Sunday, 15 May 2016

Public Transport in Bogotá: whose fault is it?

By Nicolás Alejandro Delgado Morales (1st semester undergraduate Economics student, level 4 English)

“Complaining”: it’s all about that word. We just can’t put up with transport like that if we are eight million people in one red bus. What if I told you that the solution is in our hands?

Public transport is a really big problem in Bogotá and we as students have to use it all the time and it gets annoying when you have to spend around three hours of your day on a bus. That is time that you could use to work on projects or study or even hang out with your friends or spend time with your family. The other thing is the safety, because we can’t relax on a bus: we need to have eyes in our backs. The main problem, which affects us in so many ways, is inequality.

We, as tax-paying citizens, hope for a lot of things that the government must give us, but it won’t happen. It’s obvious that we deserve good quality public transport, but it doesn’t mean that it has to be comfortable. In first world cities like Tokyo, there are people who work with the state and their job is to push people into the subway. This shows us that public transport has to be efficient, but this is not supposed to be comfortable. It means that if it takes me two hours to get home in my car, in public transport it must take 45 minutes maximum.

Another problem is that we complain about everything: “Petro damaged the city, this is why we are like this,” or “Peñalosa sucks, he only wants to make bollards in our city, and he doesn’t have the vision to govern a city with all those types of problems.” Hearing these sorts of things is becoming more and more common in Bogotá, and people, instead of making a change, just talk and talk and talk as if through doing this they were solving the problem.

It’s also true that we can’t just demand better quality public transport if we spend all our time being disrespectful to others, being intolerant, or fighting for a seat. We become selfish and we only think about ourselves. Obviously there are exceptions, but if we want a change, all of us have to make it – not just one of us, but all of us.

One of the most important things is, instead of saying bad things and blaming other people, asking “what are we doing to solve this and make this better?” One of the main things is how we act – we aren’t citizens of Petro’s or Peñalosa’s city, but OUR Bogotá, and it depends on us. The change begins with the little things that mean being a better citizen in public transport and in the street. If we are talking about public transport, the change must begin with us, for example by giving a seat to a woman who needs it, letting people get out of the bus before we get in, and respecting others. If we demand better quality but don’t pay the fare, we are being liars with ourselves and we are disrespecting the city and its citizens.

If we try to treat people better they will respect us, and if you give, you receive just as much. Those simple things are, however, easily forgotten when we are looking for a seat or also when we are driving. The car is also a clear example of our culture, and this isn’t just my opinion. In the British Council, there are many teachers from all over the world, and who have lived in our country for various years and so have had the opportunity to notice all the things that are probably normal for us but very strange for them. One teacher I had there told us one day, “Bogotanos are pretty “normal” in the streets, but just wait until they go inside a car or motorbike – they go crazy behind the wheel. They become completely different people, and there is no kindness in how they act.”

Finally, the solution is in us. The first step is that we need to stop blaming each other. Stop talking, and just do it! If we want a better city we are the people who can change it. It isn’t the job of a politician or mayor – we are the solution, and we only have to realize that and be different.

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