Tackling the Traffic Jam HeadacheThu, 09/01/2016 - 15:27
Q: What are the most important mobility and transportation projects in which the Bernardo Quintana Institute has been involved?
A: Although the Bernardo Quintana Institute has been operating for a year, its foundation is a 65-year-old family tradition. My grandfather was founder of Grupo ICA, which created a think tank to find the most appropriate solutions to Mexico’s infrastructure dilemmas. Mexico City’s subway project was a result of these discussions including Line 12. We want to solve problems and we have refocused on mobility. This sector is extremely important today and society increasingly demands better solutions. ICA and Steer Davis have worked together on a series of mobility studies for both public and private transportation pointing out some of the issues to Mexico City’s government. We pioneered the idea of building the city’s ring road an upper level, and our assessment indicates that the dual carriageway, Viaducto, would also benefit from modifications.
Q: How does the Bernardo Quintana Institute work alongside the government to enforce the best possible solutions for Mexico’s growing vehicle park?
A: Following the study performed on Viaducto, we realized this was one of the most troubled roads and the most urgent to correct. Therefore, we are presenting a comprehensive plan to the government with strategies to reduce traffic. We work hand in hand with the public sector, as well as the Chamber of the Construction Industry and the College of Civil Engineers that also support us to reach our goals. The federal government has more than enough technicians with highly competitive skillsets who are able to evaluate society’s worries. However, initiatives filed by state governments are usually founded on a very narrow vision and therefore unfounded from a technical and socioeconomic standpoint. Our proposals provide solid technical foundations that can benefit the entire region with long-term infrastructure developments.
Q: Between infrastructure developments and public transportation initiatives, which solution could have a greater impact on Mexico’s mobility concerns?
A: Mexico’s urban planning has prioritized the use of cars instead of creating functional public transportation networks, despite the fact that most people in our country are not car owners. The overall solution must involve both infrastructural adjustments and increased public transportation. As fruitful as the Metrobús BRT initiative has been, there is a lot of dissatisfaction regarding the service, mainly due to oversaturation. We now see a completely collapsed system struggling to keep order and a timely schedule, while the demand for its service continues to increase. In light of this situation, the Bernardo Quintana Institute has evaluated the possibility of improving the existing infrastructure with the construction of a monorail. Per kilometer, a monorail requires an investment of US$40 million including train machinery, compared to a subway that might cost up to US$100 million for the same distance. Moreover, profitability and technical viability remain virtually equal. Monorails would free up a whole lane for private transport, with a public transportation system on an upper level.
Q: How can the government facilitate a smooth transition in the event of fares being raise?
A: The government needs to make users aware that if needed, financial support is available. Additionally, mechanisms to prove the user’s financial status would need to be implemented. A standard ticket on the subway should be worth around MX$15 (US$1) and users currently pay one-third of that price. There is no doubt that a fair share of individuals need help, but there are also plenty that could help the system by paying the true value of the fare. The Metrobús is tackling this issue through private concessions and some Metrobús lines across Mexico have tariffs of MX$30 (US$2). However, the service must reflect the price. If fares continue to increase but the quality of service does not, then contrary to the desired positive mobility effect, users will stop using the service and the vehicle park will grow even faster. Mexico City lacks comprehensive mobility solutions. The government needs not only to invest in infrastructure developments, it must also keep future subsidies in mind to cover its operational and maintenance costs with public transport fares.