Gregory Narce
Commercial Director
View from the Top

At the Root of Mexico’s Urban Planning Problems

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 11:30

Q: What are the main factors hindering enhanced urban planning and mobility?
A: Urban planning frequently derives from a macro vision that is translated into different sectors. Nonetheless, in Mexico, there is no general framework that allows government offices to effectively manage the creation of urban infrastructure. For instance, the maintenance of projects such as the Metro is determined by the political will of local governments. Mexico should strive for an infrastructure fund that guarantees long-term planning and maintenance of projects beyond political administrations. In this sense, the industry is very dependent on political decisions, hindering the optimization of its resources.
Moreover, urban planning issues are subordinated to financing. Transport systems require a short, mid and long-term fare planning strategy that establishes transport investment priorities and diverse financing mechanisms such as PPPs or subsidies. From my point of view, we should explore mixed schemes for bringing projects to fruition, given that it is naive to think that all public infrastructure will be supplied merely with public investment. Banobras, through FONADIN, has a program to incentivize public transport. PROTRAM co-finances mobility plans, which allows local governments with scarce resources to implement city planning while fostering a strategic vision.
In my estimation, the inadequate service provided to users is a repercussion of the lack of professionalization of public transport. The problem stands in direct relation to the fares although, above all, it is the result of the structural absence of a business strategy, which prevents public transport from being profitable and impedes its modernization. Therefore, one of my suggestions to the Mexican authorities is to professionalize transport services within the cities. The complexity lies in the fact that many states do not even have a Ministry of Mobility, much less an urban mobility strategic vision. Under these conditions, developing sustainable mobility projects is challenging.
Q: What public transport solutions can benefit the secondary and tertiary cities the most?
A: Due to the fact that the investment levels and infrastructure requirements for a light train or a Metro are higher than those of BRT corridors, the Mexican trend favors the latter. BRT corridors can be an optimal alternative for transforming the mobility of secondary cities, yielding a positive change that will benefit citizens. A concrete example is the mobility plan for the city of Juarez, developed by Transconsult. According to the surveys applied to users, 80 percent was satisfied with the BRT service and perceived an improvement in safety and security of the system. It seems to me that the users initially experienced some inherent resistance to adopting these corridors. However, after several years of functioning, citizens usually gain a good perception. I consider the maintenance of the current scheme based on traditional microbuses untenable as their management has no order or professionalization, and responsibility is not clearly allocated to a particular actor.
Q: How can cities better integrate new transport projects such as NAIM into their urban planning strategy?
A: In Mexico City, we must take into consideration that taxi and Uber fares are more affordable than in other international cities. Consequently, these means of conveyance are a suitable transport option. Regardless, when designing an airport, it is crucial to plan and consider other public transport alternatives for passengers and employees. Even though highways are expanded, they will inevitably be congested. In Mexico, NAIM has options such as the extension of a Metro line. In any case, the absence of effective planning results in decisions that are often taken opportunely, which makes it more difficult for a consulting actor to generate real improvement. Unfortunately, an insufficient forecasting echoes across the whole sector, from developers to consultants and end-users.