I lived in Bogotá, that is no mystery to those familiar with Barbers Without Borders. One of the single most amazing/annoying/mind blowing things about Bogotá is that there is a seemingly infinite number of buses and bus lines, but no fixed bus stops. Take a minute and think what this means. . . Is your minute over? It means that the Colombians stood on the side of any road, usually quite busy roads, and waved their finger in the air to flag down a bus causing the bus to jerk wildly to the side of the road to pick up the passenger. Take another minute and imagine what this means in a city of 8 million residents, living in high density. . . After your minute is over there is only two words that should come to mind: shit, show.
The Botogano buses would jerk wildly in and out of traffic at the flick of a finger(not that finger, usually the pointer)jamming on the gas and brakes with fury. Sometimes two or three people would stand like ten meters apart and flag the same bus, increasing the jerking in and out, the punching of the gas and slamming of the brakes. It was one of the most incredible messes I've ever seen. This seems mind boggling to those of us familiar with the efficiency and reliability of first world public transport. Really, it is as fantastic of a mess that can be imagined.
Now to make a South American comparison. The city of Buenos Aires is about twice the population of Bogotá, with estimates of about 15 million residents. There is something like 350 different bus lines, a subway with limited range and a larger train system that goes to the further reaches of the city. Buenos Aires also has some of the better functioning traffic that I've seen, but please don't picture anything too functional, it's all relative.
The BA bus system is supported by a pocket sized guide that aids one in finding their way around this huge city on the right bus for their pick up and destination. All of this has been useful and as efficient as can be expected. The reason I write this post is that though it is a far more functional system than the mess of Bogotá, it is still South America and one of the funniest things I've seen is the picture above.
One of my first days here, my roommate showed me the Guia T(the bus guide), taught me how to use it, and then made point to tell me that I had to look out for the bus stop signs because it could be as inconspicuous as a sticker with a number stuck to a post on the side of the road. In the above pictured case, it is two numbered placards nailed to a tree. How's that for a bus stop?! Just look for the tree with the two random numbers nailed to it, that's your bus. FAR more efficient than standing anywhere waving one's finger wildly as the desired bus approaches. At least in this case one can enjoy the shade of a tree, and for men the bus stop even doubles as a bathroom. You think I'm kidding? I wish I was. They'll piss anywhere.
I am eternally grateful for the luxury of fixed bus stops in Buenos Aires and the accompanying Guia T to help me get around. The bus system here is actually a very good service provided by this city, and at the cost of about $.25USD per ride, it's quite the affordable journey. However, I won't stand too close to the tree.