Maximiliano Zurita
Director General Of Caf México
View from the Top

Integrating Urban Planning And Transport For Better Mobility

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 12:25

Q: What is the root cause of Mexico’s mobility problems?
A: Mobility is a right and it must be understood as a way to facilitate movement while supplying the social, cultural and economic needs of the people. Currently, the country lacks an integral public policy for passenger transport. With such a policy in place, the country could plan and execute a strategy that outlines and provides efficient mobility solutions. At the same time, these projects must be part of the whole. The projects created to this day have been developed in isolation and they sometimes do not interconnect, creating general solutions only for certain zones.
The selection of projects should be based on the quantity and type of passengers that will be transported and from there the most efficient and appropriate Metropolitan Transport System (MTS) should be chosen. Projects are planned according to the latest trends that may not necessarily add value to an area. This is why many routes become saturated quickly. MTS networks should be designed to complement each other and not compete among themselves.
The urban development codes do not contemplate urban transportation systems. When a city grows and is in need of an MTS, there is no space for it. This obligates cities to look for subterranean and elevated solutions, which make the project much more expensive than it needs to be.
Q: Who should design and plan public transportation systems in Mexican cities?
A: In metropolitan areas there should be one single transport authority, as is done in large cities across the world. In Mexico, no such government body exists. For instance, the Metropolitan Area of Guadalajara (MAG) consists of five municipalities with perhaps five different political parties that differ in the types of policies and projects that should be developed. There is no consistency or coordination. Mexico City alone has five different entities that participate in mass transportation: SEMOVI, STC, the Light Train, Metrobús and the Suburban Train. For example, the STC Metro System makes decisions almost autonomously even though SEMOVI is part of the board. The only private entity is the Suburban Train, which is concessioned by CAF. The others are public organisms but they are not coordinated. Mexico City has a population of 9 million but the Metropolitan Area of the Valley of Mexico (ZMVM) has 22 million. Most people come into Mexico City on a daily basis from the surrounding areas.
Q: How would you rate CAF’s concession of the Mexico City Suburban Train?
A: The Suburban Train is the only concessioned MTS in the ZMVM. It has been in operation for more than 10 years and it is the best transportation system in the country. The cost of the train is not subsidized but it competes with the cost of the public transport of the State of Mexico. This system demonstrates that it is possible to have an efficient and affordable MTS in cities. Users have consistently graded the system between an 8.5-8.9 every year in our annual surveys.
When the tender for the Suburban Train was launched, the company decided that it was a great opportunity to invest in Mexican infrastructure and move from being a train provider to an operator.  The client today demands an integral service and offers various services and products. The tender called for the lowest price tag and CAF offered the lowest tariff. We constructed the project with a loan from commercial banks and it took us approximately a year and a half to finish construction of 27km of double tracks with six stations.
In comparison to other projects where the concessionaire is the constructor, we wanted to quickly put the train into operations. The private sector is more efficient and has fewer limitations than the public sector when developing new projects. Mexico is a great country to implement new business models. The concession opened opportunities to contribute to mobility in this country.
Q: In what additional features or sustainable practices has CAF invested for the Suburban Train?
A: The Suburban Train uses clean energy, which is generated through solar panels. That energy is then sold to CFE to create the lowest power prices on the market. The trains themselves also generate energy through the braking systems. We integrate materials that not only required less maintenance but that also extended the lifespan of the infrastructure and trains. Trains used to have a lifespan of 15-20 years and now our trains offer 30-40 years.
Security, speed and trust are the main attributes of the Suburban Train. When people are given good services, they truly value and respect it. There is no vandalism on the trains and people make sure to take care of it. It is important to continue improving the service and innovating to make the experience even better. This requires a significant investment but it pays off completely. We have created an assembly plant in Huehuetoca that allowed us to slowly increase the amount of local content in our trains. At the beginning, we manufactured the aluminum train boxes but now the Huehuetoca plant constructs 95 percent of the trains in Mexico.
CAF initiated operations in 1993 as a Mexican company and in 2018 it is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The company has captured approximately 85 percent of the market and has become the most important player in the sector. CAF is a Mexican company that provides products for Mexico built by Mexicans.
Q: How has CAF participated in Monterrey’s MTS,
A: CAF has participated in MetroRey for many years. We provided the first trains for Line 2 and were the first to provide air conditioning in the trains. We also won the project for Line 3 in an international tender. The financial scheme was structured so that the State of Nuevo Leon would not have to absorb the debt. Under that financial plan, Banobras had to grant the financial leasing of the trains. Hopefully by the end of 2018, we will be able to begin construction of the trains for Line 2.
Q: Could the Mexico-Toluca Interurban Train also be operated and maintained by a private company?
A: We won the project for the Mexico-Toluca Interurban Train to do the track systems, the signaling system, trains and workshop equipment. We are also interested in the operation and maintenance of the system itself. SCT has decided to assign the concession to FONADIN and at the same time contract the services of an operator. The Suburban Train was concessioned with private investment but the federal government decided that the Interurban Train should be a state-funded project since it could not guarantee rights of way.
Q: What is your opinion on the Observatorio-NAIM Express Train?
A: The Observatorio-NAIM Express Train is an interesting endeavor. There are various proposals regarding the path and the type of train that should be used and we have served as consultants to various companies participating in the preliminary studies. This train will connect Observatorio to AICM and eventually to NAIM. It is an expensive solution for a city that is in urgent need of more Metro connections. The government predicts that the Express Train will probably transport 200 million passengers but that demand does not yet exist. People can already reach AICM but we would need to connect NAIM to this network. Perhaps a more plausible solution would be creating a link between the two airports for the time being, using this as an extension to the current route and with time and more resources, expand it.