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Colombia: Salsa Song Criticizes Bus Rapid Transport System

A salsa song and video documents the suffering that travelling in the Transmilenio public transportation system of Bogota represents for its users.

biarticulated bus in Bogota's transmilenio system

CCBy Carlos Felipe Pardo


With humor and precise lyrics and accompanied by images of overcrowding and abuses users suffer daily, the salsa song “What we don't have are seats” its making its rounds on the web. Although no artist is credited for it, it was uploaded by YouTube user emmamikor with a Creative Commons Attribution license. On the Colombian forum of Skyscrapercity where they discuss transportation infrastructure, transmillen3mundista already transcribed the lyrics, which describe the experience of getting into a full Transmilenio.

Incómodo voy en Transmilenio, que incómodo voy,
cuidado con las lozas rotas, pilas con los huecos.
Una vieja se subió, de muy mal genio y con mala cara
¿Qué es lo que pasa aquí, que hay tantas damas paradas?
¿Quién me cede un asiento? ¡aquí parece que no hay caballeros!
y yo me sentí indignado, pero con mucho respeto le dije:
Aquí hay caballeros señora, lo que no hay son asientos.
Aquí hay caballeros señora, lo que no hay son asientos. ¡Lo siento!

I'm uncomfortable in the Transmilenio, how very uncomfortable
Careful with the broken pavement, watch out for the holes.
A woman came in, in a bad mood and frowning:
What is going on here, that so many ladies are standing?
Who will give me their seat, it seems like we have no gentlemen here!
and I felt indignant but with much respect I told her:
We have gentlemen here, Ma'am, what we don't have are seats.
We have gentlemen here, Ma'am, what we don't have are seats. I'm sorry!

Next is the video with Spanish and English subtitles:

Although Bogota's transportation system Transmilenio has been used as an example of positive urban development for years, it seems the city has outgrown the system. For example, take this video made by Streetfilms which calls Transmilenio “the world's most advanced bus rapid transit system”. In the video, the team is taken around by the former mayor's brother and shown the system by those who work in it, and it certainly looks like a completely different system than the one shown in “What we don't have are seats”. At the end, they do mention that they did notice the crowding throughout the day, and by the looks of it, none of it was recorded during rush hours…

The passengers aren't the only ones suffering the torment of transmilenio: when the news channel Caracol sent a journalist to cover the struggles passengers face when traveling on Transmilenio… his wallet was stolen. Insecurity isn't the only issue, as YouTube user Punkie54 expressed through the remix combining images and footage of travelling in the transmilenio with the reggaeton song “Making love with Clothes On”:

Finally, transmillen3mundista wraps up what the problem with the Transmilenio system seems to be: it hasn't evolved.

La ciudad cambia continuamente, todo evoluciona. En 12 años seguimos con lo mismo de años atras, los mismos puentes, las mismas estaciones, el espacio publico. Han habido pocos cambios como el remplazo del piso de las estaciones y puentes por lozas de concreto, y otros detalles menores.
Los cambios son necesarios o caemos en la rutina, por otra parte no falta los que digan que si hacemos algo nuevo son mas costos.
El transmilenio se lleno todo de ese gris maluco; las lozas, estaciones, puentes, portales, humo, etc. Seria bueno un cambio que disminuya tanto gris, como integrando cubiertas verdes, pero ademas con un cambio profundo en el diseño de las dichosas troncales en pro de las zonas verdes…

The city changes continuously, everything evolves. In 12 years we have the same things from years back: the same bridges, the same stations, the public space. There have been very few changes such as the replacement of the flooring in the stations and bridges for concrete slabs and other minor details.
Change is necessary or we fall in the routine, on the other hand we have those who say that if we do something new then it will be costlier. The Transmilenio filled up with that boring grey; the slabs, the stations, the bridges, the portals, the smoke, etc. It would be good to see a change that decreases so much gray, such as integrating green roofing, but also with a profound change in the design of the main lines to include green areas.

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