Anthem for the most confusing transport map in the world: The Transmilenio in Bogotá

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Transmilenio route planner: Possibly the most confusing public transport map in the World

In the late 20th century the powers that be in Colombia decided to build a new transportation system in Bogotá to try make getting around a bit easier for the good folk living in this sprawling city and to reduce the pressure on the massively congested roads.

Some existing thoroughfares were widened, while others were narrowed all to create a new dedicated lane so that hundreds of new, bright red, bendy buses could charge across the city taking passengers to their destination.

At the dawn of the 21st century the first routes on this state-of-the-art public transport system called the Transmilenio were unveiled.

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One of the hundreds of Transmilenio buses in Bogotá

However, the one thing planners seemingly put little thought into was the creation of the map to help everyone work out which buses and connections they need to take to get from A to B.

I think most people would agree that the London underground map is pretty clear and easy to understand. The Transmilenio map, on the other hand, is the most baffling piece of cartography one could possibly imagine.

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The Transmilenio map: Looks simple. It’s not.

I’m not even going to try and explain it, because after four days I still don’t really understand. My advice for anyone who goes to Bogotá is don’t even attempt to comprehend it, try asking someone and if you are lucky, out of five people, one might have some kind of clue as to which bus/buses you are supposed to take.

Anyway, with blood boiling after squeezing into our third wrong bus in a row, trying to get to the city centre, we channeled our frustrations into coming up with our own anthem for the Transmileno map.

(To the tune of Robbie Williams’ Millenium)

We’ve got a squiggle directing our fate
And we’re praying it won’t make us late
Transmilenio…

Some say that they understand it
Some say that it makes sense
But we ain’t got a clue, I guess we must be dense
Having a breakdoooown, trying to get aroooound

Round and round in circles
We just can’t work it out
‘Til we find ourselves a local, can you help us get about?
But they just froooown,
May as well have asked a clooown…

We’ve got a squiggle directing our fate
And we’re praying it won’t make us late
‘Cause we know it’s the chance you take on the…
Transmilenio..

Take some coloured lines,
Add some numbers and some dots
Overdose on complication, lots and lots and lots
My feelings are so cynical,
I just can’t keep the faith,
I wish I could enjoy the madness, but my confusion just won’t go away…

We’ve got a squiggle directing our fate
And we’re praying for heaven’s sake
‘Cause we know we’re going to be late
Transmilenio…

Come and have a go if you think you are smart enough
Come and have a go if you think you are smart enough
Transmilenio…
Transmilenio…

We’ve got a squiggle directing our fate
And we’re praying it won’t make us late
‘Cause we know it’s the chance you take on the…
Transmilenio…

And when it comes, it always comes too late
I often ponder just how much I hate
Get up and see all the anger in my eyes.

And when it comes it always comes too late
I often ponder just how much I hate
Get up and see all the anger in my eyes

We’ve got a squiggle directing our fate
(Transmilenio) and we’re praying for heaven’s sake
(Transmilenio) cause we know we’re going to be late
Transmilenio…
Transmilenio…

Lyrics: Vinter & Cross
© Travelling Toothbrushes Records

About travellingtoothbrushes

We are a couple of journalists with restless toothbrushes. Our teeth scrubbers seem unable to leap out of their respective washbags to take up a permanent residency on the bathroom shelf. So, we've decided to let them live the way they want to and take them on a trip around South America...
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5 Responses to Anthem for the most confusing transport map in the world: The Transmilenio in Bogotá

  1. Alex Maxwell says:

    I’m from Vancouver and I live in Bogota and let me tell you, it was the greatest day of my life, when after 6 months of taking the Transmilenio, I finally realized that I could understand that crazy map. It was like graduating from high school and feeling the sense of control over your life. Local Bogotanos would come up to this gringo and ask me for how to get to a certain location and I suddenly felt so proud to teach them how to get around in their own city transit system! It was quicker learning spanish than learning how to get around the transmilenio.

    • Hi there Alex, we bow to your superior comprehension of the Transmilenio map Sir. I think you could make good money running classes for the uninitiated on how it works… We would certainly pay for your impressive codebreaking skills.

      Sorry to crucify such an anthem with lyrics about something so hideous Giovanni!

  2. Giovanni says:

    I couldn’t sing the song with the tune of Millenium, but the anthem is cool. I love Robbie and I hate Transmilenio. It sucks!

    Giovanni from Colombia.

  3. Pete says:

    If you found that bad, don’t go by train in Italy, bus in Fiji, car in Madrid, Rome or Prague, taxi in Bangkok, rickshaw in Hong Kong, or foot in Cairo or Venice!

    Pedro in Menorca.

  4. Conrad in Bogota says:

    After coming to Colombia a few times and now living here, it´s not so bad. Finding the right bus isn´t hard it´s figuring out which one´s to take to get to your exact location in a timely manner which is the key. Wasn´t a fan of it at first, but much cheaper than public transit in the states, and a hell of a lot better than driving in Bogota!

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