On June 19, Mexico City began operating Metrobus, a Bus Rapid Transit system, on a 19.4-kilometer route along Insurgentes Avenue, one of the city’s busiest north-south corridors. Aimed at helping save travel time for riders, decrease street congestion, lower local air pollution, and reduce CO2 emissions, Metrobus represents one of two primary transport solutions that former Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador sought for Mexico City since he took office in 2000.
The launch of Metrobus was hampered by a rush to begin service before López Obrador’s departure to plan his bid for Mexico’s presidency. Key aspects such as the ticketing system and the control center were not yet on-line when the system was inaugurated, and several abrupt management changes occurred. ITDP was active in providing technical assistance on pedestrian and bike integration, operations management training, and public outreach, and has offered its assistance on ticketing system issues. Challenges now include expanding the system into an integrated network, and expanding the number of private operators beyond the current single consortium.
Public reaction to Metrobus has been favorable. Current average daily ridership is 250,000. According to a household opinion survey fielded by Consulta Mitofsky one month after Metrobus began its service, approximately 56% of survey participants (70% of which rely on public or mass transit) are in favor of the BRT system, citing reductions in commuting time and congestion. Some 30% of all survey participants indicate that they derive some benefit from Metrobus, while 18% of participants (a group consisting mostly of taxi and private automobile users) feel negatively affected, expressing dislike for the increased congestion in the automobile lanes.
The other transport intervention being pursued in Mexico City is the construction of elevated highways, or segundos pisos. At more than ten times the per-kilometer cost of Metrobus, the elevated highways have been criticized as a highly un-egalitarian public investment, given that more than 70% of Mexico City’s population relies on mass transit rather than private automobiles for their transportation needs. On July 10th, according to a recent issue of The Economist, auditors announced that $30 million was unaccounted for from funds allocated to build the elevated highways, which currently stand unfinished in several areas. Inquiries into the money spent on the highways in 2003 also found that many of the columns supporting the elevated highway were not as strong as they should be.