Getting Around in Mexico City

It is impossible to determine unambiguously  just which city is the largest in the world, because there is no objective definition.  Very often, the boundaries of a city are defined through a combination of geography, history and politics.  Nevertheless, Mexico City would definitely be a candidate for the largest metropolis, together with Tokyo and São Paulo.  Whereas cities such as New York are built vertically up with tall buildings in a small area, Mexico City lies in an earthquake zone and therefore does not have many tall buildings.  Instead, Mexico City is built out horizontally in an endless sea of houses.  Given the spatial vastness of the city, getting around becomes an important part of daily life.

To travel any long distance, there are four major modes of transportation:

We will now cite some survey data from the TGI Mexico survey.  Within this survey, 6,000 persons between the ages of 12 and 64 years old were interviewed in Mexico City during 2001.  In the next chart below, we show the incidences of usage of the four principal modes of transportation within the past seven days of the interview.  By far, people in Mexico City get around in buses.

The segmentation of the population according to their mode of transportation has less to do with age/sex types of demographic characteristics.  It has much more to do with the needs and means of the individuals.  In the following chart, we show the incidences of usage by socio-economic level.  There is a very strong relationship between automobile usage and socio-economic level, since possession and operation of automobiles require significant financial means.  Conversely, there is another very strong inverse relationship between bus riding and socio-economic level.  In addition to the low bus fares, the buses presumably will go to places not covered by the Metro.

The next chart show the incidences of usage for people in different employment and unemployment situations.  Consistent with the socio-economic characteristics, the senior managers and professionals have the highest usage of automobiles and lowest usage of buses.  Compared to senior managers, the middle- and lower-level managers are less likely to use automobiles and more likely to use buses.  

Among the unemployed looking for work, taxis are almost never used for economic reasons.  Among the retired, transportation of any form is used less than other people.  Most interesting is the case of the disabled, who are much more likely to use taxis to get around and very rarely access the Metro system.

The transportation problem is one of the major public issues in urban systems.  There is no single solution that will meet the needs and means of all the citizens, so that what emerges is a dynamic, ever-changing hybrid system subject to the tensions of accessibility, convenience, affordability, comfort, efficiency, safety, security, maintainability, environmental friendliness, and so on.

(posted by Roland Soong, 3/31/2002)

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