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Cycles of Transportation & Housing Sprawl in Bogotá, Colombia

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Equity & Expansion 

Fall '23 Studio

Teresa Chang

Michael Dunst

Xiayuanshan Gao

Jared Jackson

Jia Yang Kwok

Alexa Ringer

Naomi Tariku

Brianna Thornhill

Yining Zhang

Ann Zhang

Evan Zhao

Ke Zhou

Bogotá is perhaps best known for its revolutionary and world-renowned TransMilenio a rapid bus system that moves subway-level volumes of passengers at a fraction of the cost.. This bus system can certainly claim the name, transcending national and international expectations of urban bus systems by providing dedicated rights-of-way separated from regular traffic; covered stations where passengers pay before the bus arrives to speed up passenger boarding; a comprehensive system, network, and hierarchy of buses to move millions of people around a city as big as New York but without a single subway. It elevates buses to a high-speed, infrastructure rich amenity rather than the frustrating experience for the carless.

But even as Bogotá’s transportation system has grown, it has continually struggled to keep pace with a city characterized by dense, informal settlements on its mountainous, southern periphery. These communities, some with a population in the hundreds of thousands, are densely populated yet lacking in adequate transit options, leaving residents unable to access— without an extremely long commute—higher paying jobs in the city center, education, or other amenities of city life. Bogotá’s challenge of mismatched land use and transportation is emblematic of many large Latin American cities.


TransMilenio Buses, source: Alexa Ringer

As TransMilenio, its buses, cable cars, and plans for a subway in Bogotá have grown, land values have increased in and these informal settlements spread further out, to the urban edges of forests, wetlands, and farmland. So, how can Bogotá rethink its housing and transportation plans to end the cycle of growth and sprawl?  How can it ensure equitable access to public transit for residents who need it most, even as development pushes them farther from its reach?

Our challenge was to focus on the intersection of land use and transportation planning at a city scale, and to propose concepts that illustrate how Bogotá and other major Latin American cities can begin to marry land use and transportation planning together. We developed four broadly defined policy and design recommendations, interwoven together as a single vision. Each intervention focuses on providing affordable housing, high-capacity transportation, and addressing health & safety issues frequently found at the intersection of these spaces. These recommendations, while not all-encompassing, show how cities like Bogotá can break the cycle of sprawling, unaffordable, and unsustainable outward growth by integrating land use and transportation planning.

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1. Inclusive Futures 

2. Transit Oriented Growth

3. Low Emission Corridors

4. Safety for Women


Our Vision:

We envision a Bogotá where its most vulnerable residents can access transportation, job opportunities, social housing, and community development. Within this planning framework, we have developed the following goals:


  • Integrate housing and transportation planning into a cohesive process

  • Develop housing strategies that provide reliable access to high-capacity transit

  • Improve safety [NT1] outcomes for the most vulnerable transit users


Our Studio Process:

Through city-wide data analysis of household travel surveys and census data, we identified city-wide trends that illustrated many of the challenges experienced daily by Bogotá residents. We also visited housing developments and rode the TransMilenio to understand the existing relationship between housing and mass transportation. Through the lens of these transit corridors and housing developments, we developed recommendations that can be applied to future housing and transportation projects throughout the city.  



As previously mentioned, our interventions are meant to highlight a process and approach by which the city can weave housing and transportation planning methods together. As the city begins construction for a new metro system and other TransMilenio expansion projects, we hope these initiatives for these initiatives to serve as guiding principles, aiding planners in more effectively integrating housing and prioritizing equity.

1.     Inclusive Futures – A Housing Evaluation Toolkit


The housing toolkit was created because large-scale residential developments were found to be disconnected from the city's transportation system. These developments, encircled by highway-like roads or fences, have effectively cut off residents from public transit access and essential services such as jobs, childcare, and other amenities. The toolkit's primary objective is to establish a comprehensive evaluation framework that adheres to industry standards, with the aim of promoting inclusivity and setting a new standard for housing development. Drawing inspiration from Oregon Metro’s vision, the toolkit seeks to define housing as a diverse range of quality, physically accessible, and affordable choices that provide residents with access to opportunities, services, and amenities.


To apply the toolkit in diverse scenarios, three key capacities have been identified for the toolkit. Firstly, the toolkit will be used to evaluate the four sites that the studio group visited while in Bogota. Beyond site evaluation, the toolkit’s potential extends to influencing future housing and transportation policy and development. We hope that governments leverage this evaluation toolkit, offering incentives to developers for its widespread use. Lastly, the toolkit will serve as a practical tool for our classmates, enabling them to evaluate their interventions and demonstrating how this evaluation can inform future developments.


Four criteria – transit equity, jobs, social services, and community – were used to evaluate existing mega-housing projects and can be used to evaluate future developments integration with the network of city infrastructure.


Above: Ciudad Verde Social Housing Development Outside of Bogota, population: 250,000, source: Studio Visit

Right: Toolkit Evaluation of Ciudad Verde

2. Maximizing the Metro – A Strategy for Transportation Oriented Development


While some of the mega development projects promise space for hundreds of thousands of people, they are located at the periphery of the city. These communities, while great steps towards meeting demand, do not improve on the inequity of travel times. One of the largest investments Bogotá will be making to address its overcrowded transportation network is building a metro system. With Line 1 on its way to becoming reality, we determined that it is crucial that the city align its housing plan with this generational investment. In a city with growth as high as it is, nearly any land opened for development near the metro will be in high demand. Therefore, we have created a multi-layered plan for how Bogotá can create synergy between its transportation and housing goals.

We recommended the following:

  • Three typologies of strategic development near transportation

  • Establishing tax increment financing districts can fund affordable housing developments.

  • Redevelopment mixed use templates for three proposed metro station

Right: Three Transit Oriented Development Strategies

Below: Example Metro Station Scenario with Denser, Mixed Uses


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3. Low Emission Corridors – Reimagining high-capacity corridors with cleaner air and less traffic

TransMilenio corridors were not just characterized by innovative buses, but a flurry of movement as all modes of transportation compete for space along the major arterials, including trucks, motorcycles, buses, pedestrians, and cyclists. Motorcycle use has grown immensely due to its affordability but has resulted in poor air quality along these high-use corridors. Poor air quality along certain TransMilenio corridors implicated environmental justice impacts to the most vulnerable road users and lowest-income residents.

We recommend developing a corridor with no gas-powered vehicles and limited pollution. This proposed corridor reimagination is similar to low emission zones, as seen in London; however, this is a corridor where people can travel with healthier and greener environment, not to worry about the pollution created by gas cars and motorcycles. We propose implementation in two phases, the first prioritizing the most suitable areas for road redesign and the second emphasizing highly congested areas.


There are four elements to these proposed Low Emission Corridors:

  • Street redesign typologies to reduce traffic lanes

  • Incentives for electric vehicles and e-motorcycle sharing systems

  • Retrofitting gas stations as clean mobility hubs

Beyond these priority low-emission corridors, we propose that Bogotá will retrofit the entire TransMilenio network to better incorporate bicycle use since many low-income residents use bicycling as a first and last mile connection. Although there is extensive bicycle infrastructure in the city, much if this inadequately serves cyclists trying to access TransMilenio or simply traverse along these critical arterial roads. Whether retrofitting unused green medians, reducing general traffic lanes, or simply banning cars in the densest, central areas, intentional integrating bicycle infrastructure can complement expansion and improvements to the high-capacity network. Reinventing the typologies of bicycle infrastructure as it relates to high-capacity transit can accelerate bicycle usage and reduce car dependence. Although electric vehicle use is rising, possibly improving air quality, the cost is still unattainable for most Bogotanos. We propose permanent street closures, recapturing green space, and overall street design improvements to make bicycle usage as safe and pleasant as possible.

Top left: Existing Underutilized Medians along TransMilenio Corridors

Top right: Proposed Greenways along TransMilenio Corridors

Bottom: Citywide, Long Term Bicycle Facility Vision

4. Viaje a Gusto – (Travel with Safety) addressing gender-based violence and fear on and around transit 


Viaje a Gusto is a comprehensive program designed for enhancing both physical safety and subjective feeling of safety on public transit, especially for female and other vulnerable passengers, through a series of infrastructure improvements and social campaigns.


Women are disincentivized to take transit because they face a higher percentage of assaults, especially sexual assaults, when traveling on TransMilenio and around Bogotá. Complementing the previous projects on infrastructural changes, Viaje a Gusto is designed to shape a safer and better experience in Bogotá, particularly for women passengers and pedestrians. As the caretakers of most households, women deserve to be taken care at home, at workplace, and when traveling. Though the program prioritizes women’s experience, the program is designed not only for women, but those whose safety may be potentially at threat when traveling, and eventually everyone traveling in the city. According to the Household Travel Survey (2019), walking is the primary mode for trips made by females. Walking is also the primary mode for internal trips, while Bogota’s transit system is the primary mode for external trips. Therefore, Viaje a Gusto is designed to revolve around walking as the key mode to internal trips and public transit to external trips.


Three strategies are targeted at internal trips:

  • Sidewalk enhancement

  • Streetlight enhancement

  • Permeability through Natural Surveillance

While three strategies are targeted at external trips:

  • Priority seating and waiting area for women

  • Social campaign

  • Text reporting system

Above: Perception of safety on TransMileno System

Below: Campaign to Improve Internal and External Trips for Women


Bogotános face immense challenges moving around the city, but growth outward, single use developments, and a tenuous connection between housing and transportation could exacerbate the very mobility challenges they intend to alleviate. Bogotá must pause to evaluate the relationship between housing and transportation policy & design, and how this impacts the lives of people daily at a human scale. Centering equity, sustainability, and the belief that every Bogotáno deserves access to high quality housing and transportation has led to our recommendations. Whether addressing housing inadequacies, enhancing transit options, or dismantling the barriers preventing them from flourishing, these recommendations are meant to highlight the importance of seamlessly integrating housing and transportation planning with future growth.

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