Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Muñoz, J.C., Ortúzar, J. de D.Gschwender, A. (2008) Transantiago: the fallrise of a radical public transport intervention. Travel Demand ManagementRoad User Pricing: Success, FailureFeasibility. Chapter 9, 151-172. Ashgate Publishing Limited, UK, Saleh and Sammer (eds.). (2009)

Transantiago: The fall and rise of a radical public transport intervention

Tipo de publicación : Otros


The bus system in Santiago de Chile was voted the city’s worst public service in 2003. It had been completely in private hands since the late seventies, and full deregulation during the eighties had eventually left the city with the heavy burden of 8,000 converted lorries with a bus chassis not really fit for public transport, about 3,000 unprofessional operators, fierce on-the-street competition for passengers (as drivers’ wages depended on the number of fares sold), no fare integration between services or with the underground, very long and inefficient bus routes, undignified treatment of passengers and a high accident rate. On top of all this a high level of noise and environmental pollution due to bad maintenance of petrol engines, and a high rate of accidents due to both careless driving as (less-often) failure of brakes due to poor maintenance.
The Chilean government decided to intervene the entire public transport system, integrating the well-reputed but not heavily used underground (Metro, a public company) and the private buses, based on a structure of trunk and feeder services (purposely designed), a modern bus fleet, integrated fares-paid by touchless smart cards and a high-tech centralised control system. It also included an entirely new industry structure that was franchised through an international call for tenders, with operating contracts awarded to ten national and international firms. The new, integrated public transport system, known as “Transantiago”, went into operation on February 10, 2007. Unfortunately, this was prior to having in place several key system design elements, so it immediately ran into very serious problems. These alienated much of its user base and even significantly lowered the government’s approval ratings. By April 2008 the system had greatly improved but still required a heavy subsidy (i.e. around 30 million US$/month), partly because the government promised to keep the fares constant until the system operates normally, and still did not perform satisfactorily in some sectors of the city.
This paper attempts to provide an objective account of the project history and discusses what lessons can be learned from this traumatic process.