Laura Ballestero
Planning at SEMOVI
View from the Top

Traffic Mayhem Opens Door to Efficiency

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 15:47

Q: What are the most conspicuous challenges of implementing a new mobility system?

A: The biggest challenge facing Mexico City is sustainability. For many years, 73 percent of the governmental budget has been destined to grey infrastructure. This encompasses urban roads, highways, bridges or second levels and parking lots. Automobile drivers received privileged treatment from public policy. The car’s dominance over public spending tagged it as the most important means of transportation in the city, leading the authorities to neglect investing in public transport. Resource allocations generated the consequences that we are experiencing today.

Q: What role does public transportation play in the current mobility plan and in improving the city’s environment?

A: Climate change has put the spotlight on the lack of government investment in public transport. Almost 83 percent of the Mexican population lives in cities so one of the government's priorities is resource distribution to mobility. The last government poll on commutes in 2007, indicated Mexico City's modal split at 10 percent pedestrians and cyclists, 20 percent using private vehicles and almost 70 percent using public transportation. Our forecasts show that the modal split has changed. Today 30 percent of the population uses private vehicles and 60 percent uses public transportation, while pedestrians and cyclists remain unchanged. This is a consequence of previous government's public policy. The foremost problem caused by this shift is damaged air quality. The average speed of cars is 17km/h and slow moving traffic generates pollution.

Our city faces another challenge linked to road fatalities. According to the authorities, 1,041 deaths are reported monthly because of car accidents. Should we confirm this data with the health system it may even be higher. Rational car use with shared infrastructure and a shared mobility culture will help reduce the number of accidents.

Q: How do you plan to change infrastructure to support sustainable transportation?

A: We have to take the number of commuters using specific infrastructure to reach their destination into account when designing policy. Around 45 percent of commutes in Mexico City end in the city center, namely in Benito Juarez, Cuauhtemoc and Miguel Hidalgo. An average commute using public transportation sees users taking four different modes of transport to reach their destination. This means that users have multi-modal consumption tendencies. Hence the importance of generating a supply chain that offers several options for commuters. Cars will undoubtedly be part of this plan but we hope to provide for those who already have a public transport mentality.

Q: What has led the government to decide to renovate public transportation and mobility options?

A: Mexico City is characterized by its growing vehicle park. Our traffic levels are comparable to those seen in enormous Asian or American cities and investment in public transportation is the only option to balance the city’s division of transport modes. If a street’s efficiency is the number of people able to use it at once, then public transport is the most efficient method. For instance, a car uses the same space as 12 bicycles. A BRT can replace 250 cars. Integrated transport systems not only reduce pollution but also traffic.

It is not enough to substitute existing buses. We need to improve the service model of public transportation. The implementation of the Metrobús BRT system has become relevant as it helped to adjust the concessions held by microbuses. As we also face the disappearance of the individual concession, the city has been able to create enterprise clusters operating in designated areas of the city, thus simplifying supervision of these transport systems

We acknowledge that people who use public transportation are also those who walk the most. Public transportation infrastructure must be linked for pedestrians and incorporate new transport services such as Uber and Cabify. These mobile apps help users plan their trips, while other applications can coordinate carpooling or carsharing services.