How Mexico City Went From Commuter Hell to Paradise in Two Years

Mexico City's emergence as a "commuter's paradise" due to a focus on people and places, rather than cars and driving, has earned the city this year's Sustainable Transport Award from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).
January 18, 2013, 5am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Josie Garthwaite details how the Mexican capital's embrace of bicycles, pedestrian-friendly plazas and walkways, new bus lines, and parking meters (?), has transformed it from commuter hell to paradise in just a couple of years.

"'They really changed quite fundamentally the direction and vision of the city, and a lot of it was in 2012,' said Walter Hook, chief executive of ITDP, an international nonprofit that works with cities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve quality of urban life."

"Since 2011," explains Garthwaite, "Mexico City has added two new bus corridors to its Metrobus system, connecting the narrow streets in the historic center to the airport and making it the longest bus rapid transit (BRT) system in Latin America. The city also added nearly 90 stations and 1,200 new bicycles to the Ecobici bike-sharing program, began to reform on-street parking, improved sidewalks, and established new walkways. Cars were removed entirely from some narrow streets to make room for free flow of buses and pedestrians, and marketplaces were established for street vendors to help unclog the corridors."

And about those parking meters? "The new parking system, called ecoParq, introduced multispace meters to thousands of parking spots on streets where parking previously had been free—officially free, anyway." Although the unregulated valets or attendants known as franeleros, who controlled much of the city's on-street parking, protested the changes, "ecoParq has proven to be popular among many residents," notes Garthwaite.

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Published on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 in National Geographic
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