Giving Municipalities the Power to Change MobilityThu, 01/11/2018 - 12:24
Q: Why should more municipalities have their own Ministry of Mobility?
A: The municipality of Queretaro is one of the few in Mexico that has a Ministry of Mobility. This is an urgent matter that all cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants should begin to look at. Citizens have four methods of transportation: by foot, bicycle, public transportation or car. Throughout the country cities have given preference to vehicles, which in the end determines the shape of the city. Cities then begin to force citizens to aspire to owning a car because of the way the city has been designed, meaning this option offers a better quality of life. This makes cities also grow unequally and hostile to unmotorized transportation methods. At the ministry, we create the public policies for mobility and then design and execute projects such as bike lanes throughout the city.
Q: How does the ministry obtain funding for its mobility initiatives?
A: The ministry is part of the municipal government so it only receives funds from the local government and the mayor’s office. The municipal government has various sources of funding but most of Queretaro’s income comes from the city itself. Property tax and domain transfer payments in Queretaro are both strong income sources for the local government. When a real estate developer wants to create a project that exceeds 500m2, it has to have the approval of the Ministry of Mobility and then, according to the Income Law, it must pay for the impact the project will have on mobility.
The bigger the project, the more the developer has to pay. This is relatively new in cities because before a developer would pay a fee that dealt with transit but we are now being more thorough and creating mobility impact studies. If the development will create traffic and heavily impact the city’s mobility, then the developer will pay for that impact. Developers demand that the money is invested in a project or service that is near to their project. As a result, the fee is a win-win for both the city and the project.
When it comes to funding, the income the mobility impact studies generate each year, which is approximately MX$15-20 billion, should be allocated only to mobility projects within the city. We have been subsidizing the car for many years and now it is difficult to motivate people to use alternatives. We do not implement methods such as road taxes to disincentivize the use of cars like other countries do. Allowing companies to use streets and highways free of charge is a type of subsidy. The government spends a great deal of money on building these roadways but gets almost no return on them.
Q: What is the main cause of Queretaro’s mobility problem and why did the government decide to create the Ministry of Mobility?
A: If the government invests in public infrastructure, the private sector tends to respond. One of the main reasons why the Ministry of Mobility was created was because the city has grown extensively in the last years. In the 1970s, the city of Queretaro had a population of about 300,000 but it had a density of 200 inhabitants per hectare. Today, the city’s urban density is 45 inhabitants per hectare, which is a dramatic decrease. Urban sprawl has grown 30 times in the last 30 years with extremely low densities, creating a problem that we must overcome quickly. This was largely due to the housing policy that was established. More and more people demanded single-family homes and did not like to live in vertical developments. There are more than 40,000 vacant lots within the city that add to the large dispersion problem. One of the main reasons why the ministry was created was to reverse this problem and increase the city’s population density.
Q: How has the municipality improved the public transportation system without being involved in the actual BRT or bus systems?
A: The BRT system is the responsibility of the state government but the bus stops are the responsibility of the municipality. Sixty-four percent of the population moves around by public transport, 35 percent by car and 1 percent by bicycle. If 64 percent of the municipality uses public transportation and we are not responsible for the transport itself, we can improve the state of the bus stops. We decided to construct high-density bus stops that are safe, comfortable and have access to communication services. Together with the Queretaro Transport Institute (IQT) we have created mobility solutions that will enhance the quality of life of the people living in Queretaro. We are constructing 15 of these high-density stops in areas that are hubs for intermodal transportation. We chose the stops according to the areas that had the highest density of users and that were not within the short-term plans of the BRT system.
Queretaro has contemplated the construction of eight BRT lines in the next few years. The municipality of Queretaro has the advantage that it is surrounded only by municipalities and not by another state, as in the case of Mexico City. When it comes to bicycle infrastructure, we are developing as far as the border with the next municipality so that it can pick up where we leave off.
Q: How has the municipality responded to the QroBici and bicycle infrastructure developed in the last few years?
A: QroBici began operations in March 2018 with 450 bicycles and 50 stations. Ninety-five percent of users access the bicycles through an app and the remainder uses a physical card. The bike system is operated by Estrategias de Movilidad Urbana but the system belongs to the municipality. The municipality pays a fee each month to the operator. Many questioned why the city was investing so much in the bike system and lanes if only 1 percent of the population used bicycles as their mode of transportation. These investments are made in the hope that more and more people will begin to use it because it is available and the correct infrastructure exists to permit mobility.
There always seems to be strong resistance to bicycle initiatives. If the infrastructure exists and the right tools are provided, a culture is created. Further, these investments are extremely beneficial for the development of more sustainable cities in the future. We now have 5,000 users and more than 1,800 trips a day, which demonstrates the system is working and will have an impact on the city.
Queretaro’s mobility master plan dictates that it should have 500km of bicycle lanes. This administration has undertaken the construction of 200km of bike lanes, integrated with the 60km that already existed to create a network. Studies were carried out to see how likely citizens were to use the bike infrastructure and surprisingly, 80 percent of the people in the 15 to 35-year age bracket said they would be willing to use the bikes as their mode of transportation if the correct infrastructure was in place.
The Ministry of Mobility of Queretaro is one of the first municipal-level ministries that is dedicated to improving mobility throughout the city. It focuses on creating alternative transportation solutions and improving access to public transport