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Mexico explores sustainable public transport options

February 1, 2020
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Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Among the projects receiving investment are expansion of the Mexico City Metro, buses, streetcars, light trains and bicycles.

Typically in Mexico, transportation improvements are first made in Mexico City, and then if successful are replicated in other large cities such as Monterrey, Guadalajara and Puebla. The Mexico City metro area, home to more than 24 million people, urgently needs a more sustainable, low-carbon transport system given its high pollution levels and alarming productivity loss due to traffic jams. There are few other cities in the world with worse transport and mobility problems than Mexico City: A person can expect to spend five years of their life in traffic jams, with commute time averaging more than 90 minutes at an average speed of 15 km/h—and just 6 km/h at rush hour.

Mexico’s efforts in sustainable mobility are not new, but have increased since 2008, and have experienced major growth since 2012. In 2020, Mexico City plans to invest up to $1.17 billion to improve transport mobility, an increase of 10.5% over the previous year. Of that amount, a 58.8%, or $680 million, will be spent on subway transport, or what is known as Mexico City’s Metro. Moved by electricity with no emission of air pollution, the Metro is of paramount importance to the public transportation of Mexico City inhabitants. The Metro is one of the largest in the world in terms of size and the ninth-largest in terms of ridership. Several projects are currently being undertaken at the Metro, including modernization of control systems, renovation and maintenance of 105 trains and expansion of the A line into Chalco. Another large project involves the Metrobus, which is a bus line running over a separate lane across several routes. This system proved successful in Mexico City and was then replicated to other cities, such as Monterrey and Puebla. During 2020, the Metrobus will expand its fifth line and will have a budget of $60 million. Notably, the Metrobus runs on gasoline, and hence is not considered environmentally sustainable transport. What is more environmentally friendly is the electric transport system (STE) popularly known as Trolebus and composed of streetcars, which will have a budget of $170 million. The STE, which includes light trains, will buy 20 new light train cars and 63 new electric streetcars—the first addition to this system in 22 years. Also worth noting is that the government is paying more attention to electric-powered options that also get larger support from the private sector. For example, in 2019 the Bosh Company along with the WRI and SEMARNAT (Secretary of the Environment) sponsored an event focused on transport and mobility powered by electricity; this event identified some barriers to adopt new technologies in public transport: high infrastructure cost, scarce financial resources, resistance to change, entrenched devotion to fossil fuels. Some large companies such as Grupo IUSA and Bimbo have recently converted their distribution fleet from gasoline to electric-powered vehicles. Other initiatives include the implementation of software applications such as Waze, AGUMovil and Moovit to help people commute with greater efficiency. The use of bicycles and scooters has also received support, especially in the central neighborhoods of the city, with the assignment of lanes for those vehicles.

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