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“We seek to Finance Public Transport in Colombia, not Make it Free”, MinTrans

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Colombia Public Transport
Minister Camargo spoke about public transport in Colombia. Credit: EEIM / CC BY-SA 3.0

The debate on public transpor financing in Colombia continues. The proposal from the Colombian president is generating a chain of reactions these days. Today, we must add the clarification from the Minister of Transportation, William Camargo. The minister, in statements to W Radio, clarified that the government is not seeking free transportation but rather better financing.

What the Minister Clarifies

William Camargo, Minister of Transportation, stated on his social media yesterday that Petro’s proposal to reformulate the financing of public transport in the country was “technically and legally viable.” With these statements, Camargo supported an idea that is gaining followers in the country, despite the nuances of each political actor.

What almost everyone seems to agree on is the need to rethink the financing of Colombian public transport, which is one of the most expensive systems in the region. Many companies that manage these transportation systems have faced serious economic problems, with Metrolinea, which operates in Bucaramanga, dissolving a few weeks ago due to debt.

“We must educate because we are not talking about a free service; we are talking about distributing the way the state covers an essential public service like public transport,” the minister clarified regarding whether public transport should be free.

Government’s Studied Model

Petro announced the option to finance transportation through a fee on household electricity bills. In this regard, Minister Camargo used the example of Bogota.

“What we initially saw in the case of Bogota, for example, is that it has 2.7 million properties, each with a different property cost based on its location. What we are looking for is a similar exercise to distribute that transportation cost, and that could lead us to a substantial change for a family,” the minister said regarding what each household would be required to pay based on its socioeconomic situation.

Colombia Public Transport
The minister clarified some points in the debate on the public transport model – Credit: Twitter @MinTransporte

Various mayors of capital cities that could be affected by the measure have already expressed interest in delving into the proposal. Even the mayor of Bogota, Claudia Lopez, offered the capital for a pilot plan. However, Lopez expressed reservations about the formula of charging on the electric bill because of the high costs it would entail, in her opinion.

Camargo, in turn, has posted on his social media the total costs in public resources that these public transport systems have to date, which help alleviate the deficit they face. The case of Bogota stands out, obviously. The public transport system, TransMilenio, accounts for almost 62% of public spending on this type of transportation nationwide.

Seeking Support from Mayors

“Surely, with the support of the mayors, we believe there is an interesting opportunity given the receptiveness to the proposal. We will capitalize on this positively, very carefully, planning things well so that the implementation does not end up becoming, as in the case of TransMilenio, such a significant success that it ultimately punishes the system a bit,” said the minister, clarifying that any decision will seek the cooperation of local authorities.

No Implementation Date Yet

Likewise, Camargo has stated that they are looking for a formula to offer full legality to the final proposal formulated by his team. “We are reviewing it with the team because this needs legal protection; current regulations allow it, and if there is financial and technical closure, we will do it very quickly. I wouldn’t dare to give a date at this time,” responded the minister, who made it clear that the idea still needs discussion and agreement.

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