Transportation Planning Casebook/Transantiago


Santiago's public transport system was voted the city's worst public service in 2003.[1] The Transantiago plan aimed to overhaul shoddy public service, a sub-standard bus fleet, long and inefficient routes, and total lack of integration across transit modes after six years of planning by effectively flipping a switch in 2007.[2] Over-reliance on private operator contracts with artificially low levels of risk resulted in half-implemented systems, continued sub-standard customer service, longer walking and transfer times, and significant over-crowding.[3]

Additional ReadingsEdit

"The Mass Transit System from Hell". Time. 14 December 2007.,8599,1694607,00.html. 

Hidalgo, Dario; Graftieaux, Pierre (2008). "Planning and Implementation Issues of a Large Scale Transit Modernization Plan: The Case of Transantiago, Chile". Presented at TRB. 

Johnson, R.M.; Reiley, D.H.; Muñoz, J.C. (2006). "The war of the fare: how driver compensation affects bus system performance". Working Paper, National Bureau of Economic Research (Washington D.C.). 

Muñoz, J.C.; Gschwender, A. (10 May 2008). "Transantiago: A tale of two cities". Transportation Economics 22 (1): 45-53. doi:10.1016/j.retrec.2008.05.010. 


Modern public transportation history in Chile begins in the 1970’s with deregulation to the system decreed by government under the control of Augusto Pinochet. It was then that Santiago would go from a publicly run transportation system of buses to a privately operated bus fleet with a publicly run rapid transit rail line, Metro. From the time Pinochet took power in 1973 till he left in 1990, the private operators of the bus system were left free reign over Santiago and ran their bus services with little interference from the government. After Pinochet was ousted from his presidency in 1990, the Aylwin Administration looked towards re-regulating the public transportation system due to the obvious negative externalities that were caused by deregulation. By the turn of the century, the Transantiago project was deemed the only way to overcome a system that had been in disarray for 30 years.

Deregulation and its Ramifications: the 1970’s and 1980’sEdit

The public transportation system has had a variety of modes of commuting transport since the 1970’s: walking, buses, taxis, taxis collectivos (taxi’s that would operate like buses), and eventually heavy rail. During the 1970’s, significant changes happened within the market of public transportation that would eventually set the stage for Transantiago. Most notably, the government would remove itself from the public transportation sphere and begin the policies of a laissez-faire government. While some authors point to the policies of Pinochet’s Administration as the cause for privatization of the bus lines,[4][5] the bus system had begun the process of private ownership before his reign beginning in 1973.[6] That being said, Pinochet’s Administration believed that by removing itself from the public transportation market, the private operators can operate a more efficient public transportation system and the would be subsidies could be used to finance other sectors in the economy.[5] It was during his reign where the bus system would become a behemoth in need of reform.

During the 70’s, the government would lift its regulations on fare prices and allowed buses to design their own routes. For the private operators, this allowed them to run lines along the most profitable routes, over saturating the market. With the smaller bus companies infiltrating the system and the refusal of the government to subsidize public transportation, the State Collective Transportation Company (ETCE), the last remaining public bus line, shut down its service in 1978.[6] While the private bus companies started as small operators, averaging 2 buses per company,[4] these would eventually form into strong cartels that could resist government changes. The cartel’s power can be seen by the real fare cost rise 250% over a decade span. [7] Despite few regulations were placed during, mostly in the area of environmental controls, the cartels would not face serious government intervention until the fall of the Pinochet regime in the 1990’s.

While the bus system dominated the market for public transportation, the rapid transit system, the Metro, also plays a key role both in Transantiago and public policy during this period. The Metro’s first line was inaugurated by Pinochet in 1973 and begun full operations in 1975 with three lines. These three lines were concentrated within the CBD of Santiago and did not serve the outlying areas where lower income denizens lived. Much like the bus system, the Metro did not receive any government subsidies and would run under utilized for the majority of these decades due to direct competition with the bus system.

The deregulation of the system lead to many negative externalities, highlighted below:

Air PollutionEdit

Santiago lies within a mountain valley in the Andes off the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Much like United States cities such as Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, the city is plagued by poor air conditions due to thermal inversion. These air quality problems were exacerbated by several factors. Firstly, it wasn't until the 1980's where the government began to regulate car/bus emissions and to this day many vehicles in Santiago still do not operate with catalytic converters.[8] Without a catalytic converter, automobiles emit considerably more carbon monoxide (CO), unburned hydrocarbons (HC), and oxides of nitrogen (NOx); all of which can pose significant health risks when in high quantities. One study conducted in 1991 found that poor maintenance of buses caused 31 million/year in excess fuel costs and a 77.6% increase in bus particulate emissions.[7] Even with catalytic converters, the same study found that there were 4000 extra buses that were not needed (out of a potential fleet of 8000).[7][4] These three factors, the geographic conditions, the lack of government regulation on emissions, and the plethora of buses caused considerable air pollution problems that were in dire need of addressing.

The Public's SafetyEdit

Much like air quality control, passenger safety and overall bus safety were taken for granted. While some of the safety problems stemmed from the lack of inspection of the vehicles to ensure they were safe,[4] studies show that the bus drivers themselves play a key role.[9] Until Transantiago came about, drivers were paid based off of the number of passengers they brought on board. In order to maximize the number of people they brought aboard, bus drivers would drive dangerously in order to beat out competing bus drivers. Accidents would frequently occur, causing roughly 120 deaths per year.[4]


While there was a definite surplus of vehicles, problems were compounded by the route choices that the bus companies took. In order to maximize profits, most private companies serviced the most sought after location: the CBD. In 1991, 80 to 85% of the routes went through the CBD.[7] Furthermore, they would cover the same profitable streets, overlapping each other and causing major congestion problems within the city center. Not only were the routes within the CBD crowded with many bus companies, but due to the number of buses needed to service the CBD, the fringes of the bus routes would receive too many buses.[4]

Cacophonous SystemEdit

The public transit system was broken in three ways. For one, the system rewarded bus drivers who performed actions that were not socially desirable. Specifically, while headway was often times not a huge problem before Transantiago, bus drivers would wait at busy stops to capture as many passengers as they could, thereby stranding those down route. Bus drivers would also skip stops that either didn't have enough passengers to warrant a stop or the stop had many children, which for most services paid only 1/3rd of the fare.[4] These discriminatory practices were promoted by the private service providers in paying their drivers based on how much money they brought in (i.e. the number of customers they served).

The second issue that needed addressing was the lack of coordination, temporal and geographical coverage. As mentioned earlier, the bus system had too many buses serving the CBD. In order to maximize their profits, the buses would service one periphery location to another periphery location, passing through the CBD, thereby providing service to the CBD to two disparate locations. Up to when Transantiago was put into effect, the average bus routes length was 60 km. Late night or early morning services simply didn't exist since it wasn't profitable for the private firms to provide the service. Lastly, the lines did not provide service to areas that couldn't provide a profit.[4] Bus companies also did not need to honor transfers from other bus companies and would charge an additional fares for transfers.

As highlighted throughout this section, there was a fundamental lack of coordination between the bus companies. What hasn't yet been discussed is how these bus companies did not cooperate with the Metro lines: some private bus companies even had their routes identical to those of the Metro.[7] While from a business perspective it made sense for bus companies to steal business away from the federal government, it lead to huge redundancies to the system. Furthermore, since the Metro did not extend to the suburbs of the city (it was only 46 km of track), at its highest levels it only received 7% of the mode share.[4] The Metro was also prohibited to compete with the private buses by creating its own bus system to service the Metro until 1987 in which it was allowed to start the Metrobús program. The program, which private bus services could sign up for, allowed bus companies to operate an integrated system with the Metro, where passengers could pay one ticket to ride both the Metro and a Metrobús. Ultimately, the Metrobús program was unsuccessful since it split the profits with the bus company and therefore many bus companies had no incentive to connect to the Metro due to their coverage and low Metro usage. In 1991, the Metrobús accounted for only 1% of all trips.[7]

Re-regulation and the Shift in Focus: the 1990’sEdit

With the fall of Pinochet's military government in 1990 came with it many changes, one of which was to public transportation policies for Santiago, Chile. The Administration of Patricio Aylwin began to reform a system which hadn't seen much government intervention since 1970. While there were many problems to address, the government first began by reigning in the many companies operating the system and assigning routes. Aylwin's hope was to designate bus routes designed to serve the people most in need of the service and accept the bids that met various criteria including age of the bus fleet, estimated costs to operate and street facilities serviced. The bus companies resisted the moves stating that they could not operate a profitable company under the standards place. It wasn't until 1993, three years into Aylwin's presidency, that the bus companies agreed to operate in the CBD under Aylwin's proposed routes; it would take the rest of the decade before the suburbs would be re-regulated.[7]

Big things were happening in Chile in terms of economic growth as well. The entire nation was growing at a rapid pace, pushing people to move into the nations largest city for more job opportunities. From 1991 to 2001, the population grew from 4,502,099 to 5,325,193. Not only was the city getting bigger, but Chileans were being able to spend more money - the average household income rose from $4,700 to $9,000. With more disposable income and a booming city with an already high density of 90 persons/hectare, people began to move into the suburbs and commute via private car. The car fleet in Santiago rose an astronomical amount from 414,798 to 748,007 cars. The following is the mode share percentages of each mode and illustrates the significant changes that occurred during this decade:[8]

Mode 1977 1991 2001 Annual Growth Rate: 1991 - 2002
Private Automobile 12 20 39 6.8
Public Transit 83 71 52 -3.1
Walking 16 21 27 2.3

Even with public transit mode share decreasing drastically during the 90's, the overall number of passengers grew during this period due to the exponential growth in the number of trips during the same stretch - the average number of trips a person made per day grew from 1.69 to 2.39.[8]

It could be said that the 90's were steps in the right direction, but also that much more needed to be done in terms of fixing the public transportation system. Enforcing the policies proved to be difficult and regulations were not made on the size of the bus fleet.[4] The Metro continued to be ineffective and only serviced middle class workers who were able to walk to the stations: 79% of the passengers of the Metro belonged to the middle class, where 67% of the riders also had walked to the station.[7] Furthermore the Administration of Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle put a lot of emphasis on expanding the road network into Chile, putting off the major reforms needed for the public transportation sector. Congestion problems were becoming dire as private vehicle ownership rose while the bus fleet remained the same size. Even with environmental regulations, air quality was poor from this explosion in vehicle ownership and bus surplus. The majority of bus companies were also still paying drivers by the number of passengers they picked up, continuing the dangerous driving practices and discrimination. Buses remained unable to accommodate for disabled passengers and oversupplied the system.[4] At the turn of the century, with the new president Ricardo Lago and the growing frustration with public transportation system, the table had been set for a project like Transantiago to be both desired and implemented.

The StakeholdersEdit

By the turn of the century, each of the players leading up to Transantiago had clear cut goals and desired various results to come about from the project:

The People of SantiagoEdit

For thirty years, the people of Santiago had coped with a woeful public transportation system that only looked to gain a profit from them. They endured unsafe drivers, poor coverage, toxic air and discrimination. With a growing city that needed major reform for its public transportation sector, Transantiago was a panacea - increase safety, drive more eco-friendly buses, provide fare transfers, decrease travel time, expand coverage both geographically and temporally, and all the while charge a reasonable fare without subsidizing the companies.

The GovernmentEdit

With their new found power and a strong economy, the government was looking to make a splash while also improving the standard of living for the residences in the city. Over the decades, the government allowed the public transportation system to fall into disarray, to which the only air quality control was where the government was able to make a lasting impact. Major reform was needed for the system to be functional and they knew Chileans would not stand to put up with the service much longer. To the government, a large project to prove that they are working in the best interest of the people and could be the crowning achievement of their careers. Eventually, Transantiago would become so big that it impressed countries around the world with its scope. With so much riding on the project, the government needed it not only to prove to the people it was headed in the right direction, but also to the world that it can succeed in such a massive undertaking.

The Bus CompaniesEdit

By the turn of the century, the bus companies were still formed into strong cartels that could dictate price and fight government reforms. Despite caving into some of the governments reforms and (more or less) following the routes dictated, these companies were still making a profit and did not need government subsidies to operate. While it would have been most beneficial for the bus company owners to remain unregulated, within the confines of the Transantiago project they would have sought to minimize the Metro's role in the project and to have remained in charge of dictating fares, fleet size, and compromise with the government over routes.

Metro S.A.Edit

Metro S.A. (the public company that operates the Metro) saw Transantiago as a means to achieve their goals of becoming the backbone of the entire system. While extensions and new lines had been created during the late 1990's, the Metro was still underutilized by the residences of Santiago. With major reform coming after being relegated to the fringes of policy for 20 years, Metro S.A. hoped to accelerate the Metro's expansion and to make it the centerpiece of the Transantiago project.


The Planning Timeline


The planning process for the scale of the Transantiago project was relatively short. In February 2000 the idea was announced and after six years of planning and construction the project was fully implemented in February 2007.

The Bus System

  • March 2000 - Carlos Cruz is named the leader of the Minister of Transport and Telecommunications (MTT) and is put in charge of the Urban Transport Integrated Plan for Santiago “PTUS 2000-2010”. The proposed plan called for an “Integrated Transport System” using public and private funds.
  • December 2000 - Months after the announcement of PTUS 2000-2010 it is approved by a ministerial commission.
March 2002 - The plan took on the name Transantiago and moved forward using the SECTRA and the Transport Sub Secretariat, the public transportation optimization models. [3]

The Metro SystemEdit

  • August 2000 - First extension project announced for the Metro, a total of 2 lines and 6 stations being added.
  • May 2001 - A 33 km route extension with 27 stations is announced.
  • September 2001 - Metro begins work on the new fare card.
  • June 2003 - Another extension is announced, this time 5 km and 5 new stations.
  • November 2005 - Two final extensions are announced for the Transantiago plan. One planned to be 4 km and four stations and the other 13.5 km and 13 new stations. [3]

Planning ProcessEdit

Planning GoalsEdit

In 2001 a survey of residents in Santiago found that the bus network was the worst public service provided by the city. The system had numerous problems it was struggling with and declining ridership. To discourage Santiago citizens from switching modes to the automobile the city decided to begin work on the Transantiago plan. [4] Santiago decided to do everything at once instead of incrementally improving their network. This led to the large-scale plan that failed to meet the goals they had set out to meet. The goals were ambitious for any city but it also was the largest transit improvement project to be undertaken by a city in a developing country. The goals for the project included: improving the bus system and services across the city, increasing fare card technology, bus fleet renovation, expansion of the Metro system, improved infrastructure for the new network, and more regulations for the private buses operating in the city. [3] Other planning goals included making sure that the system was environmentally sound, socially responsible, and that the mode split between buses and other motorized transportation stayed at the same level. Lastly it was important that that the project be economically sustainable.[4]

Planning ResultsEdit

To meet the goals for the Transantiago expansion the city used a multi-year planning process looking at how to improve the system. They designed a bus system that consisted of a network of trunk and feeder lines in ten districts with the Metro being the important backbone of the network. One firm was to run the trunk lines in the ten districts so they could coordinate each district more efficiently with just one firm managing the service. The trunk lines covered five corridors with major routes and were designed to connect areas of the city together. They choose to use the trunk and feeder design so they would find less competition between service providers and reduce the number of buses out on the road. While designing the new bus plan they also picked out new route frequencies, locations, and capacities. The plans they designed around the bus service considered some aspects and ignored others so they could avoid any subsidies while still being sustainable. [4]

The plan also included an addition of a Bus Rapid Transit or BRT component to the network. There were other cities in South America at the time to use as a model although most were not done all at once as in Santiago. The plans for Santiago included some low floor articulated buses and goals to change more of the fleet over to that style. There were also new fare technologies being planned to speed up the boarding process. Some plans were made for segregated corridors but most other planning for BRT simply included improvements to the current streets. [3]

Another important part of Transantiago was the rail development. It was not always a part of the PTUS 2000-2010 plan but was added later. The main goal regarding Metro in the PTUS plan was to integrate fares between the systems and improve fare technology. The metro system was run well and liked by the public and so the final plan included it as the backbone of the system. [3]

Barriers to Planning

The Transantiago project faced many barriers during the planning stage which may explain some of the end results. The project was not a success after implementation and it might be partially explained by some key problems they were not able to overcome during the planning stage. The four barriers to planning were: lack of inter-agency coordination, interference from agencies with different goals, opposition from transportation leaders, and large scale reorganization of the system. [3]

The lack of coordination between agencies and the interference from different agencies would cause difficulties in any planning process. Multiple agencies were involved in a project so large and each agency had a different goal in the plan. There was no coalition of agencies or coordination between the different groups and each had ideas and goals they would like to see included. For example, the Metro agency was most interested in their rail expansion project. Many industry leaders were also left out of the planning process. Although the system had issues they preferred the transit regulations as they had been before the plan. The last barrier includes the route planning method they used to develop new routes. They did not adequately consider the needs of the users when planning routes and developed routes that were unsuccessful. [3]

Finances & Business ModelEdit


Bus InfrastructureEdit

The Transantiago plan included significant infrastructure investments for bus services. The majority of these costs were paid for either directly or indirectly by the public sector. Bus-related infrastructure included:

  • 18.8 km of dedicated busways
  • 4.6 km new shared roadway, including general traffic capacity
  • Surface and intersection improvements to 62.7 km of existing roads
  • 70 new bus stops and shelters along trunk routes
  • Two new intermodal (bus/metro/taxi) stations

As originally planned, the total cost for bus-related infrastructure was US$267 million. Of this, 55% was funded directly by the national government's Ministry of Housing and Urbanism. The remaining 45% came from fares and commercial development income. [3]


Due to the generally poor quality and condition of the almost 8,000 vehicles used by Santiago's existing bus operators, the Transantiago plan called for the purchase of 5,000 new vehicles:

  • 1,200 articulated buses for trunk services
  • 1,500 conventional buses for trunk services
  • 2,300 conventional and small buses for feeder services

In contrast to the largely publicly-funded infrastructure investments, these new vehicles were purchased directly by the private companies operating the new Transantiago services, and their cost was accounted for in the operating bids they submitted. In total, the purchase of these vehicles represented an investment of approximately US$322 million. [3]

The original plan of 5,000 new buses proved to be both ambitious and insufficient. Operators struggled, and in cases were unable, to find suppliers for such a large fleet all at once. After the transition, the reduced capacity of the 5,000-vehicle fleet (compared to the original 8,000 vehicles) was unable to meet demand. Both facts had important consequences for the success of the Transantiago plan. [4]


While these bus-related investments are significant, they are dramatically overshadowed by a concurrent investment of US$2.4 billion for expansion of the Metro rail network. In contrast to the bus investments, a third of the Metro infrastructure costs and all of the Metro vehicle costs were to be paid for directly by the Metro corporation itself from the operation surplus it had accumulated over years of profitable operation. [3]

However, as part of the integration of transit service under Transantiago, the Metro corporation successfully argued that these costs should be paid by Transantiago rather than Metro. As a result, Transantiago was assigned an annual payment to Metro that scaled with the number of passengers Metro transported. This would have important consequences for Transantiago’s financial situation after the transition. [4]


Business ModelEdit

The Transantiago plan divided bus operations into ten units of feeder routes, each serving district of the Santiago area, and five units of trunk routes which generally provide radial connectivity to and from the CDB. Bus operation in each unit would be contracted out to a private operator, who would collect fares on behalf of Transantiago and then be reimbursed based on the service provided. Transantiago had four main goals when establishing the operator business model:

  • Operators should have an incentive to transport more passengers. Transantiago set base routes and minimum service requirements for each unit, but operators were given the authority to go beyond these.
  • Operator reimbursement should be related to their operating costs. This would help encourage operators to expand service beyond the required minimums.
  • Operators should have low demand risk. Transantiago absorbed the majority of both upside and downside risk if demand turned out to be higher or lower than predicted. The intent of this policy was to encourage bids from foreign operators.
  • Transantiago desired a mix of incumbent and new operators. Transantiago wanted new operators to modernize the system, and were unable to exclude incumbent operators from participating in the bidding process.

Given these goals, Transantiago established the following business model. Each unit was assigned a reference demand level based on the model results for the new planned network. This demand level represented the ridership that applicants should expect when preparing their bids for operation. Additionally, Transantiago established a baseline level of service—including operating hours, frequencies, and loading standards—that operators were required to provide for that unit. It also established the base revenue that operators would receive from Transantiago.

Because the reference demand levels were based on models of an entirely new bus network structure, many bidders (especially non-incumbent bidders) distrusted them and were reluctant to submit bids. To reduce the risk perceived by applicants, Transantiago itself took on 90% of the demand risk associated with operations; the operators only took on 10% of the risk. For example, if demand turned out to be 20% lower than the reference demand, the operator’s revenue would only be reduced by 2%. This applied to upside risk as well; if actual demand exceeded reference demand by 20%, the operator’s revenue would only be increased by 2%.

Finally, the demand-based revenue was adjusted to account for input costs—specifically, service kilometers and number of buses. The adjustment was structured such that service expansions which resulted in increased demand would be profitable for operators.[4]

Bidding ProcessEdit

Transantiago invited both existing bus operators and new foreign and domestic companies to submit bids to operate one or more of the identified units. Most of the incumbent operators participated, often as consolidated firms made up of several smaller original operators.

In a bid, the applicants were required to indicate how much it would charge Transantiago per passenger to operate the service specified for a unit, within a narrow permitted range designed to weed out unrealistic and expensive bids. This cost formed the basis for evaluation of bids. Almost all bids came in at the lower limit of the allowed range.

In order to choose between the many lowest bids for a unit, three additional criteria were examined. Applicants could specify a contribution they would make to Transantiago's contingency fund; they could make commitments to increased driver pay and benefits; and, in the case of bids for trunk units, they could make commitments to operate longer or more routes than those specified. Transantiago implemented an algorithm which selected the "optimal" bid. Ultimately, 14 operating firms were selected through the bidding process—a dramatic reduction from the thousands of small operators in the original system. The selected operators contributed a total of US$180 million to Transantiago's contingency fund. [4]

Systems ProvidersEdit

Transantiago also contracted out operation of two significant systems management functions. Fare collection and financial management (the AFT) was awarded to a consortium formed by domestic banking, retail, and technology firms. Information systems management, including GPS systems and customer information systems, was awarded to an Indian technology firm. [4]


Transantiago planned to facilitate a smooth transition to the new system by keeping bus fares at their previous level (approximately US$0.76). However, in practice this represented a reduction in fare for two reasons. First, the old system had no provision for transfers; the fare was paid on boarding every new bus or train. Since the new system allowed free or reduced-fare transfers within 90 minutes of the original fare purchase, users could board more vehicles at less cost. Second, the fare as well as the transfer system was also applied to the Metro due to the integration of the systems; the US$0.76 fare was lower than the original Metro fare. The Metro system thus lost revenue per passenger both due to the actual fare and the need to honor transfers from fares originally paid on buses.


Given the limitations of the planning process and a business model based entirely on minimal risk and maximum revenue for private contracted operators, the Transantiago plan performed very poorly, especially at first. Instantaneous implementation - the system switched “on” overnight - led to untested and half-implemented systems failing during the first week of operation. The profit incentive for private operators resulted in insufficient capacity and a significant reduction in service quality and comfort.


Although the plan was multifaceted, integrating several complex systems and overhauling physical infrastructure, fare structure and equipment, rolling stock, operating procedures and operators, Transantiago brought the entire system online overnight.[3] Rolling out the system incrementally by region and/or by system might have revealed many of the kinks that resulted on the first day, but with lower stakes. Instead, there was widespread confusion and shoddy service for everyone in Santiago on day one.[2]

Short-term consequencesEdit

While one would expect bugs in any newly implemented system, the Transantiago system was a spectacular display of everything that could go wrong with a new transit system. Hidalgo and Graftieaux (2007) categorize the effects of implementation as problems with (1) design, (2) infrastructure, (3) support systems, and (4) user information[3] , though much of the immediate aftermath can be directly attributed to limitations of the planning process and the financial incentive structure inherent in the business model.

Design resultsEdit

As extensively documented in the financial section, Transantiago contracted out most of the system development and operations to private firms. The underlying incentive for these operators was to maximize ridership while minimizing operating costs with effectively zero service constraints, despite customer service and quality being part of the private operators’ contracts.

They budgeted too high an occupancy load for the new fleet vehicles, resulting in serious overcrowding on-board the buses. The operators attempted to cram more passengers onto a much smaller fleet with increased headways, increased stop spacing, and a smaller network extent, resulting in discomfort, increased walking to access transit, and increased wait times at transfer points for passengers. While technically these changes do increase efficiency in terms of passenger miles per vehicle mile, they ultimately do so at the expense of passenger comfort and service quality. The operators also took little care to coordinate transfer times across the system, so the passenger experience worsened despite the grand theme of “system integration”. [3]

Although these customer service elements were written into the private contracts and were a big part of the original grievances against Santiago’s former public transit system, there wasn’t enough excess supply of transit operator capacity in the market for Transantiago to initially demand contract enforcement on service quality metrics from their operators.[3]

Infrastructure resultsEdit

The fleet size, size of vehicles in the fleet, and on-the-ground facilities were all too small to serve existing demand, resulting in significant overcrowding. While planned for, the implementation skimped on services and infrastructure that would have improved bus operations. By the time the system came online, buses still did not have dedicated facilities, such as bus lanes, signal priority, specially designed boarding platforms, or off-line fare systems, nor were the vehicles designed for expediency of boarding and alighting. Buses spent more time than budgeted for caught in mixed traffic or in dwell time at bus stops.[3]

Support system resultsEdit

Transantiago contracted out many of the support systems that might have kept even an undersized fleet operating efficiently. As a result, the ITS support systems were not fully implemented and tested by the time the Transantiago plan went into effect. GPS service on the vehicles was not online and available to manage the fleet, but there was also not sufficient staffing capacity to manage a non-GPS-enabled fleet. [3]

User information resultsEdit

Transantiago failed to provide adequate passenger education or wayfinding information for users to be able to use the system initially. New bus routes were not well publicized, so ill-informed passengers overcrowded the familiar Metro system. [2] Public outreach to educate transit users about the changes failed to reach all the target market. There was significant public backlash over the botched overhaul. [3]


Transantiago and the Chilean government implemented a series of “quick fixes” and proposed medium- and long-term changes to reform the unpopular new system.

Quick fixesEdit

Transantiago provided temporary off-board fare purchase and validation kiosks and vehicles with more doors at very high volume locations to improve boarding and alighting efficiency. [3] Although the plan called for a new fleet of 5000 buses, already and insufficient number, only 4500 came online on day one. Transantiago managed to procure 1100 additional buses to bring online in time for the start of the semester at the end of February when students would flood the transit system. Transantiago also negotiated extended service hours earlier and later into the day and decreased headways to half an hour at night. They expanded the service network to reach more peripheral areas that were served by transit under the previous system. Due to problems with the integrated fare system, all users received free fares the first week. Students received free fares for the first two days of school. Transantiago also promised to hold fares artificially low for a period of time until the system was operating well.

Proposed reformsEdit

Transantiago proposed and implemented a number of tactics to alleviate initial grievances. They operated buses parallel to the Metro routes and added cars on the Metro to reduce Metro overcrowding. They expanded service area and hours by integrating collectivos in remote areas. To address public complaints, Transantiago set up user attention kiosks throughout Santiago neighborhoods. To accommodate longer wait times and headways, the fare transfer time window was increased from 90 to 120 minutes. [3]

Longer term reforms included upgrading the physical infrastructure by adding bus-only network links and adding bus stops. Transantiago created an oversight agency to supervise customer service provision and pursued legal plans to terminate failed contracts, and simultaneously offered driver training to improve levels of customer service. [3]


  1. Muñoz, J.C., Ortuzar, J.d.D., & Gschwender, A. 2008. Transantiago: The fall and rise of a radical public transport intervention. In W. Saaleh and G. Sammer (eds.), Success and Failure of Travel Demand Management: Is Road User Pricing the Most Feasible Option?. Ashgate, Aldershot, 2008.
  2. a b c Yáñez, M.F., Mansilla, P., & Ortúzar, J.d.D. 2010. The Santiago panel: Measuring the effects of implementing Transantiago. Transportation 37, 125-149. DOI: 10.1007/s11116-009-9223-7
  3. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Hidalgo, Dario; Graftieaux, Pierre (2008). "Planning and Implementation Issues of a Large Scale Transit Modernization Plan: The Case of Transantiago, Chile". Presented at TRB. 
  4. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Muñoz, J.C.; Gschwender, A. (10 May 2008). "Transantiago: A tale of two cities". Transportation Economics 22 (1): 45-53. doi:10.1016/j.retrec.2008.05.010. 
  5. a b Rivasplata, Charles (2004). "The re-regulation of public transport: alternative approaches to planning in Chile and Britain". Cooperation for Urban Mobility in the Developing World (CODATU). Bucharest, Romania. 
  6. a b Lee, R.W.; Riversplata, C.R. "Metropolitan Transportation Planning in the 1990s: Comparisons and Contrasts in New Zealand, Chile and California". Transport Policy 8: 47-61. S0967-070X(00)00035-4. 
  7. a b c d e f g h Hall, Stephen, Zegras, Christopher, Rojas, Henry Malbrán (1994), “Transportation and Energy in Santiago, Chile.” Transport Policy 1 (4), 233-243. PII: 0967-070X/94/040233-11
  8. a b c Zegra, Christopher (2010). "The Built Environment and Motor Vehicle Ownership and Use: Evidence from Santiago de Chile". Urban Studies 8 (47): 1793-1817. 
  9. Johnson, R.M.; Reiley, D.H.; Muñoz, J.C. (2006). "The war of the fare: how driver compensation affects bus system performance". Working Paper, National Bureau of Economic Research (Washington D.C.). 

Additional SourcesEdit