Mexican President Felipe Calderón inaugurated line 12 of the Mexico City subway yesterday, which will incorporate 20 new stations and connect Tláhuac, a largely poor semirural area, to the city's subway grid.
According to Calderón, thanks to the new “golden line”, which commemorates 200 years of Mexican independence, Mexico’s transportation system can compete with the best in the world. The system will now include 226 kilometers (140 miles) of tracks and 195 stations, and will provide services to 4.5 million people daily.
The project, developed by Mexican firms ICA and Grupo Carso, costs$1.8 billion. Spanish corporation Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles, S.A. (CAF) will administer and maintain the 38 trains that will run in the new line, the longest in the city and the first to operate automatically.
This line alone will serve more than 450,000 people daily in municipalities like Tláhuac, Milpa, Alta, Iztapalapa, Xochimilco, Benito Juárez and Alvaro Obregón. Users of the train will reduce average daily commute times from about 150 minutes to 78 minutes and a closed-circuit monitoring system will make them less vulnerable to insecurity. In addition, commuters will save about $1 a day by using the new line rather than taking multiple buses to reach their destinations. Mexico City’s subway fare is three pesos per trip ($0.23).
The golden line will also bring environmental benefits. New trains are expected to help reduce the number of cars and buses on the road, as well as improve air quality by reducing carbon dioxide by 22,000 tons a year.
Mexican Senator María de los Ángeles Moreno of Mexico’s Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) party proposed on Tuesday the establishment of Mexico City as a “Federal City,” replacing the position of head of government with that of a mayor and 17 elected city council members.
The constitutional modifications would give residents of the Federal District more voting power and increase the city’s autonomy, though its name and status as the nation’s capital would not change. The City Legislative Assembly, for example, would approve Mexico City’s debt, rather than the National Congress. Ángeles Moreno said the new mayor would be a more visible, authoritative position than the current head of government, similar to the mayors of New York, Madrid or Washington. Her proposal would also divide the city into 20 municipal territories, rather than the current 16. The proposal is now being reviewed by the upper house’s Commission on Mexico City.
While the legislature considered structural reforms for the city, several senior members of the Barack Obama administration, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, were also in the Mexican capital on Tuesday to unveil a $331 million plan focused on civilian police training as part of a new approach to U.S.-Mexican counter-narcotics strategy.
On Wednesday, a ban went into effect in Mexico City that prohibits the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags in all stores. The law affects all production facilities and service providers in a metropolitan area with approximately 19 million inhabitants.
Mexico City is the second city in the Western Hemisphere to enact such a ban, following San Francisco’s groundbreaking legislation in 2007. Los Angeles has also considered a ban on plastic bags if the state does not impose a 25-cent fee by July 2010 for shoppers that request bags.
The Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, argued for a global ban back in June: “thin-film single-use plastic bags, which choke marine life, should be banned or phased out rapidly everywhere. There is simply zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere."
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.