Laura Ballester
Deputy Minister of Planning
View from the Top

Mobility Based on Safety and Strong Regulation

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 10:55

Q: Considering Mexico City’s environmental issues, what are the government’s plans to implement permanent driving restrictions?

A: In 2014, Mexico City underwent many changes regarding mobility after the implementation of the new Mobility Law and the many programs related to road safety. The government’s goal was to make private vehicles only one of many options for transportation, fostering the implementation of carpooling when possible. To do that, we needed to invest in sustainable mobility with safe, connected and quality public transportation. This included more space for mobility options like Metrobús and Ecobici, enough space to promote the use of private bicycles and sustainable buses to replace the current microbus fleet.

To date, almost 45 percent of the transit in Mexico City is generated downtown, making driving almost impossible, particularly at rush hour. We tried to balance the use of private and public transportation in Mexico City by publishing new parking standards in July 2017. One of these eliminated the obligation for parking space delimitation in new developments in an effort to better organize the city’s parking layout. Many international studies show that bad planning of parking lots and an excess of them can lead to additional traffic. A reduction in parking lot infrastructure could help us invest in sustainable public transportation like Metro and Metrobús. These standards are the most important the city has published in recent years and together with Guadalajara we are leading this transformation in Latin America.

Q: How important are electric and hybrid vehicles in the city’s mobility plan and what are the government’s growth strategies for charging infrastructure?

A: Even with modern vehicles, we cannot curtail pollution without proper emissions management. Hybrid and electric cars are necessary to improve air quality. The city is preparing an electromobility plan to promote the use of these vehicles in the short and long term and taxis are the first focus. Old taxis are gradually being renovated and regulations are making it easier for drivers to choose hybrid models.

We are also lobbying to offer benefits to hybrid and electric-vehicle owners, which should go hand in hand with the development of car sales and charging infrastructure. The government of Mexico City has an agreement with tollroad operators to offer discounts to green vehicles and one of its commitments is the construction of infrastructure for electric buses. The 22km Green Corridor on Eje 8 Sur will be the first of its kind in Latin America.

Q: How close is the government to achieving its goal of reducing road fatalities by 35 percent in 2018?

A: Road safety is the main goal. Almost 60 percent of the people who die in a traffic accident are pedestrians and cyclists, while the other 40 percent are people driving a vehicle. All mobility options must offer the same safety conditions, even when some are more vulnerable than others, which is the main reason why the city streets have evolved.

We have adopted Vision Zero as our road safety policy. Implemented in 2015, this is part of a global strategy that works to eliminate road fatalities in urban areas. Most road accidents can be avoided and because of that, the city has implemented stricter speed reduction regulations. According to the World Health Organization, this strategy helped us reduce road fatalities by 20 percent from 2015 to 2017. This perfectly matches Mexico City’s plan to reduce road fatalities by 35 percent by 2018. SEMOVI is also working to implement driving tests, the construction of safe pedestrian routes and training for transport operators so they can help when an accident occurs.

Q: How effective have speed limits, photo fines and other new regulations been in reducing road accidents in Mexico City?

A: There is a new mobility hierarchy, where the pedestrian is king, followed by cyclists, public transportation users and private drivers. This is not about some people having more rights than others. It simply relates to the vulnerability of each user. A vehicle moving at 50km/h is a lethal weapon and speed is a decisive factor in a traffic accident.

The new regulations established by the Mexico City government say that the maximum speed on a main road is 50km/h and 40km/h on a secondary road. In calm zones, the limit is 30km/h and in school and hospital areas the maximum speed is 20km/h. Previously, the streets prioritized cars and that is why we had so many road fatalities: almost 1,000 people a year or three per day. The new safe crossings and pedestrian signs are a fundamental part of the new speed reduction strategy, reducing fatalities by 50 percent. The implementation of driving-license exams for private drivers and public transport operators alike will be part of that same strategy.

Q: How has the federal budget transformed in favor of projects that target pedestrians and cyclists?

A: It is changing and evolving. This 73 percent represents a decade of pro-vehicle initiatives that are slowly disappearing. We currently have 5.5 million vehicles in Mexico City alone and 80 percent of its roads are dedicated to vehicle use. The problem we need to solve is how to successfully partition all the available mobility systems. The city’s government has worked on a strategy for two years and our goal is to designate 70 percent of our budget to public transportation projects but to be successful we need the support of the federal government.

Q: Now that OEMs are transforming their business models from car sellers to mobility providers, what do you see as the main opportunity to transform Mexico City’s mobility?

A: The global trend is to offer mobility as a service. This is an offshoot of the fourth industrial revolution. The industry is in constant change and now alliances are being formed between technology companies and OEMs.

Mobility has two elements, one related to hyper-specialized services and the other to interconnected services, both of which are controlled through a digital platform that allows companies to manage data. Following that concept, companies can participate in innovation of mobility services in five different ways: road management, parking space management, data management, mobility platforms and management of public spaces. An innovation in any of these five sectors is valuable for the city when considering sustainability, emissions reduction and the efficient use of vehicles.


Q: How can the city cope with the growing vehicle park, especially considering the continuous growth in domestic car sales?

A: The industry needs to understand the city’s behavior and how citizens move around the city. The average person does not own a car in Mexico City. These people represent 60 percent of the population and yet they travel four times a day using a different mobility system.

Carpooling represents a big area of opportunity. Right now, cars are only shared among family, friends or through the use of an application and that results in an average occupation of 1.2 people per vehicle in Mexico City. If we complement that with a strong connectivity between private vehicles and the public transportation network, there is a big opportunity not only for the industry but also for the city in the battle for a better quality of life and a better environment.