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Urban transport reform: the Santiago experience


Drawing partially on the project-financed technical assistance activities, the Chilean Government improved the efficiency and sustainability of the Santiago urban transport system, also known as Transantiago. Improvements included illuminated bus stops, colored-coded bus lanes, improved environmental standards, and improvements in bus services to reduce transfers, increase coverage, and avoid interference with the street markets.


By the end of the 1990s, Santiago’s transport system was suffering from serious problems, including increased car ownership and use, declines in public transport, deficiencies in the organization of the bus system (fragmented bus ownership, competition by operators for passengers, informality and lack of professional management, and lack of integration between the buses and the metro system), limited coordination on transport issues at the metropolitan level, and high bus-related accident and air pollution levels.


In 2000, the Government published the 2000-2010 Santiago Urban Transport Plan. This plan envisaged the transformation of the public transport system. Its unprecedented scope and complexity applied to the city as a whole and affected all public transport modes. The World Bank supported the implementation of the Santiago Urban Transport Plan through a technical assistance loan, which helped in the implementation of the public transport reform arrangements and provided guidance and advice to support this difficult process of transformation.


The project helped the Government of Chile to establish a foundation for a more efficient and sustainable urban transport system. The results achieved included:

Illuminated bus stops in the suburbs, which make the system safer (2011 – 2012).

Colored bus lanes to reduce incursion by cars and speed up bus travel (2011 – 2012).

More stringent environmental standards for public transport vehicles, which in 2011 led to 19.9 percent less particulate matter emissions and 1.7 percent less NOx emissions compared to 2010.

Changes in bus services to reduce transfers, increase coverage, and avoid interference of the bus system with the operation of street markets (2010 – 2012).

Thorough knowledge about the operation of bus depots and terminals and guidance for improvements.

More robust transport planning tools.

Organizational improvements within the Executive Secretary of the Committee of Ministers for Urban Transport in Metropolitan Santiago (Transantiago – SE), the entity in charge of the  bus system (2010 - 2012).

Preparation of the basis for the transformation of Transantiago-SE into a more autonomous and independent entity (2006 – 2012).

An understanding of the financial situation of bus operators and some initial enhancements to Transantiago’s financial and payment system (2012).

Bank Group Contribution

The Bank provided US$2.4 million to finance the activities.     

Moving Forward

The Bank will continue to support the Government in the transport sector through the Joint Study Program, which, in fiscal year 2012, financed a study related to road and congestion pricing and value capture from transport investments. A follow up study is envisaged for fiscal year 2013. 


The primary target group included about 4 million public transport users, who are typically people with lower incomes. Because of reduced externalities from public transport, the primary target group included residents making trips to and within the city, regardless of the transport mode, and all inhabitants of the city. The secondary beneficiaries were Transantiago-SE, the project implementation agency, and the Transport Planning Secretariat (SECTRA). These agencies benefited from capacity strengthening, improved analytical tools, improved data, and information.

This piece was originally posted on The World Bank.