Adriana Lobo
Executive Director of WRI Mexico
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Insight

Getting To The Root Of Mexico’s Mobility Problem

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 11:27

Mexico, eighth in the world for road mortality, requires greater legality and a change of federal laws to achieve a sustainable and safe mobility model, says Adriana Lobo, Executive Director of the World Resources Institute (WRI) Mexico. “It may seem that legality is largely unrelated to infrastructure but it is really related to everything. We must enhance and strengthen the judiciary and justice system in Mexico,” she says.
Historically, road safety and mobility programs have not been high government priorities because the socio-economic impact they represent is not fully understood, Lobo says. For instance, even though more people die in road accidents than from AIDS, the annual budget to fight the health virus is significantly higher than that for road safety. “It is a matter of priorities and I believe this issue is not being properly prioritized,” she says. “It represents a long-term investment but nothing compared to how expensive it is to take care of the victims that will go to IMSS.”
After years of studying Mexico’s policies and infrastructure, WRI Mexico, a global research organization striving for the sustainability of natural resources, has developed an efficient yet affordable plan to ease the country’s mobility issues. According to Lobo, modifying car regulations that among other changes like to forbid the sale of vehicles without airbags and make the use of baby chairs mandatory are of prime importance. The National Accident Prevention Council has reported that car accidents are the second cause of death among people between the ages of 25 to 34 and the first between the ages of 0 to 24, mostly due to these two factors.
Speed limits remain another controversial factor in the increase of road-related fatalities in Mexico. WRI Mexico believes that sealing an agreement with the private sector to install more road cameras could help alleviate this problem, eliminating most expenses while generating revenue for the government. But road cameras should be integrated into a holistic and robust regulatory framework that also includes road infrastructure and culture. Lobo advocates for the creation of a national agency that will coordinate with other related entities and help homogenize transit regulations across the country. “The total cost for this plan is mainly related to management and is not represented in the national budget, considering the millions of lives it would save,” says Lobo. She believes that a good initial budget for efficiently addressing Mexico’s mobility issues would be “MX$300 million to start, while a reasonable budget for implementing a solid plan would be around MX$800 million per year.”
When striving to address the Mexican road safety problem at its roots, it is useful to follow global trends to understand what best practices can be implemented in Mexico. According to Lobo, there is a global tendency calling for car-free cities through the development of high-quality alternative transportation systems that eliminate the need for cars. “Mexican regulation has started to speak the sustainable language but that has not yet translated into plans and actions to achieve a mobility revolution,” she says. “We are 30-40 years behind in infrastructure building and investment for this purpose.” Unless Mexico focuses first on making legality a priority, the country is unlikely to fix its problems and will lag behind in global mobility innovation.
Second to legality, technology plays a strategic role in improving mobility safety worldwide. The trend for electromobility is moving forward in the country despite its high costs and lack of supporting infrastructure. Lobo believes Mexico could significantly benefit from better use of its electric network. However, the question of how to finance the high initial outlay remains unanswered.
Information technologies for shared cars and autonomous vehicles also create a new mobility reality that is expected to improve road safety. But the huge revolution for information systems and mobility has to be regulated carefully, as its consequences are uncertain. “Autonomous vehicles could either be heaven or hell,” says Lobo. “Imagine if instead of parking, users could leave their cars driving around while they run their errands.” She is certain that there will be some surprises ahead on the road to a technological revolution, so the capacity to foresee and prepare for them through more comprehensive and better-enforced regulations is vital.