RE: WorldTransport Forum NY Times article on Mexico City
- 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.
***PLEASE NOTE ADDRESS CHANGE***
Oscar Edmundo Diaz
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:
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@...;
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
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
"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
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
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
"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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