Fernando Mijares
Co-Founder And Business Development Of Modutram Mexico

Lean Rapid Transit For Livable Cities

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 11:19

Mass Transportation Systems (MTS) are necessary for cities to grow sustainably but sometimes cities place too much weight on one system rather than creating a seamless network of transportation systems, says Fernando Mijares, Co-Founder and Business Development at Modutram, the group charged with selling a new system called Autotrén. “Cities need more collective transport options to be sustainable and more livable. Autotrén is a new mode of transport that is already approved by PROTRAM. It will boost mobility within cities by making extensive rapid transit networks viable thanks to its lean infrastructure.”
Modutram was founded in 2010 by professionals of the Guadalajara automotive industry with the objective of creating a technological innovation that would improve urban mobility in Mexico. Autotrén is a Group Rapid Transport (GRT) system developed by the triple-helix approach of a team of Mexican companies and research centers with government support. It is a modular transportation system that can be either underground or above road level. “Autotrén’s main focus is to serve backbone axes of medium capacity. This is lower capacity than metro but similar to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems. These medium capacity main axes have around 10,000-15,000 passengers per hour per direction but are often unviable to develop at a street level. In those cases, Autotrén’s lean infrastructure makes them viable,” Mijares says.
The modularity of the system means savings of space and money. “Transportation corridors do not have the same demand throughout their entire extension. There are segments that require higher capacity but others that have lower demand; capacity can be built accordingly,” he says. In comparison to other systems, Autotrén’s modularity allows it to interchange the size of its stations according to the expected demand, unlike conventional rail systems. “Intermediate stations with lower demand would be smaller but stations integrated with other MTS would be much bigger, with several parallel modules. Larger stations can be integrated with other systems such as BRTs or metro lines,” he says. “All the stations are equipped with an overtaking lane to provide an express or semi-express service to passengers. Optionally, each service can be scheduled according to real-time demand.” This is done through destination kiosks that allow users to choose the station they want to go to, says Mijares.
Although Autotrén offers a unique value proposition, its main challenge is convincing local governments of its virtues. “The main obstacle to overcome is that it is new in the market and we have to convince governments and investors that it is going to work. Government and investors tend to look for success cases first,” says Mijares. Although the system is new, it employs technology that is readily available and most importantly a financial scheme that has already been successful in Mexico.
Modutram wishes to integrate Autotrén into cities through PPP schemes, just like that used for the Metrobús system. Mijares proposes that Autotrén use the same financing as a BRT system; through FONADIN’S PROTRAM fund entities it could retrieve financing and then transport companies could invest in the rolling stock. “The financial scheme has already proved to function well throughout the country and there would be no problem adapting it to Autotrén,” he says. The PROTRAM program is part of FONADIN and it grants federal funds to develop MTS.
Mijares believe that states should look at Autotrén as much more than just an MTS. “It is an urban intervention tool that has the ability to transform a city. It recovers public space by taking away street-level public transport to open up more space to pedestrians and bikes,” Mijares says. “The idea is to take space back but not for cars. The sidewalks, bike lanes and parks are the municipality’s responsibility and the state would take care of the transportation system itself.”