Advancing Urban Mobility with National Programs: A Review of Colombia’s National Urban Transport Policy

Author: Hidalgo, D. and Díaz, R. (2014)

Journal: Transportation Research Board 93nd Annual Meeting. Washington DC, USA, 12-16 January, 2014.

Keywords: Bus transit, Economic impacts, Governments, Infrastructure, Mobility, Policy, Public transit, Social impacts, Sustainable transportation, Urban areas


Urban mobility is not merely a local concern. National governments in developing countries are growingly investing in urban transport infrastructure. While there is a growing body of knowledge on the topic, there is also a need for further understanding and improving. This paper contributes to the topic by providing an assessment and formulating recommendations for the Colombian national urban transport program. The program has increased the number of cities with mass transit from 2 to 8, over the last 10 years. New bus systems, with a total length of 194 km of bus corridors serve 2.5 million passengers per day. The policy also supports smaller cities for transforming their public transport systems citywide. Projects have resulted in positive socio-economic impacts due to reductions in operational costs, travel times, air pollutant emissions and traffic fatalities and injuries –socio-economic internal rate of return up to 45%. Two critical aspects for improvement are identified: the competition of semiformal public transport and motorcycles to organized public transport and the principle of self-sustainability of transit systems. Suggestions on policy responses are presented, such as stronger focus on quality, subsidies –funded from transport demand management and land use value capture, and enhancement of institutional coordination and control. Lessons from Colombia are relevant to other emerging countries considering and upgrading national urban mobility policies.