Two weeks into the nasty grit of the Mexico City commute and I have come to a very strong conclusion. Public transportation, though comprehensive, is an inadequate mess.
Without a car, the average citizen is presented with a multitude of options in getting around. The Metro subway system, the BRT Metrobus network and the city run Eco buses round out the options for city run transit but privately run systems also flood the city streets on a daily basis…..and are much more numerous.
The Micros….the tiniest of the buses run in the hardest to reach areas of the city, the combis……..the micros’ larger cousin, services the more traveled routes, followed by the taxis, collective taxis with fixed routes, and the large buses run on the most heavily travelled routes. All modes have their pros and cons.
The smaller buses are sometimes robbed as young delinquents hop in the front doors and leave through the back where there friends are waiting in a getaway car. The larger buses are much more crowded and uncomfortable due to overloading but are less likely to get robbed. Many of the buses, especially the smallest ones, are dirty and in ill repair. They blast music, have religious memorabilia scattered throughout and sometimes have drivers that drive aggressively and show little regard for human life. Though it seems, the more you pay to get on, the better conditions you will find. The buses are often slow, regardless of the type so you must plan plenty of time into your trip if things go wrong………and they often do. That being said, often you have no choice but to use these lumbering beasts because they are the only viable option.
The Metro, Metrobus and Ecobus systems have fixed routes, are clean and will get you to your destination faster…….providing you are not using them during rush hour. During these hours of the morning and evening, the system is strained to its limits.
During rush hour, transit is limited to a crushing standing room only, if you can even get onto the system at all. It is not uncommon do actually see people do a football charge into the cars in order to force themselves inside and once inside, it may be impossible to get out at your station. People are so locked into place because of over cramming, that they get even move enough to get out of the train. When someone does break the seal, people often tumble out onto the platform uncontrollably…often directly confronted with an equally dense wall of people trying to get into the train. All of this adds up to a pretty hellish commute for the average Chilango.
While comprehensive, Mexico City has many problems in regards to its transportation network. If you are lucky enough to use the system during non peak hours you will have a very different opinion. It will serve your needs well and you will feel comfortable throughout. If you use the system during peak hours……well you are in for an adventure of sorts. If you can handle that sort of adventure, and many people can, then happy travels! For me, it is tolerable, though I know that I can’t do it forever. How I will cope with that, I can only guess. But for now I will continue to brave the adventure and have as much fun as I can while doing it. So goes life in Mexico City. Mexico City May be many things, but it is never ever boring!
Christopher William Golden is an independent land use planner, writer and educator, specializing in land use and planning issues in the United States and Mexico border regions. Mr. Golden has worked in California, Texas, and Mexico, on issues ranging from environmental protection, recreation planning, community planning, smart growth, pedestrian friendly design and downtown redevelopment.