Fernando Páez
Operations Director
WRI Mexico
View from the Top

Electrification, a Gradual Change

Sat, 09/01/2018 - 12:26

Q: How did WRI participate in the implementation of Line 7 of Metrobús in Mexico City?
A. WRI has been an active participant in the Metrobús project in Mexico City from its design to its deployment.  WRI has been a big influencer on the vision of urban public-transportation services. During the development of the first lines of the Metrobús system, our collaboration was more active due to the city’s initial poor technical experience in the development of the BRT projects. Today, Metrobús has developed a rich technical experience although WRI maintains active participation in the development of new projects. Regarding Line 7, we have been following the project closely and we have offered technical advice during its development. Line 7 does not have the same infrastructure specs as the BRT lines in Insurgentes Avenue. Its development implied a challenge in the design and construction of Metrobús stations that could benefit users without changing the integrity and appearance of one of the main avenues in the city. We also added double-decker buses as an inclusive transportation technology. We performed a technical analysis on the corridor’s operation and efficiency using these units, as well as its connectivity with other transportation services.
Q: How does Metrobús deal with the problem of passenger saturation?
A: The problem of high occupancy in Metrobús, as in other public transportation systems of the city, is worse during specific periods of the day known as “peak hours." Right now, the problem of high demand in these periods is being addressed by Metrobús by increasing the number of pick up times. Many would think this problem could be solved by increasing the number of buses to meet the demand. However, the issue is not that easy because we need to take into consideration on the one hand, the capability of the corridors and the stations to get more buses and on the other hand, operational costs that this measure would entail and the potential impact in the ticket price paid by the user if we consider a self-sustained financial system. The problem could be solved through the implementation of two alternative solutions. One is the provision of bi-articulated vehicles that have greater capacity, while taking care not to affect the frequency of the service. The other would be to improve the information users access so they can plan their trip better, taking advantage of the interconnections between the system’s different lines and find other ways to reach their destination.
Q: How open are operators to invest in new articulated or bi-articulated units?
A: How open operators are to invest in units to improve the service is related to the way this action will be remunerated. It is necessary to consider the impact of these investments on the costs of operating the system and to be very clear about the source of financing to guarantee payment to operators, the financial sustainability of the system and maintaining an affordable rate for users.
Q: How viable is it to transform Metrobús into an electrical system?
A: Electrification in the Metrobús System is a project that should be considered in the long term for the following reasons. First, it is not only a question of replacing a diesel unit with an electric unit. It is necessary to consider also the energy supply network that will power the system. Second, changing the operation and maintenance conditions of the entire fleet would demand the creation of a technical force capable of providing this service. Financing is a third factor to be acknowledged, especially considering the higher costs of electric buses. Fourth, vehicle design must also be included in the equation since it has a direct impact on the service’s capacity. There are some advances in the development of high-floor articulated units such as those required by Metrobús in its lines 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 but they are barely in the testing stage for Latin America. Finally, it is necessary to have business models that can guarantee the financing of technological change without affecting the financial sustainability of the system.

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