The Oaxaca city government admitted this week that its traffic is indeed slow after a study revealed the average speed of vehicles in the city is the slowest in the world.
A study by the United Nations found that the lack of a high-capacity public transportation network was a key problem.
The poor design of city bus routes means that 90% of the buses cross the narrow, colonial-era streets of downtown Oaxaca.
A second reason is the ever-increasing number of vehicles that take to the streets every day. Over the last decade, the total number of vehicles has grown from 50,000 to 180,000. Estimates indicate that one-third of all vehicles registered in the state are in Oaxaca city.
Another factor is that many motorists, unable to find a place to park, simply double-park and effectively obstruct traffic flow
Those conditions are enough to cause traffic to go haywire on any given day, but throw in the near-daily protest marches and roadblocks and parts of the city become impassable for long periods.
Mayor José Antonio Hernández Fraguas acknowledged there is a problem but stressed that a fundamental factor is that most of the important thoroughfares were never designed for vehicles.
As for possible solutions, Hernández suggested restricting the entry of vehicles in the center, imposing a speed limit of 30 kilometers per hour, enouraging greater use of bicycles and creating more pedestrian corridors.
Many streets in neighborhoods surrounding the city’s historic center have too many poorly installed speed bumps and traffic lights, the mayor said, and the latter lack the necessary technology to be synchronized.
The day when motorists and public transportation users can get to their destination in time might still be a long way off, but measures implemented by recent municipal administrations have proven successful.
Hernández, who has been mayor for just over a year, has continued to implement the “1 by 1” program created by his predecessor in 2014, in which traffic lights have been removed from strategic intersections. Motorists must now yield instead, allowing one vehicle from each street to enter at a time.
The measure has not only sped up traffic at those strategic points of the city, but has also had a positive effect on the number of traffic accidents reported. They have dropped by as much as 80%.
The Inrix Global Traffic Scorecard showed that the average speed of traffic in Oaxaca during peak hours was just 5.9 kilometers per hour, barely faster than walking. By comparison, the average traffic speed during peak hours around the world was 14.4 km/h.