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Mexico: The Reality of Public Transportation in Mexico City

The Federal District (DF) of Mexico City is the capital city of the United States of Mexico and has a population of 8,851,080 inhabitants (the Mexico City Metropolitan Area has 20,137,152 inhabitants), according to the latest official census [es]. Most of them use the public transportation network daily to travel from their home to their place of work, education or entertainment.

The network includes various mediums of transportation such as light rail, the bus system, the Metro and Metrobus, among others. In 2010, the Metro alone transported more than 1,410 million users, according to official figures [es].

Mexico D.F. Metro passengers. Image from Flickr rafeforst (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

But what do its users think about the Metro and Metrobus in Mexico City? What is the perception of the real situation? In this regard, the citizen portal Transeúnte [es] reports:

La Ciudad de México cuenta con varias redes de transporte público que han demostrado ser eficientes y de gran importancia para la ciudad. De esta forma, el Metro, Metrobús, la Red de Transportes de Pasajeros y el Servicio de Transportes Eléctricos se han constituido como una alternativa de movilidad importante para los capitalinos.

Mexico City has several public transportation networks which have proven to be efficient and of great importance for the city. Thus, the Metro, Metrobus, the Passenger Transportation Network and Electrical Transportation Services have been established as an important alternative option for mobility for the capital citizenry.

Transeúnte, edited by Rocío Núñez, points out the advantages of the Metrobús in particular:

Por otro lado, una de las principales ventajas de los sistemas de transporte público del Distrito Federal, es la reducción de los tiempos de traslado, ya que de acuerdo con los datos del Centro de Transporte Sustentable, el Metrobús ha logrado disminuir el tiempo de viaje de sus usuarios, entre un 30 y 50 por ciento en las rutas que recorre.

On the other hand, one of the main advantages of the public transportation system of the Federal District, is reducing travel times [.] [A]ccording to data from the Center for Sustainable Transportation, the Metrobús has reduced the travel time of its users, between 30 and 50 percent on routes it travels.

Blogger Diana Medina [es] recounts her experience as a passenger with her daughter on the same medium:

Les cuento entonces que el domingo nos subimos al Metrobús. El primer enfrentamiento fue el torniquete, ella no paga por tener 3 años, entonces tuvo que pasar por abajo del torniquete para entrar. El policía fue el que le dio la indicación, pero ella lo veía detenidamente, hasta que se animó y pasó. Debo decir que la gente que trabaja en el Metrobús, nos tocó muy amable. Están los anfitriones que son los que te ayudan con recargar tu tarjeta y te dan la información que necesites.

Let me tell you, on Sunday we took the Metrobus. The first difficulty we faced was the turnstile, since she is 3 years old, she does not pay, so to enter she had to go under the turnstile. The policeman instructed her, but she looked at him carefully, until she felt encouraged and dove in. I must say that the people working on the Metrobus were very friendly. There are hosts who help you charge your card and provide any needed information.

After sharing her experience, the aforementioned blogger ends her post with the following:

Eso es el transporte público, el respirar y vivir la Ciudad. A horas pico y entre semana, entre empujones y gritos de vendedores ambulantes, el respirar es difícil, pero aún así el transporte público es algo que deben conocer nuestros hijos. Es parte de su realidad. Es parte de su Ciudad.

That is public transportation, breathing and living the city. At peak hours and on weekends between jostles and shouts from mobile vendors, breathing is difficult, but even so public transportation is something our children should know. It's part of their reality. It's part of their City.
Metrobús traveling through México City. Image by J. Tadeo

Metrobús traveling through México City. Image by J. Tadeo

Grehz, from the Blog de la Minoría [es] shares his appreciation of a different medium, the Metro:

A través de la ventana el DF (Ciudad de México) se mira gris y mudo. No es un silencio de coches, sino un silencio de voces. A esta hora miles de hombres y mujeres saturan calles, escaleras, andenes y pasillos en esa carrera desesperada por el medio de transporte que habrá de llevarlos al trabajo. Miles de pasos desgastan un poco más el suelo viejo de la ciudad; suben y bajan de prisa las escaleras del metro; entran y salen de esos túneles como ratones; suben el calor y cambian de color.

Through the window, the DF (Mexico City) looks gray and silent. It’s not a silence of cars, but a silence of voices. At this time thousands of men and women saturate streets, stairs, platforms and walkways in that desperate race to the means of transportation that will take them to work. Thousands of footsteps wear out little by little the worn out city’s floor; they go up and down the subway stairs; they enter and exit tunnels like mice; they increase the heat and change colors.

He continues telling a story about a sale by a street salesman inside a subway car:

Un hombre sube al vagón. En su mano lleva un DVD portátil abierto, tipo laptop, mostrando la pantalla a los pasajeros. Al hombro lleva una mochilita colgando de una correa que le cruza el pecho, como canana. En la mochilita, discos y el sonido: se observan las bocinas. “Te vale 10 pesos, DVD con 15 éxitos del New Age…”

A man boards the car. In his hand he carries an open portable DVD player, the type resembling a laptop, showing the screen to the passengers. In his shoulders, a small backpack hanging from a strap across his chest, as an ammunition belt. In the backpack, CDs and sound: speakers peeking out. “10 pesos, DVD with 15 New Age hits…”

The author of the blog Cachitos de Mi Vida (Bits of My Life) [es] addresses the issue of the Metro, questions its efficiency and reflects on the subsidy on the ticket:

Utilizo diariamente el metro porque estoy convencida que es el mejor sistema de transporte que el hombre ha creado: es (en teoría) rápido, eficiente y económico. Sin embargo en esta ciudad es, sí económico pero nada rápido ni mucho menos eficiente.

Y los carteles en las taquillas que nos recuerdan lo barato que es (Recuerda usuario, debería de costar 9 pesos) en realidad refleja la idea que tiene el gobierno (en este caso el de la ciudad) de los usuarios y la leyenda en realidad quiere decir: “Ey tú, pobretón, todavía que te dejamos regalado el metro ¿te quejas? Cállate, no tienes ningún derecho porque pagas una miseria”.

¿Por qué se piensa eso? Porque creen (y es cierto en parte) que el metro sólo lo usan los más pobres de la ciudad, los más mugrosos, los leprosos de la sociedad. Pues entonces ¡Qué leprosa ciudad! porque diariamente lo utilizan millones y millones, y efectivamente muchos de ellos, pobres.

I use the metro daily because I am convinced that it is the best system of transportation that man has created: It is (in theory) fast, efficient and inexpensive. However, in this city it is inexpensive, but not fast nor efficient.

And the signs at the desk that remind us how cheap it is (Remember passenger, it should cost 9 pesos) actually reflect the government's (in this case the city’s) view of the passengers, and the sign really means, “Hey you, penniless, even though we give you the metro you complain? Shut up, you have no right because you pay a pittance.”

Why do they think that? Because they believe (and it is partly true) that the Metro is used only by the poorest of the city, the most filthy, the lepers of society. Well then, what a leprous city! because every day millions use it, and indeed many of them are poor.

Urbanovision [es], from the UMX Blog, reports dissatisfaction among Metro passengers:

Las fallas mecánicas y el constante retraso en el servicio en las Líneas A y B del Sistema de Transporte (STC) Metro cada día provocan mayor malestar entre miles de usuarios, quienes en algunos casos deben esperar 10, 15 o hasta 20 minutos para abordar un tren en estaciones de transbordo, en hora pico, y todo porque la falta de mantenimiento y el insuficiente número de trenes en servicio son evidentes.

Mechanical failures and the constant delays in service on lines A and B of the Transportation System (STC), the Metro, every day cause more unrest among thousands of passengers, who must sometimes wait 10, 15 or 20 minutes to catch a train at transfer stations, during rush hour, all because of a lack of maintenance and an insufficient number of trains in service.

In the same manner, CTS (Centro de Transporte Sustentable) México (Center for Sustainable Transportation)  [es] reviews the statements from the director of the Mexican Association of Transportation and Mobility of Mexico City, who pitched interesting adjectives for the capital's public transportation system:

Jesús Padilla, director de la Asociación Mexicana de Transporte y Movilidad del Distrito Federal reconoció que en la Ciudad de México se ofrece un servicio de transporte “inseguro, ineficiente, incómodo, con una tarifa inadecuada, un parque vehicular obsoleto, contaminante, y corrupto”.

Jesus Padilla, director of the Mexican Association of Transportation and Mobility of Mexico City acknowledged that Mexico City offers a transportation service that is “unsafe, inefficient, uncomfortable, with an inappropriate fee, an obsolete fleet, polluting, and corrupt.”

Undoubtedly the opinions from the blogging community about the Metro and Metrobús in Mexico City are varied and interesting. The city is facing challenges of a diverse nature and is shaping up to be one of the most densely populated cities in Latin America.

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