Reduced Ridership May Impact Metro System Financial StrengthBy Alejandro Ehrenberg | Mon, 03/30/2020 - 15:02
Mexico City’s subway system provides more than 1.6 billion rides per year, according to official information. This makes it the busiest subway in the Americas after New York City’s. Economic activity in Mexico’s capital can be informally assessed by how intensely the metro is working. The recent announcement by Claudia Sheinbaum, the city’s Mayor, to the effect that ridership has declined by 60 percent is therefore of ambivalent value. On the one hand, it means that the megapolis’ dwellers are heeding indications to practice social distancing. On the other, it implies that the economy of Mexico’s largest city is under considerable stress.
It is important to consider how a major trip contraction that may last for months will impact Mexico City’s subway system. As Yale Wong, researcher at Sydney University points out, minimizing health risks has been the focus during the COVID-19 outbreak, “but we should also be concerned about the strategic and financial consequences for transport operators and their workforces.” Wong goes on to explain that the current contingency will drastically impact the revenue of subway operators. Those systems that work on a net cost modality, meaning they keep their fare revenue, will be especially affected.
Also putting pressure on Mexico’s subway system are the increased costs stemming from enhanced hygiene efforts and changes in operational practices to keep the virus at bay. For instance, a pilot program consisting of temperature-sensing cameras in different points in the system is already underway. If a passenger with high temperature is detected, staff will approach them to further evaluate the situation. In addition, hand sanitizer is being widely distributed among users. Key areas, like handrails and access turnstiles, are undergoing frequent disinfection.
It remains to be seen how a contracted revenue and increased costs will affect Mexico City’s subway system. For the time being the city’s government has declared that maintenance and expansion works will not be cancelled. Most salient among these works is the much-needed expansion of the system’s Line 12.