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Re: WorldTransport Forum NY Times article on Mexico City

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  • Lee Schipper
    July 15, 2005 Rumblings at a Bus Stop: The Revolution Is Running Late By ELISABETH MALKIN MEXICO CITY, July 14 - It is 9 a.m., deep into the rush hour, and
    Message 1 of 2 , Jul 15, 2005
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      July 15, 2005
      Rumblings at a Bus Stop: The Revolution Is Running Late
      By ELISABETH MALKIN

      MEXICO CITY, July 14 - It is 9 a.m., deep into the rush hour, and commuters on the city's brand-new bus line are seething. The buses are inflicting their special torture: they arrive three at a time after a long wait, too jammed to accept more passengers.

      "They keep you standing here for hours and then the bus comes packed like a piñata," said María Félix González, 54, who tends a market stall, fuming as she looked down Insurgentes, the broad north-south avenue named for the rebels who fought for independence from Spain. There is no bus in sight. "The old way was faster."

      It has not been a happy start for the Metrobus, Mexico City's $50 million pilot plan to trade in the bumper car chaos of its privately owned minibuses for a modern system, complete with electronic turnstiles and express lanes - and a plea to commuters to remain patient while officials work out the kinks.

      But patience is not the virtue of most commuters along Insurgentes, many of whom want to mount their own insurgency against Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

      "We should cut off López Obrador's head," said Sandra Olozagaste, 24, a cook in a Chinese restaurant. It used to take her 10 minutes to complete the last part of her commute, she said on a recent day. Now it takes 30. "It's very bad service, it's not quick at all, the buses are completely full."

      The Metrobus is the leftist mayor's farewell to the city. After five years in office distinguished by efforts to unsnarl the city's traffic - one front in the battle against the city's legendary pollution - he will resign at the end of the month to begin his campaign for next year's presidential election. All national polls give him a comfortable lead over the other likely candidates.

      But the bus system is critical to cementing his reputation as a pragmatic problem-solver. Despite all the complaints, plenty of passengers have been won over.

      "He's the only politician with vision," said Luis Andrade, an office worker who says his travel time has been cut nearly in half by the Metrobus. The old buses raced, braked and suddenly lurched. "There were too many of them. All the noise, the pollution, that's been eliminated."

      Seventy-five percent of Metrobus riders asked in a poll published Monday by the newspaper Reforma said they considered it better than the old minibuses, and 81 percent said they believed the problems would eventually be resolved.

      City officials have spent three years planning the Insurgentes bus line, with financing from the World Bank and support from the World Resources Institute, an environmental organization based in Washington.

      The line is based on a model pioneered in the Brazilian city of Curitiba in the 1970's. Officials hope to expand the system around the city's main thoroughfares.

      By separating the bus from the rest of the traffic, the idea goes, the bus travels more quickly, luring some commuters from their cars. Taking the lawless minibuses off the streets reduces congestion and lets the traffic flow more freely. The intended result is fast, orderly public transportation, fewer traffic jams and lower emissions.

      Mexico City's Metrobus consists of 80 double-length articulated buses that travel along 12 miles each way of dedicated lanes along Insurgentes, one of the city's most congested streets. To speed up boarding, riders pass their fare card through a turnstile as they enter special stations built along the median and then step onto the bus from a raised platform.

      "Our system costs a tenth" of what a subway would cost, said Dr. Lee Schipper, research director of Embarq, the World Resources Institute's Center for Transport and the Environment, which helped Mexico City develop the system. He estimates that 50 cities in the world are constructing or studying some version of the system. In Bogotá, Colombia, the most extensive Latin American experiment so far, 750,000 people a day travel on the new bus lines.

      "It's fair to call it the toughest city in the world," said Dr. Schipper of the Mexican capital's transportation needs. "It's the worst combination of bad air, bad traffic and poor management that has let the transport system decay over 30 years."

      The careening private minibuses that competed for passengers used to weave across lanes and then stop two abreast, as commuters piled on. The city spent more than a year negotiating with the 262 owners whose buses plied Insurgentes to get them to remove their buses. They are now part owners and employees of the Metrobus.

      "This is a more dignified, more efficient, cleaner alternative," said Claudia Sheinbaum, the city's environment secretary. "We have to change the whole concept of public transport. This will work, we're convinced of it."

      Convincing the public of that has been harder. Since the line opened on June 19, newspapers have devoted generous space to pictures of the crowds, unfinished staircases and improvised lane dividers. The implication is clear: the mayor rushed to open the line to claim credit before he left office.

      The system offered free rides for the first few weeks, and as many as 300,000 boarded the Volvo buses each day at first, though it was designed for 250,000. Commuters started paying the 30-cent fare this week, and the load has fallen about 10 percent, officials said on Thursday. Brazilian consultants have also been refining the logistics to ensure that the buses, which leave the terminal every two minutes, will stay on time instead of bunching up.

      At a taxi stand three blocks from Insurgentes, the drivers disagreed strongly about the new bus line's impact.

      "It's much faster," said Enrique Sánchez, who travels along Insurgentes several times a day. "There are so many of us in this city and this is the first government in 75 years to bother to do anything."

      But Eloy Morales, another driver, had not a charitable word. "Insurgentes is unusable," he said. "They have taken away a lane. You can be stopped and three or four Metrobuses will go by."

      The city has piled on extra help at stations, workers who shout instructions and try to mold amorphous crowds into lines. "It's the third world, we are 20 million people, what do you expect?" said Mabel Grajales, a city worker who was one of those trying to move the crowds along.

      But Adriana Gallo, a real estate agent, disagreed. "All López Obrador cares about are the motorists," she said.

      Gaspar García, an accountant with the Mexican Postal Service, gave up his car to try the bus, but he is thinking about another alternative: a motor scooter.

      "I'm going to buy my Vespa," he said. "Most of my colleagues already have one."
    • Oscar Edmundo Diaz
      Two clarifications, Bogota is already moving more than 1 million passengers per day and I wish the cost of the Metrobus were 1/10 of a subway, it is far from
      Message 2 of 2 , Jul 15, 2005
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        Two clarifications, Bogota is already moving more than 1 million passengers per
        day and I wish the cost of the Metrobus were 1/10 of a subway, it is far from
        that, the necessary investments weren't made and this will affect the system's
        performance. Ironically enough the investment per kilometer in the
        double-decked highway (Segundo Piso) is 15 times more than the investment per
        kilometer in the Metrobus. This is in a city in which only 17% of the
        population moves in private cars. Thus, it is clear that those elevated
        highways are monuments to inequality. Unfortunately no investments in public
        space were made on the Insurgentes corridor and even in some cases the sidewalks
        were cut to build parking bays.
        The good thing is that these are things that can be fixed.
        Best
        OED

        ***PLEASE NOTE ADDRESS CHANGE***
        Oscar Edmundo Diaz
        Director Ejecutivo
        Fundación Por el País que Queremos
        Avenida 13 Nº 100 - 12, Oficina 1101
        Bogotá, DC, COLOMBIA
        Tel: +(57-1) 635-1571/49/38 - Fax: +(57-1) 635-1649
        URL: www.porelpaisquequeremos.com - E-mail: diazoe@... - Alternate:
        diazoe@...

        -----Original Message-----
        From: WorldTransport@yahoogroups.com [mailto:WorldTransport@yahoogroups.com] On
        Behalf Of Lee Schipper
        Sent: Friday, July 15, 2005 6:50 AM
        To: cpardo@...; sustran-discuss@...;
        carfree_network@...; WorldTransport@yahoogroups.com
        Cc: eric.britton@...
        Subject: Re: WorldTransport Forum NY Times article on Mexico City

        July 15, 2005
        Rumblings at a Bus Stop: The Revolution Is Running Late
        By ELISABETH MALKIN

        MEXICO CITY, July 14 - It is 9 a.m., deep into the rush hour, and commuters on
        the city's brand-new bus line are seething. The buses are inflicting their
        special torture: they arrive three at a time after a long wait, too jammed to
        accept more passengers.


        "They keep you standing here for hours and then the bus comes packed like a
        piñata," said María Félix González, 54, who tends a market stall, fuming as she
        looked down Insurgentes, the broad north-south avenue named for the rebels who
        fought for independence from Spain. There is no bus in sight. "The old way was
        faster."

        It has not been a happy start for the Metrobus, Mexico City's $50 million pilot
        plan to trade in the bumper car chaos of its privately owned minibuses for a
        modern system, complete with electronic turnstiles and express lanes - and a
        plea to commuters to remain patient while officials work out the kinks.

        But patience is not the virtue of most commuters along Insurgentes, many of whom
        want to mount their own insurgency against Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

        "We should cut off López Obrador's head," said Sandra Olozagaste, 24, a cook in
        a Chinese restaurant. It used to take her 10 minutes to complete the last part
        of her commute, she said on a recent day. Now it takes 30. "It's very bad
        service, it's not quick at all, the buses are completely full."

        The Metrobus is the leftist mayor's farewell to the city. After five years in
        office distinguished by efforts to unsnarl the city's traffic - one front in the
        battle against the city's legendary pollution - he will resign at the end of the
        month to begin his campaign for next year's presidential election. All national
        polls give him a comfortable lead over the other likely candidates.

        But the bus system is critical to cementing his reputation as a pragmatic
        problem-solver. Despite all the complaints, plenty of passengers have been won
        over.

        "He's the only politician with vision," said Luis Andrade, an office worker who
        says his travel time has been cut nearly in half by the Metrobus. The old buses
        raced, braked and suddenly lurched. "There were too many of them. All the noise,
        the pollution, that's been eliminated."

        Seventy-five percent of Metrobus riders asked in a poll published Monday by the
        newspaper Reforma said they considered it better than the old minibuses, and 81
        percent said they believed the problems would eventually be resolved.

        City officials have spent three years planning the Insurgentes bus line, with
        financing from the World Bank and support from the World Resources Institute, an
        environmental organization based in Washington.

        The line is based on a model pioneered in the Brazilian city of Curitiba in the
        1970's. Officials hope to expand the system around the city's main
        thoroughfares.

        By separating the bus from the rest of the traffic, the idea goes, the bus
        travels more quickly, luring some commuters from their cars. Taking the lawless
        minibuses off the streets reduces congestion and lets the traffic flow more
        freely. The intended result is fast, orderly public transportation, fewer
        traffic jams and lower emissions.

        Mexico City's Metrobus consists of 80 double-length articulated buses that
        travel along 12 miles each way of dedicated lanes along Insurgentes, one of the
        city's most congested streets. To speed up boarding, riders pass their fare card
        through a turnstile as they enter special stations built along the median and
        then step onto the bus from a raised platform.

        "Our system costs a tenth" of what a subway would cost, said Dr. Lee Schipper,
        research director of Embarq, the World Resources Institute's Center for
        Transport and the Environment, which helped Mexico City develop the system. He
        estimates that 50 cities in the world are constructing or studying some version
        of the system. In Bogotá, Colombia, the most extensive Latin American experiment
        so far, 750,000 people a day travel on the new bus lines.

        "It's fair to call it the toughest city in the world," said Dr. Schipper of the
        Mexican capital's transportation needs. "It's the worst combination of bad air,
        bad traffic and poor management that has let the transport system decay over 30
        years."

        The careening private minibuses that competed for passengers used to weave
        across lanes and then stop two abreast, as commuters piled on. The city spent
        more than a year negotiating with the 262 owners whose buses plied Insurgentes
        to get them to remove their buses. They are now part owners and employees of the
        Metrobus.

        "This is a more dignified, more efficient, cleaner alternative," said Claudia
        Sheinbaum, the city's environment secretary. "We have to change the whole
        concept of public transport. This will work, we're convinced of it."

        Convincing the public of that has been harder. Since the line opened on June 19,
        newspapers have devoted generous space to pictures of the crowds, unfinished
        staircases and improvised lane dividers. The implication is clear: the mayor
        rushed to open the line to claim credit before he left office.

        The system offered free rides for the first few weeks, and as many as 300,000
        boarded the Volvo buses each day at first, though it was designed for 250,000.
        Commuters started paying the 30-cent fare this week, and the load has fallen
        about 10 percent, officials said on Thursday. Brazilian consultants have also
        been refining the logistics to ensure that the buses, which leave the terminal
        every two minutes, will stay on time instead of bunching up.

        At a taxi stand three blocks from Insurgentes, the drivers disagreed strongly
        about the new bus line's impact.

        "It's much faster," said Enrique Sánchez, who travels along Insurgentes several
        times a day. "There are so many of us in this city and this is the first
        government in 75 years to bother to do anything."

        But Eloy Morales, another driver, had not a charitable word. "Insurgentes is
        unusable," he said. "They have taken away a lane. You can be stopped and three
        or four Metrobuses will go by."

        The city has piled on extra help at stations, workers who shout instructions and
        try to mold amorphous crowds into lines. "It's the third world, we are 20
        million people, what do you expect?" said Mabel Grajales, a city worker who was
        one of those trying to move the crowds along.

        But Adriana Gallo, a real estate agent, disagreed. "All López Obrador cares
        about are the motorists," she said.

        Gaspar García, an accountant with the Mexican Postal Service, gave up his car to
        try the bus, but he is thinking about another alternative: a motor scooter.

        "I'm going to buy my Vespa," he said. "Most of my colleagues already have one."





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