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There may be an amount of pointlessness to the following; but hey, this blog is still ongoing so I might as well stick to the programme (I jest, kind of).

For writing about the etiquette deficit of Bogotá’s Transmilenio users in the hope of bringing about positive change seems about as useful as those ‘how’s my driving’ stickers the city’s buses and taxis display.

Inside Bogotá's Transmilenio ...

Even when there’s plenty of space not to block the doors, people still do it.

This isn’t the first time we’ve focused on the Transmilenio, but rather than another general vent about the system’s many ills, here we’ll take aim at just one aspect. It might be the start of a small step towards a brighter future — quite literally, if people just moved to the side.

As any regular user of Bogotá’s big red buses will know, there exists a hugely annoying habit of commuters standing in front of the (at times) automatic exit and entry doors, the ones that open when a bus arrives that is, so that people can alight and embark. For the uninitiated, at any one station one stopping point can be used for several buses serving various destinations (the infrastructure isn’t large enough to allow a separate stop for each route type).

Thus, you have people parked in the middle of these entry-exit points waiting for their particular bus to come along with no intention of getting on the one that has actually stopped, creating a big obstruction for passengers getting off as well as those wishing to get on. Outside of not-so-gentle pushing — which, get this, angers the statue-like, asinine obstructors — there’s not much else you can do to get off or on.

Neither politely reminding these people that they’re being hugely unhelpful nor getting angry and alerting them to their idiocy works; they just appear to be ‘conscientious obstructors’ and remain so until their awaited bus shows up.

In mitigation, many of the stations, especially the more popular ones, are just not big enough to cope with the numbers. Yet even in quieter stations and/or at off-peak times the dim-wittedness of obscuring the doorways prevails. A case of every man/woman for him/herself, to heck with the rest. Such things are obviously not part of the ‘world’s friendliest nation’ criteria.

One way to attempt a change in this malignant transport culture is to employ door handlers. These would stand at the doors preventing any passengers from occupying the sacred space in between arrivals. In advance of a bus coming they could announce which one it is (a quick glance up the street should suffice) so that intending passengers can line up and enter; after, of course, those on board have alighted.

(It must be said that at one of the newer stations, Museo Nacional, albeit one with more space and a lesser traffic flow than others, I have seen a similar queuing system in operation, controlled by Transmilenio employees. At rush hour in the busier stations, the formation of those preordained queues would be problematic, though not impossible.)

Another potential solution, or at least an easing of things for those getting off, could be some sort of a double-door operation, one-way off, one-way on.

Failing that, a more radical departure is to implement a mechanism where flesh-piercing spikes would spring up around the door area as soon as a bus leaves. ‘You’ve got to be cruel to be kind’ as the saying goes.

Authorities are well aware issues exist with the Transmilenio; most massive public transport systems have flaws. Yet in Bogotá it appears they don’t quite know where to apply the solution. A couple of years back women-only station doors were trialled. A nice thought, but not exactly tackling the issue at hand. Women idiotically clog up the doors as much as men, if not more so. It’s a bit like dividing a bunch of starving people into gender-based groups and leaving it at that; no food, nothing. Great job.

Perhaps with public transport here the thinking is, in typical Colombian style, ‘it gets the job done’. It might be light years away from efficient and comes with a good level of strife, but it works — kind of. And what’s more, it’s only for us ordinary folk, what else do we expect?

Right, point made; let’s start witnessing the changes, not. Back to grinning and bearing it.
Facebook: Wrong Way Corrigan – The Blog & IQuiz “The Bogotá Pub Quiz”.

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La vida en Colombia desde la perspectiva de un periodista y locutor irlandés, quien ha vivido en el país desde 2011. El blog explora temas sociales y culturales, interacción con los nativos, viajes, actualidades y mucho más. Escucha su podcast acá: https://anchor.fm/brendan-corrigan.

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  1. Common sense is a word not known in the Colombian culture and things get done the hard way, it is the only way unfortunately just simply because it has been done this way during decades. The whole system works in a total anarchy way, the selfish mentality has driven the country in such way and therefore almost impossible to correct.

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