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News Article

Tackling Mobility: Challenge After Lockdowns

By Peter Appleby | Tue, 06/02/2020 - 21:35

Monday’s return to work of 18,560 companies from the mining, construction and transport industries was the first step along the reopening of the Mexican economy. After imposing social-distancing measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, states are now looking at ways to safely return the country to a “new normal.”

Among the many challenges the country will face is the mobility of citizens. The drastic drop in movement due to lockdowns caused peseros, buses and metro trains to reduce their numbers.

Mexico was the second country in the region with the highest reduction in mobility during the crisis up to May 20. According to the Development Program of the United Nations (UNDP), mobility of citizens in Mexico dropped by 43.26 percent, only behind Argentina with a 47.70 percent drop. Peru (-40.24 percent), Uruguay (-38.06 percent) and Chile (-37.37 percent) are third, fourth and fifth place, respectively.

The states that saw the highest drops in mobility were Quintana Roo, Mexico City, Baja California Sur, Baja California and Nuevo Leon with drops of 65 percent, 64 percent, 58 percent, 56 percent and 53 percent, respectively. The states are interesting to note considering that Baja California Sur has only 643 registered cases of COVID-19, says Statistica, ranking it 26th out of the 32 states in terms of positive cases.

Now, though, wheels are being greased as public transport readies itself to support millions of commuters over states lines, through tunnels under cities and to their workplace. Mexico City’s Mobility Minister Andrés Lajous recently said in a video chat with Expansión that sound public transport was vital for the return to work, which the capital will see through in the coming weeks and months. “We need to ensure the provision of public transport so that people who have to do face-to-face work continue to move around and do it from a safe distance,” he said.

The minister also said that more medium-distance journeys will need to be taken with alternative means of transport, like the bike, so roads are not gridlocked with private cars as commuters attempt to avoid public transport. However, he also admitted that asking workers who live at considerable distances from their homes – 11.2 million people in the Valley of Mexico area spend between one and four hours traveling to work, says Cronica Ambiental – would be unfair.

Instead, the minister suggested that it was time to reflect on the journeys that each individual was making. "In mobility, it is said that the best journey is the one that does not need to be made,” said Lajous, referring to the change in approach that the city may need to make.

Peter Appleby Peter Appleby Journalist and Industry Analyst