The Transmi is a very sophisticated bus system that works more like a subway. It is hard to explain, so let me take you on a typical ride from my barrio (neighborhood).
Some of us live close to the Transmi, but not so close to the main lines that we would walk all the way. For us they invented the feeder buses. These buses are green and take you to the closest major stop (or if you’re on your way home they’d take you closer to home, they run loops). Most of the time the major stops are the last stops of the Transmi called Portals. Yes, I know this is starting to sound like a science fiction movie, but just bear with me. Here is what a Feeder bus looks like:
And here is Syd waiting to get the feeder bus:
Also, notice the yellow sign. That is a grown man with a ball, I would interpret that as “Men at play”. More on signs later. What the picture does not show is the kid cowering in fear after yelling at us “No hablen inglés perras” (Don’t speak English bitches), to which I replied in Spanish “Qué creyó? Qué no sabemos hablar español?” (Do you think we can’t speak Spanish?).
You might be asking, how do the feeder bus routes work? Well, here is a small map to help you:
Got it now? No? Well, this is just the start of the confusion that is the Transmi map system. You see, the engineers who designed and built the damn thing also made maps that only they could understand. If despite this confusion you somehow found a feeder stop and got on the feeder you’d arrive at one of the portals or major stops. You pay the ride fare $1.700 pesos ($0.90 USD) and then you’d probably look for a map to figure out which bus to take. The map looks like this:
It is awfully confusing. You often see many people crowded around it staring at it like it was full of differential equations. In fact, most of the site for the Transmi is devoted to teaching you how to use the maps (site in Spanish). Here is a more instructive map of the main lines of the Transmi:
As you can see, the main lines cover the city North to South on the major roads. The colors, however, are not like subway colors; they only designate the different city zones. For example, the bus F1, also nicknamed “Lechero” (milk man) because it stops at every stop, goes from the North Portal to the Americas Portal, on green, blue, and red lines. Yet another confusion of the whole system. (Also, there are small bike signs that we have noticed are to indicate where the exit/entrance to the Transmi leads to a bike lane. These bike lanes sometimes end within a couple of hundred meters though, so they’re utility is not all to clear.) Notice that there is no line that goes to the airport. Kind of silly since the airport is one of those places you do not want to take a taxi from. Well, the city finally came to its senses and a line was started that is supposed to go the airport. Unfortunately, it has created major chaos on 26th avenue and has yet to be finished.
Back to our story. You’re at the station and you find out the buses that stop there do not take you where you need to go. Most of the time this isn’t too much of an inconvenience, you can take a bus that doesn’t make too many stops and leaves you maybe one stop before or after the one you need and then take a Lechero. Here is a typical Transmi stop, it is in the middle of the road and has it’s own lane on each side:
This was taken at around 3 pm on a weekday. The station is fairly empty and calm. Rush hour is another story. You will often see lines not only to get on the buses but to get into the station itself. Add to that the lack of common sense of the people all trying to stuff themselves in there before letting anyone out and you have some really stressful situations. If you do manage to get in the bus you’ll be packed so tight that you will win a complementary groping. Hence the reason I call the Transmilenio Transmilleno (lleno = full). I’d really avoid the Transmi during rush hour at all costs. As a friend of mine said “Rush hour is the time to stay put and drink some tea, perhaps read the paper, or go to the library, but not be out on the road.”
These are the facts, so judge for yourself. Would you call this “the most sophisticated bus system in the world”?