Bernardo Ortiz
Managing Principal of Mexico and Latin America
IBI Group

Participatory Governance for Integrated Cities

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 14:05

As of 2015, more than 79 percent of Mexico’s population lived in a city and INEGI forecasts an increase to more than 90 percent by 2050. This fact alone is pushing some cities to look for more sustainable urban planning and mobility strategies, with the aim of transforming themselves into Smart Cities. Becoming smart allows a city to increase its competitiveness and quality of life, efficiently use resources and support economic sustainability by using technology and creativity to raise the IQ of its environment. Mexico's cities will face many obstacles before they can reach this goal and will have to create strategies to align the priorities of the public and private sectors and citizens.

But the cities that need to brace for these changes –- Mexico City, New Delhi and Sao Paulo –- will encounter the most hurdles to achieving sustainability, according to Bernardo Ortiz, Managing Principal of Mexico and Latin America for IBI Group. “Large population cities make the development of Smart Cities even more challenging and some important stepping stones to reaching this goal are comprehensive planning, participatory governance and the strengthening of institutions beyond borders to allow for seamless integration of transportation systems,” he says. Transit is one of the main elements of a Smart City and Mexico City must find solutions for the many challenges its metropolitan area faces.

In addition, Mexico will have to find a middle ground between private and public-sector interests in transportation projects with a focus on efficient mobility options and alternative modes of transportation. In the last few years, the private sector has had to play a larger role in the development and financing of transportation projects due to large cuts to both the federal and state budgets. IBI Group has experience working in the planning, design and engineering of every aspect of infrastructure projects worldwide and in Mexico. It has worked with SEDUVI, SCT and other stakeholders in the public and private sectors to develop projects that increase the efficiency of transportation through public financing or PPP schemes.

With SEDUVI, the company carried out a study to transform Mexico City’s Modal Transfer Centers (CETRAMs) into transportation hubs that are integrated into the urban fabric and can displace residents throughout the city. Ortiz warns that interagency consensus and customer-focused design must play a significant role in the planning and development of these centers. “CETRAMs are sometimes not developed with the right focus in mind,” he says. “There have been cases where the public has to travel through an entire shopping mall to transfer from one mode of transportation to another, which happens when a commercial agenda is given priority over the end-user.”

When the private sector participates in infrastructure projects such as CETRAMs, it is looking to make a profit in the long term but because these projects have a direct impact on society, it is important that the PPP schemes implemented assign risks to the parties best equipped to absorb them between the public and private sectors. According to Ortiz, the element that will attract more investment and foster the development of good quality transportation projects will be transparency.

Another obstacle that could potentially block the development of any type of infrastructure project in Mexico is continuity at both the planning and implementation stages. “We cannot continue to reinvent ourselves every six years when the presidential terms change,” says Ortiz. “Infrastructure and transportation plans change each term and it is always difficult to create the correct schemes when there is no continuity.”

Participatory governance places emphasis on democratic engagement and seeks to increase the participation of citizens in governmental decisions, which is a fundamental component of a Smart City. Although this is often seen as an obstacle for the completion of an infrastructure project, according to Ortiz, it can drastically increase the impact it will have on society. “Smart Cities look to integrate information into society through a series of initiatives that use technology and the vision of what the city should be from the point of view of the end user,” he says.