is not sufficient, it has to have other nodes on them that will draw people in and out of their communities, but perhaps from other communities as well. Dharavi is isolated by very wide roads, but also because the community does not have access to other facilities outside itself. I don’t know if the actual program of this node is important, but that it provides some sort of need that is not met within the community, maybe its a library, theatre, or a hospital, or a combination of facilities. Bringing people out, and giving them a place to mingle, while still maintaining the autonomy of their community.
3. Having a transportation route that directly connects to the community is important in giving a sense of permanence and respect to the community. In Bogota, despite not having paved roads, many communities will still have a bus route that connects to them. This is also in the form of the Cycle Ways, it is often the place where the commute to the city begins, but it is also where recreation for children or community members can take place in the community.
4. Emphasis on “clean” transportation methods is important. Although Bogota has the TransMilenio, the smaller buses that serve different neighbourhoods are diesel, and create an incredible amount of exhaust (there is always a trail of black exhaust when one accelerates from a full stop). Bicycles, hybrid vehicles, or an LRT, are cleaner options, and would definitely take up less space.
I think this is basically what I got out of this trip. I should create some diagrams (I have some rough diagrams in my sketchbook that I should elaborate on) and try to see what this might actually mean in the physical sense.
Is a specific site still important? I’m not entirely sure.