Mexico City residents spend a lot of time on their daily commute to and from work, time that can add up to as many as 45 days in a single year.
Research by the newspaper El Universal found that not only is going to work time consuming, it’s costly: as much as 40% of an annual middle-class salary can be spent on transportation costs.
On average, capitalinos spend 2.5 hours each day commuting, while any trip within Mexico City usually takes at least 50% more time than what it would take if there were no traffic.
As with anything in Mexico City, a city of extremes, worst-case scenarios can happen: an ideal one-hour trip in the borough of Iztapalapa — one of the city’s most congested — took 2.5 hours when clocked between September and October last year.
Over the course of last summer, Avenida Reforma saw an accumulated 250 hours, or over 10 days, of complete gridlock.
And the near future will see it getting worse for people in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world.
An urban planning expert from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology explained that there are currently between 300 and 400 cars for every 1,000 people in the city.
Given that cars are becoming consistently cheaper, “it is easy to predict that the figure to leap to between 600 and 700 in a decade. That would entail doubling the number of available streets,” warned Onésimo Flores.
More than a prediction, Flores’ assessment is a warning: between 2015 and 2016, travel times in Mexico City increased by 5%.
If that trend isn’t reverted, “in five years streets will have double the saturation and average travel speed will be reduced by 50%,” stated Eugenio Riveroll, director of the mobility consultancy Sin Tráfico.
Current mobility conditions in the greater Mexico City area can also be explained by housing policies of the last 30 years.
While the population of Mexico City proper grew by 20,000 people in that period, that of the Valley of Mexico grew by 5 million.
“The price dynamic is pushing poor and lower middle-class people out of the city, and transportation strategies are slow to reach those peripheral areas,” said Flores.
“People live three or four hours away from the city not because they like it, but because they can’t afford to live any closer,” explained Roberto Eibenschutz, an urban planning expert from the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM).
While the central area of Mexico City is seeing negative growth, the surrounding municipalities that make up its metropolitan area have been growing exponentially: Huehuetoca and Tecámac, in the State of México, have the highest annual population growth rates in the country.
Years of housing subsidy schemes made purchasing a home in those areas easy, at the cost of being away from everything.
Yet the lack of adequate public transit only worsens those conditions. Only 32% of the city’s population has a major public transportation hub or station one kilometer or less away from their homes or their workplaces.
Proposed solutions to the city’s mobility challenges are as multifaceted as its problems.
“We must help the people that have to commute three hours. There’s no easy solution in a city of 23 million people . . . We must seek to make neighborhoods self-sufficient, and keep transportation within them,” says Ricardo Marinni, manager of the urban design firm Gehl Architects.
A study performed by Sin Tráfico found that if employers agreed to adjust the entry and departure of employees by 60 minutes, thereby ameliorating the congestion at peak hours, workers could get back the equivalent of up to eight days a year.
The problem is that, whatever the solution, not everybody will be satisfied, said Eibenschutz.
“The satisfaction of the greater number of people must be sought, knowing that a percentage of the population will end up dissatisfied.”
Source: El Universal (sp)