Experts Discuss Need to Rescue Public Transport in Mexico
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Experts Discuss Need to Rescue Public Transport in Mexico

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Pamela Benítez By Pamela Benítez | Junior Journalist & Industry Analyst - Mon, 10/11/2021 - 11:55

Transportation experts gathered to discuss the need to rescue public transportation systems in Mexico, as they face less service offerings, a reverse technological transformation and lacks integration, while acknowledging that past challenges remain unresolved. In an effort to reverse this trend, the Public Transportation Rescue Program was proposed.

At the First National Forum of Mobility Authorities, experts explained how the COVID-19 crisis has challenged the national public transportation system. The current crisis has decreased the offer in the public mobile services in cities as it faces an expected MX$40 million in losses between 2020 and 2021, at the same time it has caused a drop in the demand jeopardizing the job security of 160,000 workers in the sector.

However, according to the attendees, the economic crisis was not the culprit to all the existing challenges in the system, as some of these have been present long before the pandemic started.

Alejandro López, President of the Mexican Association of Mobility Authorities (AMAM), argued that even after 15 years of progress in the matter, users still deal with a low-quality, insecure, and unequal public transport to this day, accompanied with a service that is in constant decay.

"This is a symptom of the neglect of public transportation and mobility services nationwide, plus an institutional weakness, as well as the lack of coordination and integration at all three levels of government. In addition to a financial unsustainability, which has resulted in a low capitalization capacity for investment and maintenance of services, conditioning the quality and coverage of the [public transportation] systems," says López

For López, the neglect of public transportation is mainly due to the prioritization of the private vehicle over other mobility options, in a reality where more than half of the population relies on public transportation and only 15 percent uses private vehicles. These vehicles receive 75 percent of the investment in mobility infrastructure, which could start a tendency in users to prefer private modes of transportation over public transportation, threatening efforts to turn the country into a sustainable one.

If Mexico wants to make progress in sustainable mobility, the integration of new technologies is a must. However, the existing regression in technological transformation has also remained unattended for years. Just in the metropolitan area in the Valley of Mexico, out of the 50.9 percent of the routes done in public transport, 36 percent are done in low-capacity vehicles with obsolete vehicle technology that operate under a traditional man-truck model.

In an effort to solve these problems, representatives from the World Resources Institute (WRI) Mexico designed the Public Transportation Rescue Program, aimed to help the public transport sector survive the current crisis through tax incentives, subsidies, and affordable credit for cities while resolving existing challenges by improving conditions in coverage, quality, and reducing carbon emissions. According to Adriana Lobo, Director of WRI Mexico, this program needs governmental investment at a federal and state level.

"The economic crisis has withdrawn service offerings in multiple cities, has reversed technological transformation processes, as well as system integration. Establishing a national program for the economic recovery of public transportation is urgent to reverse the trend. A decisive federal and state investment is required for this rescue, conditioned to operational, technological, and service quality improvement processes. Investing in public transportation is to guarantee the right to mobility", says Adriana Lobo.

The financial hit that the public transportation system took is not the only existing challenge. As mobility has become a constitutional right, there is a need to make this system accessible so marginalized communities in Mexico can exercise their right to transportation. Experts at the forum concluded that public transport and active mobility can become a more attractive alternative to the private car, and it also represents an opportunity for economic recovery, while at the same time it serves as a promoter of equal opportunities.

The First National Forum of Mobility Authorities was organized by WRI Mexico, AMAM, and the National Association of Producers of Buses, Trucks, and Tractors (ANPACT). Representatives of the Senate, Secretariat of Agrarian, Land and Urban Development (SEDATU), the National Bank for Public Works and Services (Banobras), as well as local governments and Colombian authorities, assisted the event. 

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