Tag Archives: Mexico City

Why Public Transit is Under Funded

The reason that public transit (and bike lanes) are underfunded is that the rich don’t rely on them

Another report has come out in support of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), an innovative way to provide public transit at a low cost with dedicated bus lanes, stops, and schedules.

The study (PDF), from pro-transit group Embarq, found that BRT drastically reduced commute times, improved air quality, and cut road fatalities in congested cities like Bogota, Istanbul, Johannesburg, and Mexico City. And we already know that BRT is one of the most cost-effective public transit investments a municipality can make.

The catch? In most cities examined in the report, those benefits only extend to low- and middle-class residents. (In Johannesburg, the poorest residents did not use BRT).

“Since the dominant benefit is travel time savings,” the study’s authors wrote, “the majority of benefits tend to accrue to the strata most represented by BRT users — typically lower- and middle-income.”

While it’s great to have a system that improves transportation access for the majority of a city’s population, BRT’s mass appeal could — ironically — be a political concern that prevents its adoption, at least in the U.S. As Alex Pareene wrote in Salon, public transit often suffers because politicians and donors rarely rely on it. The results show in the states, whose existing BRT systems lag behind those in cities around the world.

Even in densely populated and traditionally liberal cities like New York and Minneapolis, politicians neglect transit. And “because they don’t know or interact with or receive checks from people who rely on it every day, there’s almost no hope for cheap, efficient mass transit options anywhere,” Pareene wrote.

Indeed, the Embarq report echoes the public transit wealth gap, and cites that most BRT systems are often paid for by tax revenue collected from those who may never ride it. Bogota’s famed TransMilenio was financed by increased gasoline taxes, and all the systems required both substantial investment and support from municipalities.

But the Embarq report also showed that BRTs benefited cities with environmental and productivity gains more than they strained financial resources. For example, the average commuter in Istanbul now gets to and from work about an hour faster thanks to the Metrobüs, and Mexico City’s BRT system reduced air pollution enough to save 6,000 sick days a year.

As cities continue to grow and congestion increases, the benefits of BRT may become impossible to ignore — even to the rich and powerful folks who are stuck in traffic.

You see the same thing here in Saskatoon.  After last night’s City Council meeting, you could almost say the same things about bike lanes.

A new vision for cities

As the global economies change, so will the roles of civic leaders if we want to stay competitive

In his presentation (and in our Metro North America report), Bruce Katz outlined a three-part playbook for how sub-national leaders are acting to further trade, investment, and economic growth in our three countries:

Set a vision. City and metropolitan leaders are setting bold visions for the future of their economies that can focus public, private, and civic sector actors on shared goals for growth. Mayor Smith outlined his city’s new mantra: Educate, Innovate, Facilitate, Elevate. His economic development agenda is focused around strengthening Mesa’s assets in healthcare, education, aerospace, and tourism (HEAT), and working together with partners in the Maricopa Association of Governments and the Greater Phoenix Economic Council to create and execute a metropolitan business plan . Taking greater advantage of the region’s already strong ties with cities and states in Mexico is an important part of those visions.

Invest in what matters. The factors that drive city and regional growth are innovation, human capital, and infrastructure. The quality of those assets, regardless of the sector in which they are applied, account for long-run economic success. Windsor, Ontario Mayor Eddie Francis described how the downturn in the auto industry in the late 2000s threatened tens of thousands of workers in his city, a major North American auto hub just across the border from Detroit. Recognizing this, the city and region invested in helping auto suppliers transition into the aerospace industry, taking advantage of workers with widely applicable manufacturing skills and excess plant capacity to diversify the economy towards a sector with growing opportunities. Working with the University of Windsor to develop a new aerospace engineering program, the region has succeeded in attracting thousands of new aircraft maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) jobs. Even the university’s automotive research programAUTO21 has become a key partner in bolstering the region’s emerging aerospace cluster.

Network globally. The capstone of the GCI-Mexico forum was the signing of a new agreement by mayors Miguel Ángel Mancera of Mexico City and Rahm Emanuel of Chicago to partner together on strategies to grow the economies of both cities. While “sister cities” agreements have existed for some time—and Chicago alone has 28 of them, focused mainly on cultural exchange—the new agreement aims to take the cities’ already-strong relationship in an explicitly economic direction, exploring joint opportunities for foreign direct investment, export promotion, and increased tourism. As Mayor Emanuel described during a discussion with Mayor Mancera moderated by JPMorgan Chase Executive Vice President Peter Scher, Chicago is acting boldly because the city cannot be held hostage to the functioning (or dysfunction) of its state and national governments. And Mayor Mancera noted that even given the progress being achieved today at the national level in Mexico, mayors are ultimately co-responsible for generating local and regional growth and prosperity.

Mexico City trashes it’s garbage problem

Interesting article on how Mexico City has become so successful in reducing waste that it is closing it’s largest landfill.

Mexico City will close one of the world’s largest garbage dumps by Dec. 31 and will instead turn the garbage from millions of people into reusable materials and energy, MayorMarcelo Ebrard announced Monday.

Some 700 trucks that carry garbage to the Bordo Poniente will no longer be admitted as of Monday, and all operations will cease by the end of the year, Ebrard said.

Trucks will still enter the recycling separation plant and a composting plant already on the premises.

The city that once dumped 12,600 tons of garbage daily already has cut the amount in half this year through recycling and composting, said government undersecretary Juan Jose Garcia Ochoa.

The concrete giant Cemex SAB has agree to buy 3,000 tons daily to turn into energy, Garcia said. The city is seeking other landfills to dump the remaining garbage in smaller amounts while it institutes a new recycling program in the new year.

Built on a dry lake bed partly to handle the rubble from the devastating 1985 earthquake, Bordo Poniente has taken in more than 76 million tons of trash.

Closing the dump will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 2 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, according to the city government.

Ebrard said the city is implementing strict measures to stop illegal dumping at the site and to process materials into compost. It will also embark next year on a major project to harness the methane gas produced at the dump into energy, he said.

Ebrard said the city also plans to open a new plant to recycle construction waste into building material.

The Mexican capital itself has about 8.8 million residents, but its metropolitan area holds more than 20 million.

The city has been working for years to turn one of the planet’s biggest and messiest waste management systems into the greenest, at least in Latin America.

Three years ago, the city recycled only 6 percent of its garbage. Today, that number is close to 60 percent, having grown substantially in the last year, Garcia said.

The good news is that Saskatoon is on it’s way to making some of the same things come true, the bad news is that we can’t seem to get curb side recycling off the ground so it’s a long ways off.