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Living car-free in Mexico

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  • Sharon Flesher
    Hello all, I m in the beginning stages of my research on transportation in Latin America, and I ve received the following response to a query about living
    Message 1 of 9 , Aug 1, 2001
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      Hello all,

      I'm in the beginning stages of my research on transportation in Latin
      America, and I've received the following response to a query about living
      car-free in Mexico:

      <<Interesting question. I live in the Lake Chapala area. You can get a but
      at most hours going almost anywhere. This includes local or long distance.
      the bus service in Mexico is reliable and inexpensive. For long distance
      there is regular service, first class, and an executive class. the more
      expensive busses have attendents, movies, and restrooms. All the latest
      equipment. Nothing like a bus in the states. Local busses are just fine and
      the service is frequent. Cabs are also cheap. In Guadalahara, you can go
      almost anywhere in the downtown area for $25 pesos (less than $3USD).

      : Yes, you can live just fine without a car. The only problem is getting a
      cab late in the evening in rural areas. >>

      How fascinating. Why is it that the citizens of Mexico, allegedly a
      less-developed country than the U.S., have public transportation vastly
      superior to just about any location north of the border?

      Sharon Flesher
      CarSharing Traverse, Inc.
      Traverse City, Mich.
      http://www.carsharingtraverse.com
      sflesher@...
    • De Clarke
      ... This reminds me irresistibly of a conversation I had about 5 years ago on a Metro bus traversing the University campus. There was a foreign lady on the
      Message 2 of 9 , Aug 1, 2001
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        >>
        >> How fascinating. Why is it that the citizens of Mexico, allegedly a
        >> less-developed country than the U.S., have public transportation vastly
        >> superior to just about any location north of the border?
        >>

        This reminds me irresistibly of a conversation I had about
        5 years ago on a Metro bus traversing the University
        campus. There was a foreign lady on the bus who needed
        some help finding the correct stop. Turned out she was
        a visiting faculty member from Uruguay.

        We chatted casually as one does on public transit (one of
        the great losses people incur by car travel, imho, is that
        you don't have these chance encounters with interesting
        strangers). She said with some puzzlement, "I was very
        surprised that your bus service is so... I am sorry, but
        it really is not very good. At home I am used to many
        more buses, very regular, also very cheap. Here it seems
        there are not many buses and it is rather expensive. It
        is difficult."

        This gave me food for thought for quite some time. Uruguay
        is after all not a country we list in the Top Ten advanced
        industrial western states -- yet the bus service in my
        wealthy American town was inferior to what she had back
        home.

        We should however note that the massive US advertising
        sector has succeeded in planting the lust for automobiles
        into the hearts of most of the poorer world. So the
        superiority of their public transit services may be soon
        to fade, as (so I hear) has been the case in the UK.

        de

        .............................................................................
        :De Clarke, Software Engineer UCO/Lick Observatory, UCSC:
        :Mail: de@... | :
        :Web: www.ucolick.org | Don't Fear the Penguins :
      • Rex D. Kerr III
        ... Yes, I ve often felt this as well! I also consider this a bonus of bicycling... I often stop and chat with people when I see them gardening in their front
        Message 3 of 9 , Aug 2, 2001
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          > (one of the great losses people incur by car travel, imho,
          > is that you don't have these chance encounters with
          > interesting strangers).

          Yes, I've often felt this as well! I also consider this a bonus of
          bicycling... I often stop and chat with people when I see them
          gardening in their front yard or walking, etc... Riding the bus does
          allow for getting to know many more people. There are many people
          around this town that I now recognize from frequent bus encounters that
          I would otherwise not know.

          -Rex

          =====
          --
          ----------------------------------------------------------
          Rex Kerr \ For there are three that bear record in heaven,
          rexkerr@... \ the Father, the Word, and the Holy
          rkerr@... \ Ghost: and these three are one.
          ----------------------------------------1 John 5:7--------
        • Mike Weber
          ... travel, ... encounters ... Ditto for walking; one of the great and surprising pleasures of abandoning the glass/steel/plastic cage. ===== You ask why I
          Message 4 of 9 , Aug 2, 2001
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            >> (one of the great losses people incur by car
            travel,
            >> imho, is that you don't have these chance
            encounters
            >> with interesting strangers).

            > Yes, I've often felt this as well! I also consider
            > this a bonus of bicycling... I often stop and chat
            > with people when I see them gardening in their front
            > yard or walking, etc... Riding the bus does allow
            > for getting to know many more people. There are
            > many people around this town that I now recognize
            > from frequent bus encounters that I would otherwise
            > not know.

            Ditto for walking; one of the great and surprising
            pleasures of abandoning the glass/steel/plastic cage.

            =====
            You ask why I don't live here -
            Honey, how come you don't move?

            Mike Weber
            kyhardhead@...

            __________________________________________________
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            Make international calls for as low as $.04/minute with Yahoo! Messenger
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          • Fahrion, Jason L
            How fascinating. Why is it that the citizens of Mexico, allegedly a less-developed country than the U.S., have public transportation vastly superior to just
            Message 5 of 9 , Aug 5, 2001
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              How fascinating. Why is it that the citizens of Mexico, allegedly a
              less-developed country than the U.S., have public transportation
              vastly
              superior to just about any location north of the border?

              Probably because mass transit is seen as a poor solution (poor in the sense
              of the economy). If Mexico were richer I'm sure you'd see the same traffic
              problems there. Ditto most of the countries we are helping to "develop."


              Jason Fahrion





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            • Jym Dyer
              =v= Interesting discussion, but as I see it, a few things have gotten mixed up here. =v= I was motivated to go car-free because I saw what cars and car-based
              Message 6 of 9 , Aug 7, 2001
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                =v= Interesting discussion, but as I see it, a few things have
                gotten mixed up here.

                =v= I was motivated to go car-free because I saw what cars and
                car-based land use do to society, but also for ecological
                reasons. Buses don't address land use at all, and are only
                marginally better for the environment -- especially the buses
                being described here, which are poorly-maintained and run on
                low-grade fossil fuels.

                =v= Don't forget that in the U.S., car, oil, and tire companies
                deliberately imposed bus service as an unattractive replacement
                for rail service, thereby discouraging people from using mass
                transit and instead buying cars. Buses will never be nearly as
                comfortable as rail, nor will they ever be as energy-efficient.

                =v= In the U.S. as in Mexico, buses are cheap and inferior
                service, primarily used by the poor, and primarily planned as
                service for communities of color. (Robert Bullard refers to
                this phenomenon as "transportation apartheid.") The described
                situation in Mexico doesn't suggest land use planning, but keep
                in mind that it's just a particular niche, planned to be so.
                The apparent "free market" dynamics are just chaotic processes
                within that niche.

                =v= At any rate, any situation in which inefficient, polluting
                buses are "naturally" the most competitive is a situation that's
                propped up with the usual hidden subsidies.
                <_Jym_>
              • Fahrion, Jason L
                =v= Interesting discussion, but as I see it, a few things have gotten mixed up here. =v= I was motivated to go car-free because I saw what cars and car-based
                Message 7 of 9 , Aug 7, 2001
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                  =v= Interesting discussion, but as I see it, a few things have
                  gotten mixed up here.

                  =v= I was motivated to go car-free because I saw what cars and
                  car-based land use do to society, but also for ecological
                  reasons. Buses don't address land use at all, and are only
                  marginally better for the environment -- especially the buses
                  being described here, which are poorly-maintained and run on
                  low-grade fossil fuels.

                  Land use is significantly less for bus users. coming from eugene where the
                  bus system is really quite good we frequently had 20 people on important
                  buses every 15-20 minutes. If those people used the bus as their primary
                  transport then that saves on parking spaces, car dealerships, gas stations,
                  etc. not to mention the land use of producing the automobiles. Buses
                  still require roads to be sure but they wouldn't have to be as large if
                  traffic was reduced by concentrating it into a few larger vehicles. As for
                  the environment again I have to disagree. A given bus may be much worse
                  than a given car, but if that bus can replace 20 or more cars it is
                  obviously much much better in the long run. Given that most of the fuel
                  consumption goes toward moving the vehicles mass you clearly come out ahead
                  when you multiply the number of passengers.


                  =v= Don't forget that in the U.S., car, oil, and tire companies
                  deliberately imposed bus service as an unattractive replacement
                  for rail service, thereby discouraging people from using mass
                  transit and instead buying cars. Buses will never be nearly as
                  comfortable as rail, nor will they ever be as energy-efficient.

                  I don't see buses as a replacement for rail. Rail is increddibly
                  in-efficent for short journeys. What I'd like to see is a travel heirarchy
                  of bus (for in town), rail (for between towns of moderate to long
                  distances), and flight (for long to very long distance travel). Cars would
                  be mostly used in the country areas where other forms of transportation
                  aren't so easily used. Of course I'd also like to see a big upswing in
                  walking, biking, skateboarding, scootering, whatever.



                  =v= In the U.S. as in Mexico, buses are cheap and inferior
                  service, primarily used by the poor, and primarily planned as
                  service for communities of color. (Robert Bullard refers to
                  this phenomenon as "transportation apartheid.") The described
                  situation in Mexico doesn't suggest land use planning, but keep
                  in mind that it's just a particular niche, planned to be so.
                  The apparent "free market" dynamics are just chaotic processes
                  within that niche.

                  Yeah, as I mentioned before buses are percieved as a poor persons transport.
                  Too bad. Hopefully that impression can be changed.


                  Jason fahrion



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                • Jym Dyer
                  ... =v= That if is the crux. The only reason buses are economical is the existence of heavily-subsidized car-based transportation infrastructure. The
                  Message 8 of 9 , Aug 7, 2001
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                    > Buses still require roads to be sure but they wouldn't have to
                    > be as large if traffic was reduced by concentrating it into a
                    > few larger vehicles.

                    =v= That "if" is the crux. The only reason buses are economical
                    is the existence of heavily-subsidized car-based transportation
                    infrastructure. The relationship is symbiotic. And if the goal
                    is to concentrate transportation into a few larger vehicles, it
                    makes more sense to use comfortable, energy-efficent vehicles,
                    which means rail.

                    > I don't see buses as a replacement for rail. Rail is
                    > increddibly in-efficent for short journeys.

                    =v= For short journeys, rail is comparable with buses in terms
                    of energy used, but much better in terms of emissions. (This
                    according to Marcia Lowe of the Worldwatch Institute.)

                    > Yeah, as I mentioned before buses are percieved as a poor
                    > persons transport. Too bad. Hopefully that impression can be
                    > changed.

                    =v= It's not just perception, it's policy. I grew up in a blue-
                    collar neighborhood that was once middle-class. They marked the
                    transition by tearing out the tracks and putting in bus service.
                    Most buses are so uncomfortable that people will use other means
                    of getting around, unless they can't afford to.
                    <_Jym_>
                  • Fahrion, Jason L
                    ... =v= That if is the crux. The only reason buses are economical is the existence of heavily-subsidized car-based transportation infrastructure. The
                    Message 9 of 9 , Aug 7, 2001
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                      > Buses still require roads to be sure but they wouldn't have to
                      > be as large if traffic was reduced by concentrating it into a
                      > few larger vehicles.

                      =v= That "if" is the crux. The only reason buses are economical
                      is the existence of heavily-subsidized car-based transportation
                      infrastructure. The relationship is symbiotic. And if the goal
                      is to concentrate transportation into a few larger vehicles, it
                      makes more sense to use comfortable, energy-efficent vehicles,
                      which means rail.

                      But that infrastructure already exists. On the other hand the rail
                      infrastructure is mostly nonexistant at this point.


                      > I don't see buses as a replacement for rail. Rail is
                      > increddibly in-efficent for short journeys.

                      =v= For short journeys, rail is comparable with buses in terms
                      of energy used, but much better in terms of emissions. (This
                      according to Marcia Lowe of the Worldwatch Institute.)


                      I should have been clearer, by in-efficent I wasn't speaking to
                      environmental concerns but to practical ones. Rail is fine for moving long
                      distances but how are you possibly going to create a system of rails that
                      will cover a significant portion of a metro area? It'd be a nightmare. I
                      live in a suburb of portland oregon and we have a combination system. There
                      is a light rail that runs east-west from one end of the suburbs through
                      portland and out to the other end of the suburbs. Combined with that is a
                      reasonably good bus system. You take a rail to get somewhat close and then
                      bus the rest of the way (or walk or bike if thats your thing). They are
                      supposed to open a north-south branch which will again run from the suburbs
                      through portland and out to the other suburban edge. I think it's a great
                      idea (especially since it should connect to the airport). After that though
                      I think more rail would be a mistake. Its job is to get you to the general
                      location then the bus system can better move people to specific locales.
                      I guess what I'm trying to get at here is we are trying to find a solution
                      to a problem with conflicting forces. On the one hand the larger the
                      transporting vehicle the less convenient. The reason for this is simple:
                      bigger means less vehicles which means longer waits, less frequent trips to
                      smaller or more distant neighborhoods and more inconvenience due to frequent
                      stops. To explain that last point imagine riding a hypothetical "superbus"
                      which holds three times as many people as a normal bus. You still would see
                      the superbus stopping every 5 blocks or so, only now you are slowing down
                      three times as many people each time you stop. And because of the greater
                      number of people you will be stopping more often.
                      On the other hand you have the cost effects which decrease as the vehicle
                      gets larger (assuming it actually transports more people as it gets larger).
                      The key of course is to find a compromise that will try to maximize both.
                      You have to have a reasonable amount of convenience to have any chance of
                      getting it implemented, and you want to reduce the costs (in terms of money
                      and environmental issues) for obvious reasons.
                      Cars are a poor solution, they are all the way on the convenience end of the
                      spectrum. Mythical "superbuses" would be a bad solution because they go to
                      far the other direction. Rail would be even worse given that it would have
                      the same problems as my hypothetical superbus and require much more money to
                      implement because as I said before the infrastructure isn't there already.
                      Buses on the other hand can be an ideal solution.



                      > Yeah, as I mentioned before buses are percieved as a poor
                      > persons transport. Too bad. Hopefully that impression can be
                      > changed.

                      =v= It's not just perception, it's policy. I grew up in a blue-
                      collar neighborhood that was once middle-class. They marked the
                      transition by tearing out the tracks and putting in bus service.
                      Most buses are so uncomfortable that people will use other means
                      of getting around, unless they can't afford to.
                      <_Jym_>

                      It sounds like you've had bad experiences. The buses here and in eugene are
                      really pretty comfy. I look forward to riding the bus as a time I can read
                      or reflect or just zone. The only bus I rode on in SanFran was prety dingy
                      but that was more a matter of neglect than anything else. My family owns a
                      car but I'd much rather bus if I'm by myself (and use the light rail too
                      since its all part of one integrated mass transit company). I certainly
                      wouldn't be so eager to bus ride if they were as horrid as you are making
                      them out to be.


                      Jason Fahrion




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