Changing Paradigms in Urban MobilityTue, 09/15/2015 - 15:20
Q: What were the circumstances that accompanied the creation of Autobuses Troncales Lomas?
A: Autobuses Troncales Lomas (ATL) was created in 2012 when eleven owner-operators possessing route concessions along the Chapultepec-Reforma-Palmas corridor pooled their investments. At the beginning, it was hard to convince the stockholders to leave their original structure to become a company with a central organization. We held many meetings with the concession holders to communicate that the government was requiring operators to become organized into a company. Now we are a coordinated company, with a regulated service that monitors all the units by GPS, supervises the speed limit, and requires that all passengers are seated without exception.
Q: What incentivized the owner-operators to embark on this change?
A: The most important factor was ensuring that the company’s finances were going to be transparent. Decisions are being made collectively, promoting an enhanced level of trust in the venture. If the owner-operators trust us, we must respond by being trustworthy and delivering their monthly pay. This means that if there is any additional cost, such as GPS units or new windscreens, it must be approved by the board. Convincing the owner-operators of our transparency meant documenting every expense and administrative action we took. Initially, they felt uncomfortable with someone else managing their business, fearing that we would become rich at their expense, so we had to maintain active communication to clear this up.
Q: How is the company planning to expand its coverage, and what is driving those plans?
A: Users have been requesting that our services reach Santa Fe, which will happen soon if the Ministry of Mobility (SEMOVI) and the government of Mexico City authorize our routes. Another project we have had on standby is to reach the Cuajimalpa area of Bosques de las Lomas. We do have a vision to expand our services, but it does not depend solely on our ambitions. To grow, we have to conduct studies with SEMOVI so we do not harm the interests of third parties. For example, we have to be 500m clear of anyone else providing such services, so as to not invade other routes.
If there is a way to negotiate with other concession holders on these routes, then we can try to execute the project.
Q: How many people use your services and are you able to cope with the demand?
A: Every day we move 76,000 passengers, so it is important that they are not left waiting too long. We are still calculating how many buses must be provided to give an adequate service. At the moment, studies are showing that to give an optimal level of service, we need to have 85 units, so we bought 10 more buses to achieve that. Additionally, SEMOVI has to conduct a study to see the impact of semi-reserved or even fully-reserved lanes. I believe that the Government of Mexico City should run these studies in order to ensure that public transport has a dedicated lane in which to circulate. People will not choose our services over their cars if we do not have this benefit.
Q: What has been the most important change in your vision for the future of public transportation?
A: Ever since we sat down with a working team from the operators of Metrobús, CISA Corridor Insurgentes, they helped us to understand that the changes to public transport in Mexico City were going to be very important. At first, we did not have the same technical experience as their engineers, so it was difficult to understand their terminology. Now, a year and a half later, we are fully capable of providing ideas and inputs to the project. We understand transportation out on the streets, while they see transportation on the map and on a computer screen. CISA’s engineers and our internal council complement each other, making a great team.
The changes have been significant because we see a need to think about the future. We used to be demonized, but today, we provide jobs, not only for ourselves, but for the many people that travel on public transportation. The changes are providing passengers with a good service, as well as reducing the harmful emissions polluting the city. We might not see the consequences of this, but future generations will. We want ATL to be a model company, showing how operators can collaborate for a mutual benfit and, if we can help get their companies running, we would be glad to support them.