Urban mobility in Mexico City’s district “La Condesa”

La Condesa

The Colonia Condesa is located in the central area of Mexico City. What people commonly known as Condesa is not one settlement itself, but the area really comprises three: Condesa, Hipódromo Condesa and Hipódromo. It is a well-known area because of the amount of coffee shops, bookstores, restaurants, art galleries and boutiques it has, and also by the culture and nightlife of the district.

Its history dates back to the years of the colony, when it stood in this space the Hacienda of Santa Maria del Arenal, which years later was acquired by the family of the Countess of Miravalle, hence the name. During the past three decades, thanks to the initially low prices, the settlement began to fill with residences and offices, turning over the years into one of the most valuable and trendy places in the city. Today more than 70,000 people live in the region (counting the districts Condesa – Roma) and around 170,000 non-residents flock to the area daily.

The increase in population, the opening of new offices and the fame of the area, attracting hundreds of visitors daily, made ​​mobility became a serious problem.

In general, this is the picture that is perceived in the rest of the city, however because of the inherent characteristics of this area, it was one of the priorities to be addressed by local governments. These features being the cultural and gastronomic offer, the urban landscape in which there are at least two large parks and a great number of planters, and streets with historic buildings from the 30s and 40s.

Highly congested streets, exaggerated time to cross a traffic light, over 30 minutes to find parking to get to work, pedestrian spaces invaded by cars, public places conquered by the franeleros (people who take care of cars in exchange for a fee), non walking sidewalks for their physical condition or because they have been occupied by restaurants or other businesses … well, a number of elements that gradually degrade the quality of life of the fixed inhabitants and passengers in the area.

According to the European Union’s document Cities of Tomorrow, “The modernization of physical space is a necessary but insufficient condition for guaranteeing quality of life and neighborhoods and cities with long-term sustainability. […] Accessibility to public transport and services and the availability and quality of public spaces and shopping areas, are other very important factors for inclusion and quality of life”.

What has been done in the area to guarantee these characteristics?

Urban mobility: a sum of alternatives

The reduction of congestion is important from a health point of view, but it is not only about reducing CO2 emissions, pollution and noise – it is also about giving the citizens the possibility of re-conquering the city. (Cities of Tomorrow)

At the present time the three major government programs coexist in Mexico City, two of which have been successfully implemented (Metrobus transit system and bike rental initiative Ecobici) and one that began a couple of months (the installation of parking meters) and which is to be proven effective.

In terms of public transport, the Metrobus currently covers 90km with four lines and 141 stations, which give service to around 800,000 people per day. La Condesa features 9 stations of two different lines that provide entry and exit routes to the area by, at least, two of the most important avenues of the city.

Metrobus © EFE

In terms of the bike rental initiative, Ecobici, operates 275 cycle stations concentrated in 22 km2 on Cuauhtémoc and Miguel Hidalgo areas and currently has more than 87,000 active users. Within Condesa, there are more than 100 stations operating, connecting with the main means of transportation such as the Metrobus, Metro and other public transport routes.

Ecobici

The parking meter program began on January 2013, with a public consultation, which showed an attitude in favor of the measurement in four of the nine zones. In most of the precincts of Condesa, the vote went against. However the devices have been installed in recent months. In accordance with the provisions of the program, 30 percent of total revenue for the operation of EcoParq (parking meter service) will go to improving public space and neighborhood committees will decide on the use of resources.

EcoParq

Governance and public participation

Given that mobility projects, not only in Condesa but throughout Mexico City have been one of the priorities from the last two governments, nowadays they are a necessity and a primarily requirement on the part of citizens towards the new local governments.

Proof of this is that in the middle of last year, during electoral campaigns, Miguel Angel Mancera, current head of government, stated as one of his main campaign promises “I will work in mobility comfort. Better public transport.”

As of today, during the first months of his administration, subway line 12 was opened, there are plans to build 10 Metrobus lines and expansion of Ecobici service to at least two other major areas of the city.

In Condesa, a major challenge will be the effective participation of citizens committees to designate budget to the most urgent projects of energy, water and security in the area, to name a few, as a result of the profits obtained by the parking meters.

What’s ahead?

According to the European Union’s document Cities of Tomorrow, “Sustainable mobility includes several dimensions and components: sustainable, energy-efficient and affordable public transport systems; a friendly environment for soft transport modes such as cycling and walking; easy access to all neighbourhoods, by foot, by bike, by public transport; local transport networks that need to be well connected to regional networks; peri-urban networks that need to be planned within the context of overall land-use and spatial development; and transport nodes that need to be well integrated with social, cultural and economic activities, including leisure.”

The success of the mobility model that has been applied in la Condesa during the last 10 years is the use a mix of various means of transport which complement each other and generate connectivity in all areas within the same district and the rest of the city. In addition it promotes lower car use and subsequent benefits in reducing emissions, less traffic, better urban view, the ability to fully exploit the cultural and leisure qualities of the area and of course a better quality of life for residents and nonresidents, giving solution to a major part of the problems detected before.

This is a model that is certainly possible and necessary, to extrapolate, first to other areas of the city that have similar characteristics; to other cities in Mexico where, although they will not have the same means of transport, it is possible to generate mixes with existing systems.

Finally, it’s certainly possible to share the experience of mixed transport models to other parts of the world. Specially in Latin American countries, since “the urban transport infrastructure in LAC faces a level of excessive demand, which in most cases exceeds their capabilities” and therefore “the rapid increase in the private fleet is a direct cause of the problems of congestion, pollution and traffic accidents which are evident in LAC cities.” (BID, Sostenibilidad Urbana en América Latina y el Caribe)

 


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