In a city where car’s average speed is 12km/hour and citizens spend around three hours caught up in traffic, finding mobility solutions becomes a pressing need. Still, every problem comes with a silver lining. In Mexico City’s case, traffic problems open up the possibility for civil society and authorities to find innovative solutions that do not privilege the use of private cars.
At the XII International Congress for Cities and Transportation sponsored by CTS Embarq and the World Resources Institute Mexico, Felipe Calderón, Former President of Mexico advocated for a more responsible use of public resources, particularly in terms of public transportation. “Public investment needs to be directed toward efficient public transportation that offers quality services and not to infrastructure destined to the use private use of cars,” said Calderón.
The increasing number of private cars in Mexico, combined with a lax regulation for vehicle verification and the large number of units with more than 10 years destined for public and goods transportation has led to an impressive increase in pollution levels of the country’s capital. According to the Clean Air Institute, Mexico is the second country in Latin America with the largest number of deaths due to pollution.
The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate stated on its 2016 report that pollution-related health issues cost the Mexican economy around 4.5% of its GDP. According to the report, in Mexico City alone there are 5,000 annual deaths due to pollution and 14,000 hospitalizations.
President Calderón proposed a series of solutions aimed at alleviating the City’s pollution and congestion problems. For Calderón, applying congestion charges in Mexico City such as the ones used in London or Stockholm would help reduce pollution and congestion levels. “These measures have proved effective reducing the number of cars in the streets in one fifth and transportation times in one third. Pollutant emissions have been reduced and traffic safety has increased notably.”
For Calderón, an additional health related problem derived from prolonged car use is stress. “Authorities need to consider that traffic increases stress levels, while generating environmental damage.”
Though the Congress did not offer a solve-it-all option, it did emphasize the need to create a new mobility scheme that favors public transportation instead of private cars.