February 20, 2013

How Mexico City is recovering from gridlock

E&E - Little more than a year after making it to the top of IBM's list of worst commuter cities, Mexico City has returned to the urban transit spotlight -- this time at the receiving end of international praise.

During 2012, the city underwent major changes directed at developing a more sustainable transportation system, earning this year's Sustainable Transport Award from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.

Mexico's capital expanded its rapid transit bus system, Metrobus, with a new corridor connecting the city's historic center to the airport; opened a 9-mile subway line called Linea 12, or the "Golden Line"; piloted an on-street parking meter reform called ecoParq; expanded its successful public bike system, Ecobici; and spruced up public spaces.

These improvements have helped unclog some of Mexico City's main traffic hot spots, making them more bike- and pedestrian-friendly, but the question remains whether they will be enough to overturn Mexico's long-standing propensities toward gridlock and urban sprawl.

In the meantime, Mexico City is already seeing a drop in emissions, said Federal District Minister of Environment Tanya Müller.

"There is an impact on CO2 emissions," Müller said about the ministry's Ecobici program. "The number is quite shocking."

Taking the number of trips made with the bikes, the ministry was able to calculate the amount of CO2 that would have been emitted if the same distance had been covered by car. According to calculations by EMBARQ, an organization that focuses on improving transportation, from the start of the program in February 2010 to 2011, Ecobici avoided up to 105 tons of CO2 emissions.

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