January 01, 2003

In Guatemala City, Surface Metro Takes Shape

The initial line, expected to be complete in six months, is only the first part of a long-term vision for a city-wide BRT system called Trans Metro. The expected cost of the system is a rather economical $600,000 per km constructed. To make the Bus Rapid Transit corridors viable, the municipality has made the difficult decision to reduce on-street parking.

Ominously, car ownership has grown at a startling pace of 10% each year in Guatemala City, with most of the growth in auto use coming at the expense of collective transport. Private vehicles are now making more that 23% of all trips in the city. To combat the associated congestion and contamination from increased auto use, the city has embarked upon initiatives to improve and secure public space.

The historical center of the city is undergoing a regeneration initiative, and permanent pedestrian zones are being developed. A recently constructed pedestrian zone called 4 grados norte (4 degrees north) has already attracted a range of shops and restaurants, thus providing the links between economic development and quality urban space.

The city has also made a modest start to formalizing car-free days. In July, a day free of car travel to work was mandatory for municipal employees. In November, a second car-free day was held, and municipal workers were joined by participating national agencies and private-sector firms.

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