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Analysis

With Population On The Move, The Time For Mobility Is Now

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 11:59

As in many other developing countries, Mexico’s population is on the move. According to INEGI, by 2050, 90 percent of the country’s people will be living in urban areas. Although it has urbanized at a slightly slower rate than the average in Latin American and Caribbean countries but significantly faster than Central America, its population by size of urban settlement has increased drastically since 1990. Mexico has 18 cities with a population of 300,000-500,000, 20 cities of 500,000-1 million, 14 cities of 1-5 million and one city of 5-10 million, according to the UN. The capital, Mexico City, is the country’s only megacity with more than 10 million people. By 2030, as the country’s cities continue to grow, the number of cities with populations of 1-5 million will expand to 22. Mexico will also have two cities with a population of 5-10 million.
Experts believe that as Mexico’s population becomes more urbanized, mobility should be given more importance and integrated into a city’s urban planning and zoning. “The human right to a city is not incorporated in the constitution and therefore we tend to forget about it,” says Minister of Mobility of the Municipality of Queretaro Mauricio Cobo.
THE NEGATIVE ROLE MODEL
Mexico City’s arteries are clogged with more than 5.5 million cars circulating every day. Although there are various modes of public transportation, including bike-sharing systems, Metro, BRT systems, light train, buses and trolleys, there is still a wide gap to fill in terms of quality of service, maintenance and quality of fleets. This has in turn caused more people to choose the car as their mode of transportation. “Cars occupy more than 85 percent of urban space and on average, each one transports only 1.5 people,” says Maximiliano Zurita, Director General of CAF México. “If we do not create an inclusive public transportation system, we will find ourselves with serious problems. We are accustomed to seeing MTS systems go from high-density areas to the center of a city but most likely the people who own the cars do not come from these areas. If we want to reduce the number of cars, we must reach the high-income housing areas and persuade them to use the MTS.”
NOT JUST MEXICO CITY
Mexico’s largest urban areas are boosting the country’s economic development by fostering the growth of the automotive, manufacturing, aviation and agricultural sectors. But these cities are beginning to experience negative side effects from their fast urbanization, including mobility problems and infrastructure issues. Following UN-Habitat’s recommendations for sustainable development, the goal is to increase the density of these cities to boost the quality of life.
According to the Minister of SEDATU Queretaro Adán Gardiazabal, the Queretaro Metropolitan Area (QMA) population has increased by 566 percent and its urban footprint by 1,762 percent between 1970 and 2017. Along with it, the number of cars also increased by 1,943 percent. QMA’s growth rate average is of the highest in the country with a 2.8 percent average between 2010-2015. “Queretaro must be cautious about its population density and should aspire to reach at least 100 inhabitants per hectare,” says Cobo.
GOING VERTICAL
Many municipalities are seeing the virtues of high-density cities and are changing their zoning plans to attract investment and development. The Municipality of Queretaro recently changed its zoning regulations and plan to encourage vertical development. It created eight different programs for its seven neighborhoods and historic downtown area. “All of this is to create a more compact Queretaro. If this plan is followed correctly the city should have 80-100 inhabitants per hectare. These programs will incentivize vertical development and mixed-use projects,” says Cobo.
For developers, going vertical is not a problem, it is a good investment. Monterrey began encouraging the construction of vertical commercial, corporate and housing projects in its downtown area and the boom has only begun. San Pedro Garza Garcia has traditionally been known as its business district and the downtown area was abandoned for some years. But mega projects are now under construction, although there are still various factors to consider to restore its downtown. “Before developing in this area, we must first make sure that the right infrastructure exists or if we need to construct and rehabilitate its basic infrastructure,” says Antonio Elosúa, President of the Board of U-Calli.