Mexico City tackles congestion head-on

By Mary Ebeling

As recently as 2011, Mexico City ranked among the world’s worst for traffic congestion. But now, Mexico City’s improvements to their transportation system can serve as a model for other municipalities to learn from. The city shines as an international example of a rapidly growing city successfully lowering carbon emissions, reducing the severity of traffic jams, increasing public space, and improving overall quality of life.

So how did Mexico City, Mexico’s capital and a densely populated mega-city, transform its nightmare automobile traffic problem? It was accomplished using a multi-pronged approach. City policymakers and planners successfully implemented a suite of infrastructure improvements, operational reforms, and new policies to change the way the city accesses transportation options.

In 2012, Mexico City implemented a variety of projects that reduced the city’s legendary congestion while improving the livability, mobility, and quality of life for its citizens. The city added service on its Bus Rapid Transit system, extending routes to connect the historic city center to the airport. It also increased the number of bike lanes in the city and expanded the bike sharing program, Ecobici. Simultaneous renovations to city parks and squares invited more pedestrians to use these spaces, making for more vibrant public venues. Finally, comprehensive on-street parking reform and targeted street closures proved extremely effective for reducing excessive automobile traffic and encouraged citizens to use newly available alternative transportation modes. These parking reforms, paired with improvements in transit, walking, and biking, formed one of the most effective tools for encouraging use of these modes in Mexico City. In recognition of this achievement, in January 2013 the Institute for Transportation and Development recognized Mexico City’s achievements with a Sustainable Transport award.

Mary Ebeling is a Transportation Policy Analyst at SSTI.