What Do Mexican Cities Need to Improve Mobility?Wed, 11/01/2017 - 14:36
As part of a global trend, Mexico is becoming more urbanized than ever before. Cities often offer a better quality of life and access to job opportunities than rural areas, causing a major shift in the country’s demographics. But this comes with a need for more advanced mobility solutions. According to INEGI, Mexico had over 32 million registered vehicles in 2016. Fortunately, developers and companies that specialize in mobility see these gaps as areas of opportunity. Mexico Infrastructure & Sustainability Review spoke to leading authorities to find out what is being done to combat these challenges and the issues that should be addressed to improve the mobility in Mexico’s cities.
The government’s goal was to make private vehicles only one of many options for transportation, fostering the implementation of carpooling when possible. To do that, we needed to invest in sustainable mobility with safe, connected and quality public transportation. This included more space for mobility options like Metrobús and Ecobici, enough space to promote the use of private bicycles and sustainable buses to replace the current minibus fleet. We also balanced the use of private and public transportation in Mexico City by publishing new parking standards in July 2017. One of these standards eliminated the obligation for parking space delimitation in new developments in an effort to better organize the city’s parking layout. Many international studies show that bad planning of parking lots and an excess of them can lead to additional traffic. These standards are the most important the city has published in recent years.
We are committed to creating projects that are responsible and promote a better quality of life within cities. The idea is to make sure that 70 percent of a person’s daily movement is within walking or biking distance. We develop integrated districts that can meet the needs of their inhabitants. It is a challenge to find balance between human interactions and business models; we always aim to create added value for our clients. In each project, we strive to design quality of life with creative solutions that are respectful and in harmony with the environment. It is a big challenge to shift the mindset of clients that are not in tune with sustainability. It is much easier to create an entirely new neighborhood, as is being done at the University of Arkansas. When we are renovating an area, we have to make sure we sufficiently understand the needs of the district. Either way, we are always working in a complex ecosystem.
Mexico City has the highest levels of traffic in the world according to the Tom Tom Index and it gets worse year after year. This is not an effect of migration into the city but rather citizens from the city getting married and moving to the outskirts. There are almost 50,000 people living in Mexico City who get married and 10,000 getting divorced each year. When they cannot find affordable and decent housing, they move to the outskirts, making the existing mobility problems a bigger challenge. When people live closer to their jobs, mobility and the quality of life of the citizens is improved. Building homes closer to workplaces creates smart and sustainable cities. Convincing the communities where we build that their mobility challenges will improve if residential developments are built within the centers of the city usually takes more than one town hall meeting but we tend to be successful in convincing them.
By 2050, more than 90 percent of the Mexican population will live in the major urban areas and nobody is taking this into consideration when planning these projects. Data is needed in order to implement the right public policy. When tackling transportation and mobility issues, it is important to benchmark the current status of the area and have historical and real-time data to analyze. Because the majority of municipalities and states do not have access to this type of data, the implementation of policies is inefficient. To completely transform mobility in Mexico, there has to be a federal traffic law that is applied in all states and municipalities, including fines and rules. There must be coherence among all states and municipalities in the country.
One of the biggest challenges is making sure that comprehensive mobility strategies are tied to urban development plans. This is sometimes difficult because the federal budget often overlooks public transportation and non-motorized transportation methods. Municipalities are responsible for making sure there are bicycle routes and pedestrian walkways, but the lack of local resources and low prioritization at the federal level demotivates authorities lower down the chain. Power and fiscal resources should be more decentralized because no single authority has the capacity to oversee Mexico’s 2,000-plus municipalities. The first step in urban planning is establishing a vision. If we cannot imagine the city we desire, we will not be able to create programs that will provide the results we seek. The idea is to create a vision, share it and collaborate to make it a reality.
Cities need to be designed for the people, rather than vehicles. New generations are placing more value on efficiency, mobility and interconnectivity, and infrastructure must follow suit. Real estate developers must adapt quickly to the new generations and change their value propositions or risk becoming obsolete. What matters today and in the future, is the experience that space provides. We have to diversify, integrate the eight principles of urban development and stop encouraging the use of cars. Parking lots are the ultimate enemy of mobility. In San Pedro Garza Garcia alone, there are more than 123,000 people and 1.5 cars per person, and the creation of more parking spaces further encourages the use of vehicles. We spend more than 85 percent of our lives in three areas: our place of work, our house and in our car. We need to change our strategies completely and create spaces where families can thrive.
The main problem with Mexico’s development strategies is that they do not reinforce the importance of urban planning. According to legislation, housing dictates the development of the surrounding areas but it would make more sense if urban planning dictated where housing developments should be. It is important to raise awareness not only among the citizens but most importantly among the politicians who make these decisions. Politicians in Mexico are not interested in urban planning because it is a longterm process that traditionally spans several political terms. During the current political period, no new Metro lines were constructed because the Metrobús was given priority. This is not a complete solution for a city’s mobility problems because it is not designed for long distances. These types of MTS are best for interconnecting different modes of transportation and if not done correctly, it leads to high saturation of the system.