Guillermo Calderón Aguilera
Director General
View from the Top

The New Face of Mobility in Mexico City

Tue, 09/01/2015 - 15:18

Q: What vision is the Metrobús project designed to fulfill?

A: The Metrobús project was born out of two problems: the 300,000 new cars entering Mexico City every year, and the government initiative to improve the city’s air quality. Given that metro lines required a 25-times larger investment, Metrobús represented an effective alternative. Additionally, the bus network was out of control and had been replaced by small, independently owned microbuses. The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) scheme was invented in the city of Curutiba, Brazil more than 25 years ago, with its most important example in Bogotá. Therefore, we consulted experts in both locations, and we were aided by Dr. Mario Molina. Finally, Metrobús was established in 2005, removing 1,300 old microbuses with high pollutant emissions and little passenger space off the streets. Those vehicles have now been substituted for high tech, low emission, and high capacity buses that fit 150 passengers. Metrobús represents a paradigm shift when it comes to technology. We were the first public transport option in Latin America to incorporate the Euro III standard, followed by Euro IV and Euro V, and it has prevented the emission of more than 122,000 tonnes of greenhouse gasses. Furthermore, Metrobús was the first transport project in the world to achieve an effective commercialization of its emissions reduction. We have done this since 2006 with a Spanish carbon fund through the World Bank.

Q: How does Metrobús fit in Mexico’s mobility future?

A: Metrobús is not a finished project. The system has 150 kilometers of roadways across five lines and a vehicle park of 450 buses, but we intend to build at least 80 to 90 more kilometers by 2018. Today we move around 1 million users who are making 230 million trips a year, but by the time we have our roadways completed, we should be moving about 1.8 million people with 500 million trips annually. In a place as large as Mexico City, Metrobús cannot be the only mode of public transportation. That is why Metrobús is interconnected with the Metro. This ensures longer, safer, and faster trips that can be complemented with non-motorized means of transportation such as Eco-bici. These systems are part of the Integral Mobility Program. Today, cars own the streets and our mobility pyramid is completely inverted.

About 22 million trips are made a day, and even though only 17% to 20% are made by car, these vehicles occupy 80% of the streets. Nevertheless, pedestrians should be the top priority, and public transportation should have a much more important role since it moves most of the population.

Q: How does Metrobús decide which OEMs provide its buses?

A: Metrobús has a research department that analyzes technology trends, and we choose our suppliers according to the results we obtain. We started using Euro III engine technology, but when we decided to upgrade to Euro IV we were asked by the government why we needed it, since there was no access to this technology. Similarly, when we asked two OEMs to provide buses that complied with these regulations, they expressed concerns regarding the availability of ultra-low-sulfur (ULSD) diesel. The Mayor intervened to solve this, but we still had to collect ULSD in Ciudad Juarez for two years. Only Volvo believed that we would get enough ULSD, so they provided the vehicles. Currently, we have many more brands circulating, while MAN Truck and Buses and several Chinese OEMs also want to be our providers.

Q: In 2013, Metrobús was awarded the best sustainable transport award. What were the reasons behind this recognition?

A: We were evaluated on three major factors: technology, environmental aspects, and benefits for the end users. We have been able to reduce travel times by around 40%, therefore recovering 20 million man hours a year. There are 50% less accidents on the roads, and it is the system with the lowest number of accidents in Mexico. Moreover, Metrobús is 100% accessible for disabled and blind people, with carriages that are exclusively for women. We just opened Line 5 in 2014, and we are already working on the construction of Line 6. It will travel 20km through the northern part of the city, and we hope to have it ready by September 2015, incorporating around 80 new buses. The financing for this project comes exclusively from the city’s resources, which also reaffirms the city’s commitment to changing its urban mobility system. Our goal is to expand Metrobús to reach 200km with four more lines, providing a better service every year.