Rewriting the Concept of Passenger MobilityFri, 09/01/2017 - 10:32
A stressful commute ruins everybody’s day. Living in a city where traffic is endemic can mean numerous problems for its citizens in the shape of long commutes and delivery times, bad air quality and high noise levels. To address the root of the problem, MASA, an old player of the Mexican public transportation industry, aims to reshape mobility, improving passenger comfort, safety and drivers’ wages.
Mexico City has the second-worst traffic in the world, according to TomTom’s Traffic Index. The company also calls Mexico City the worst in the world for day-long traffic jams. This is unsurprising considering there were 5.5 million cars registered in the city in 2016, according to SEMOVI’s data, and 250,000 more are added each year. While many are analyzing how to address this problem, MASA is acting to improve mobility through better bus options, making curing Mexico’s greatest ailment part of its core.
“MASA aims to improve mobility in Mexico,” says José Martínez, Director General of MASA. The company is experienced in dealing with Mexico City traffic thanks to a history that can be traced to the 1940s. After its acquisition by Volvo Group in 1998, MASA’s core business shifted toward the sale of rear-engine buses in Mexico, which Martínez sees as a tool to improve mobility in the city. “Now, MASA has refocused on improving mobility and supporting society and the authorities by developing new ways to transport people.”
Rear-engine buses are preferable for urban mobility with benefits beyond passenger comfort. Besides incorporating more efficient engines that optimize fuel use, moving the engine to the back is also more comfortable for drivers as the cabin will be cooler and less noisy. Martínez explains the importance these buses will hold for drivers: opportunities for better wages. “Nowadays, bus drivers are under constant pressure to transport larger numbers of paying passengers,” he says. “Better paid drivers will be less stressed and feel less pressure to drive faster through the city.”
The transition toward safer rear-engine buses required a few corporate sacrifices. “We are not participating in the front-engine bus market, which is the most popular,” says Martínez. “We are focusing on offering a product that can improve mobility in Mexico.” He says approximately 70 percent of the market in Mexico is front-engine buses, 20 percent are low, rear-engine buses while other models represent the other 10 percent. MASA holds between 10 and 15 percent of the rear-engine market.
The company is currently working with Metrobús, in a partnership that Martínez expects to continue as both Metrobús and MASA are collaborating with SEMOVI to generate “feeder” lines. Feeders are smaller bus lines that connect Metrobús’ users with surrounding areas. “We already have 15 sub-feeder units and we are helping Metrobús to develop one or two more feeder lines.” Martínez believes these feeder lines are convenient both for MASA and for mobility as they will eventually transport more people than current Metrobús lines.
MASA’s goal for 2017 is to sell 150 units, doubling sales, says Martínez. Volvo’s targets for MASA are even more ambitious. “Volvo MASA aims to have 20 percent of the bus market in Mexico by 2020,” he says. To achieve this, Martínez says that MASA will need to introduce new products and to transform the market itself. “By increasing the quality of transportation, passengers will be happier and use the services more, but this will take time. Volvo’s MASA strategy is to continue using front-end buses for cargo and to use these new models for passenger transportation.”
In the short-term, MASA will focus on selling to governments. It is looking toward Queretaro, Monterrey, Torreon, San Luis, Hidalgo, Puebla and Tijuana as potential locations. There are also market opportunities in compressed natural gas (CNG) engines favored by the government. “Our largest clients will be city governments interested in sustainable solutions,” says Martínez, who sees a bright future despite misconceptions. “The market has changed in the past 20 years, but operators are now much more prepared.”