March 01, 2003

Mexico City Announces Bus Rapid Transit Plans

Last fall, a referendum called for Mexico City citizens to vote on whether or not to construct the Segundo Piso, but only 6.6 percent of the population voted. This made the results invalid under a new Law of Citizen Participation, which governs the referendum process. Soon after, Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced he would postpone the Segundo Piso because of budgetary constraints.
 

Despite the postponement, the administration is going forward with the construction of two flyovers ­ one of which was planned as phase one of the initial Segundo Piso project. This flyover has cost US$80 million, $10 million more than originally planned, and will be finished next month. Residents living near the flyovers have started to complain about the deterioration of their homes and indicate that the support columns are sinking because the weight cannot be supported by Mexico City’s moist soil.

The Segundo Piso and flyover projects will likely induce more traffic congestion and will serve only the 20% of residents who use private automobiles. In contrast, the Bus Rapid Transit system will reduce over-crowding on three metro lines and improve public transit in areas underserved by the existing metro system.

Mexico City will receive support for the Bus Rapid Transit corridors from the World Bank and the Global Environmental Fund. The Hewlett Packard Foundation and the World Resources Institute and are also supporting sustainable transportation initiatives in the city, and the WRI contracted TransMilenio’s first Managing Director to do preliminary planning work on the BRT system.

Although the BRT system has not been designed, the city anticipates beginning the first phase of construction this year. One important consideration that needs to be resolved is an integration of Mexico City’s BRT system with one being planned by the State of Mexico. The State plans to run BRT corridors to the edge of Mexico City from surrounding towns, which hold 11 million commuters. If either party misses the opportunity to integrate these separate plans, the efficiency and effectiveness of both systems would suffer.

It will also be important for Mexico City’s planners to look at the Bus Rapid Transit concept holistically, integrating it with other aspects of the city’s transportation system. While developing its BRT system design, the city should plan to integrate pedestrian and bicycle access, improved public spaces and traffic reduction strategies. Links to the city’s existing metro system should be created, and planners need to decide if they will create and integrated fare structure for both systems.

The city is already developing a network of bicycle corridors called Eco-Pistas. The first phase will construct 90 kilometers of routes and the final system will have nearly 400 kilometers. Preliminary plans for the first phase of construction do not connect the Eco-Pistas to metro and BRT stations.

However, the plan has not been finalized and both the World Bank, which is supplying some funding for the project, and the city’s administration are receptive to the idea of extending the paths to connect to the transit system. Including sidewalks in design plans will round out non-motorized access to the system.

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