Mexico City is the capital of Mexico and the most populous city in North America with about 8.8 million residents. Together with its urban area (Valle de México metropolitan zone), Mexico City has more than 21 million inhabitants, making it the world’s third largest urban agglomeration, the biggest on the American continent, and the most populous Spanish-speaking city on Earth.
Teeming Mexico City is situated in the Valley of Mexico in the high plateaus of central Mexico, at an altitude of 2,240 meters. The city is divided into 16 districts or boroughs. For the past 28 years, it has been governed by the Center Left PRD.
Mexico City is one of the most important economic centers in Latin America, responsible for about 22 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product. It is ranked as the eighth-richest urban agglomeration in the world after Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Paris, London and Osaka/Kobe.
Many global companies have their Latin American regional headquarters in the city, which is easily the biggest urban nucleus in the country and a political, academic, economic, financial, business, cultural and trend center.
Mexico City is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world with an economy expected to triple in size by 2050.
Mexico City has grown so fast that the government has not been able to keep up with housing and services. Many houses were thrown up quickly without the proper foundations, hence the sprawling slums, called barrios, surrounding the city. These barrios lack access to fresh water, do not have proper sewage outlets, and in many areas, do not have electricity. This contributes to an unhealthy population and damages the environment. Outside the barrios, many areas flourished because of the city’s economic growth. In some areas, wealthy citizens live gated-off from the outside world.
In 2001, Mexico City introduced a set of policy guidelines called Bando Dos to deal with the city’s housing problem by encouraging densification in inner areas. Bando Dos divided the city into the four central boroughs and put a cap on construction of new houses in any of the other areas of Mexico City. More than 224,000 people moved into the boroughs between 2005 and 2006 and today more than 60 per cent of Mexico City’s residents live in them. Many old and poorly constructed houses were knocked down to make way for the new and improved housing. Bando Dos also attempted to help with the sewage, electricity and water problems, yet much uncertified housing and construction continues.
The problems fueling Mexico City’s housing crisis are manifold. Low-income households have little access to loans. The cost of almost all property in the capital is high and there is little social housing. Loans available to low-income families are usually for places outside the capital, given that housing is less expensive in nearby states. “This means that there is a permanent and accumulative housing crisis,” analyzes the Housing Institute for Mexico City.
Looking ahead, there are virtually no new plans for developing housing. But some more organized development might be in the offing given that recently elected president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who takes office on 1 December, 2018, is from the same Leftist political party as the governor of Mexico City.
The Ministry of Urban Development and Housing (SEDUVI) has various instruments for Mexico City planning and its management.
The programs and regulations on which SEDUVI is based are continuously updated to guide urban development, according to the dynamics, transformations and needs that affect land use.
It also has the Sustainable Development Council, made up of specialists, consultants, academics and officials who contribute to the continuous review of these instruments.
Mobility and urban infrastructure in Mexico City leaves much to be desired. Mexico City needs to improve the transport of people and generate strategies that will advance tourism.
Some of the more obvious improvements needed for public space in the capital are maintenance of pedestrian crossings, the installation of lighting and the maintenance of urban street furniture to cater for tourists and citizens alike.
There is a tremendous opportunity to recover the public realm by creating and strengthening local/historic communities and landmarks within the city. One way of helping would be for districts to have walking corridors and bike lanes. Crossing the denser part of the city is only 22 kilometers in a straight line. Walking and bike lanes could also help to reduce congestion, noise and air pollution in an area where the average speed of a car is 13 km/hr, marginally faster than bike-lane speed.
While Mexico City is infamous for being an asphalt jungle, 59 per cent of the city's area is conservation land. However, the official designation has not stopped illegal logging and urban sprawl further each year from cutting into the stands of pine and oyamel trees and grasslands that sprawl across southern Mexico City.
Throughout the city it is possible to find other smaller green areas such as gardens. Like the large forests, the gardens and other green areas absorb pollutants, muffle noise, allow rainwater to recharge aquifers and, above all, balance the environments important for urban spaces.
Green areas also play an important part in recreation through their use for cultural, sports and social activities, as well as reinforcing the identity of neighbourhoods. In all the city neighbourhoods there is a park or garden, spaces that help raise the quality of life.
Efforts have been made to recover residual spaces. This has been done as part of a new concept, in which the environmental benefits of urban green areas are integrated with a recreational, health and social inclusion approach.
Pocket spaces also are being given attention, so they become places of coexistence and recreational and cultural exchange as well helping the environment. Most are within easy walking distance of communities.
Apart from the maintenance and development of traditional green urban areas, Mexico City has plans to soften the effect of some major roads. One example is the Via Verde project in which columns of the second level of a major road in Mexico are being converted into vertical gardens to clean more air and make the roads more aesthetic.
The Contribution Fund for Social Infrastructure finances work and basic social actions and investments that directly benefit people living in extreme poverty or in locations with a high or very high level of social backwardness.
The Ministry of Social Development distributes the money from the fund among the states and Mexico City. Distribution is determined by a formula that considers the number of deprived people living in vulnerable conditions, with the goal of helping to alleviate these conditions.
Mexico City is also the capital of culture. It is home to 185 museums for visitors to enjoy fine art, other beautiful collections, archeology and history. There is also a variety of libraries.
In December 2017, there were 428 clinics in Mexico City, which include health centers, clinics, communities for adolescents, pediatric clinics and maternity clinics.
A year ago, the Government of Mexico City announced it would invest CAD21 million in infrastructure for public schools.
Mindful of the dangers of extreme weather, the Mexico City Government published The Vision of the City of Mexico on Climate Change to 2025, which proposes action aimed at sustainable development through the reduction of emissions of compounds and greenhouse gases, and the increase of resilience to climate change. The objective is to reduce the 31.4 million tons of cumulative carbon dioxide equivalent, as well as increase the adaptive and resilience capacities of the 8.8 million people living in the city area. It is all based on the seven strategies of the Climate Action Program of Mexico City 2014-2020.
These goals, which are translated into mitigation, adaptation and resilience-building, are included in the 102 actions that make up the vision of the city on climate change in 2025, as well as a panoramic view of the phenomenon from where the sources generating compounds and greenhouse gases stand out.
These sources generate high concentrations of pollutants in the atmosphere, which, in turn, adversely affect health and can cause big economic losses. Many of the infectious diseases that humans suffer are transmitted by bacteria and viruses that will find climate change propitious. On the other hand, the recharge of aquifers decreases with the lack of rain and, therefore, the availability of water could be problematic.
At the national and local level, climate change is recognized as a serious threat to humanity, ecosystems and biodiversity. This threat demands an urgent response from all nations and cities to diminish its effects. At the international level, Mexico City has also expressed its willingness to reduce the negative impact of its activities on the planet. Within Mexico, it is a pioneer in addressing this problem.
The global organization C40 ranked Mexico City first in Latin America in the category of Cities with the Best Performance in actions implemented against climate change in 2017.
Vehicles represent a major source of air pollution, propelled, as most of them are, by the combustion of hydrocarbons (mopeds, cars and trucks). Emissions from the exhaust of these vehicles contain carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides that are released into the atmosphere in significant quantities. They are the components of the photochemical oxidative smog. The most populated urban areas suffer the greatest contamination of this type. The air pollution has harmful effects for human health, according to epidemiological studies.
Vehicles are the most important sources of air pollutants in Mexico City and the Ministry of the Environment is charged with ensuring that the city’s vehicles have the lowest possible emission of pollutants. One measure is checking the efficiency of catalytic converters and, if they are not up to scratch, putting cars off the road for a certain number of days a month.
Mexico City also has in place some adaptation and mitigation measures for climate change, such as a 20 per cent reduction on property tax if a homeowner installs solar panels.
Public infrastructure developments, as well as the urban furniture maintenance and the provision of services to the people, are the priorities for the Ministry of Works and Services. It will look for strategies of financing to give continuity or to start with the visualized projects.
In addition, it has a priority to develop infrastructure for public transport, with the vision of benefiting not only the nine million inhabitants of the capital, but also the five million people that represent the city's floating population. Projects include the extension of Line 5 and the construction of Line 7 of Metrobús; the extension of Lines 9 and 12 of the Collective Transport System; and the third section of the Interurban Train Mexico-Toluca.
Last year the Government of Mexico City supported 230 small and medium enterprises through a program with the objective of improving the competence of the workforce and managers as well as increasing productivity, conservation and generation of employment together wirh improving conditions. The beneficiary companies were 58 per cent in services, 26 per cent in commerce and 16 per cent in the industrial sector. In addition, there was a 53 per cent increase in units attended compared with 2016.
Ports, such as Tuxpan, the closest to Mexico City, have been expanded because they are the conduit for 80 per cent of merchandise.
Mexico City has virtually no plans for the development in logistics and freight since most of these operations are managed in the neighbouring states. The metropolis is clogged with traffic without more being introduced. It has grown in a way that distribution centers and logistical operations have been moved to the limits of the city and the neighbouring states of Estado de Mexico, Puebla, Morelos and Queretaro.
The new International Mexico City Airport under construction will be six times bigger than the current airport. It is the most important infrastructure work in the country, which, in addition to becoming a center of world-class operations, will be the most important generator of jobs in Latin America.
Even the old airport has the most traffic in Latin America; it is used by 30 airlines, of which 23 are international, flying to more than 50 destinations. Last year international passenger traffic rose 10.3 per cent, closely followed by domestic at 8.5 per cent. In the past five years passenger traffic through Mexico City grew by 9 per cent compared with 4.3 per cent globally.
Consumption of water at the new airport is expected to be 79 per cent lower. It will use captured rainwater, some of it through the columns of the terminal, and 100 per cent of wastewater will be treated.
The new airport will have three runways in its first stage and its location is expected to reduce noise in Mexico City. More than 17 communication infrastructure projects are in progress around the new terminal, which will strengthen connection and mobility in the Valley of Mexico.
The Government of Mexico City is working on a business mobility program so that work centers with more than 250 employees use high capacity trucks or shared cars for the transfer of personnel. It is also promoting recreational activities that encourage the use of bicycles.
At present the ECOBICI bike-share polygon covers 4.2 kilometers in 19 neighbourhoods that account for 60 per cent of the bicycle trips in Mexico City. It has been operational since 2010.
About 90,000 ECOBICI users have made 9.1 million trips. On average, 20,000 trips are made daily. Mexico City has the lowest rates of vandalism, accidents and robberies worldwide, with 35 accidents per million trips.
The Government of Mexico City is working on a radical proposal to reform the parking regulations in a bid to discourage the use of cars. It is considering making the minimum number of parking spaces required in a building the maximum, so that new projects might choose not to consider parking spaces.
If projects choose to build parking spaces, they must pay an amount to the city as a mitigation measure for urban impact. The proximity of buildings to public transport systems will also be a factor in the calculation of contributions to a mobility fund.
The change to parking regulations represents a paradigm shift in city mobility towards public transport.
A new mobility system, Calles CDMX, has been presented to develop comprehensive mobility programs, road safety, technical standards of accessibility, a cycling infrastructure guide, manual of sidewalks and public space. This system also includes guidelines for the design and implementation of public parks, street guidance, road safety auditing guidelines and the manual of traffic control devices, among other instruments.
This system summarizes all the infrastructure implementation that the city has had with its technical teams over the years. Its purpose is to change the streets to improve mobility and safety.
A new governing model emerged in 2014 with the enactment of the new Mexico City Mobility Law that focuses on building a culture of sustainable active transport to reserve Mexico City’s history of urban sprawl. There is lot of progress to be made, and city leaders have ambitious plans to turn Mexico City into an example of innovation in people-oriented, sustainable mobility.
Future plans also incorporate development of electric and hybrid vehicles, introduction of self-driving vehicles and a regulatory framework that brings together a high-quality mobility ecosystem that is well connected and sustainable. The leaders recognize that implementation of such technology is also disruptive and integrated actions need to be taken with precaution at every step.
To take advantage of existing infrastructure, the Mexico City Government has initiated the CDMX Connectivity Masterplan project in cooperation with the National Autonomous University of Mexico and the World Bank.
The project aims to increase the connectivity of the Mexico City through an organizational unit responsible for the management of infrastructure and the design of a public-private partnership. It will take a lead from international experience to operate the Mexico City Connectivity Network in a way that makes efficient use of existing infrastructure and promotes synergies and sustainable growth of new infrastructure to lay the foundations for Mexico to become a Smart City.
The Government of Mexico City has set its sights on the development of an intelligent city. It will:
Provide solutions to the problems of urban areas
Take advantage of technology to simplify people's lives and facilitate the activities of companies
Leverage new tools based on collective intelligence and collaborative social processes.
The promotion of the development of the technological infrastructure will be coordinated by the Economic and Social Council of Mexico City, which will collaborate with the academia and business.
Last year the number of internet users in Mexico increased by almost six million, from 65.5 million in 2016 to 71.3 million. Smartphone use is also expanding, not quite as rapidly; the number of users was up from 60.6 million to 64.7 million.
However, there is a big digital divide. In urban areas, 71.2 per cent of the population aged six or more are internet users compared with only 39.2 per cent in rural areas. Overall, 64 per cent of the population aged six or more are internet users, which reflects a growing penetration from the 59.5 per cent of 2016 and 57.4 per cent of 2015.
Thanks to changes in legislation the market has opened for providers, some of whom are investing in infrastructure to increase their reach. Competition in the market means prices are dropping and more informed consumers are looking for better options. Connectivity is expected to continue increasing without intervention from the city authorities.
Mexico has one of the highest internet speeds in North America. However, it lacks the high speeds in the mobile internet category. Significant efforts are being made to improve market competition and reduce the monopolistic environment. This will eventually help to bring prices down.
Mexico is mirroring the global trend towards mobility and heavy investments have been made in cloud analytics services. In the recent future, this sub-sector is expected to experience huge growth. Some 84 per cent of Mexican companies, in 2016, shifted to the cloud, mostly under a hybrid model. The app market is flourishing with heavy internet usage and many brick & mortar retailers are ramping up their eCommerce divisions.
The government has made heavy investments in Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and concentrated on smart cities and smart grid technologies. Being driven by the strong industrial sector, which has also made huge investments in IoT solutions, Mexico has adopted IoT well.
Internet-based policies and regulations on issues such as privacy, net neutrality, server localization, and intellectual property are in the process of being defined. Practices such as zero-rating are common place.
The Law of Transparency, Access to Public Information and Accountability of Mexico City states that all the information generated, administered or in possession of the obligated subjects is public and must be accessible to any person.
This law establishes disclosure on the internet of information defined as transparency obligations, understood as being of general interest and not the result of an express request.
This information should be updated at least every three months, and be truthful, reliable, timely, free, consistent, comprehensive, accessible, understandable and verifiable.
The right of access is to public information held by any authority, entity, organ and body of the executive, legislative and judicial power, autonomous bodies, political administrative organs, city halls and/or territorial demarcations, parastatal organizations, public universities, political parties, trade unions, trusts and public funds, as well as any natural or legal person that receives and exercises public resources, acts of authority or public interest in Mexico City.
Cybersecurity, sustainability and resilience are crucial for Mexico’s safekeeping as well as its social and economic development, especially when it ranks as the second country in Latin America with the most cyberattacks. With more than half of the country’s population using the internet, cybersecurity is an important area for the government.
The Government of Mexico does not have specific legislation in place for cybersecurity, but it is included in the Federal Criminal Code, mostly regarding financial crimes, information security, and the use of technology in other crimes, such as terrorism, kidnapping, and drug trafficking.
Mexico has a Specialized Information Security Committee, which was tasked to create a National Strategy for cybersecurity. However, this has not yet happened and the Federal Police currently handles issues on a case-by-case basis through its Cyber Police and Scientific Division.
The city has established the National Institute of Transparency, Access to Information and Protection of Personal Data to protect information transparency and data monitoring. This keeps a check on government actions and provides information to any individual that requests a copy of their personal data.
The Government of Mexico City promotes energy efficiency projects that benefit the people, such as the installation of solar panels in the city's main wholesale market for produce and the use of electricity from renewable sources in 2,000 shops.
Because of the creation of the Office for the Promotion of Investment for Energy Sustainability (OFISECDMX), the government will support those businesses that traditionally consume energy, such as laundries, by providing clean energy.
OFISECDMX will seek to identify relevant projects for Mexico City, multiplying the energy economy and deploying a strategy for the private sector to encourage investment in the renewable economy.
In at least one area Mexico City has already reached for a leading-edge solution. It is building a thermovalorization plant, which uses heat to decompose organic waste and, with the steam produced, generate electrical energy. The remaining waste from the incineration can be used in the construction industry.
The thermovalorization plant will produce electricity for 12 Metro stations from burning the 4,500 tons of the 13,000 tons of waste generated by the city each day.
Although Mexico has made encouraging noises about giving its citizens access to cheaper electricity, the new energy market has run into problems. Further progress might have to wait until the new national government takes office later this year.
Between 2009 and 2014, the national water authority, Conagua, invested almost CAD840 million in water treatment in the country. In Mexico City, there are 95 treatment plants, 70 of them public. Of those, 20 per cent work inefficiently and most of them have exceeded the lifespan for which they were designed.
Another factor to consider is that Conagua, Sacmex and CAEM do not comply with the transparency obligations imposed by the law, so they do not provide complete information on the construction and operation of the treatment plants.
The policy of the Government of Mexico City is aimed at the prevention and minimization of solid waste through processes that reduce its quantity in each of its stages: generation, storage, collection, treatment and adequate disposal. In addition, it has an updated regulatory framework and institutional coordination of the administrative areas involved, under a supervision and surveillance scheme.
As such, short-term problems will be tackled by the city, but the long-term objective is for the city to recycle a large percentage of its waste. It hopes to foster a citizen culture that contributes to the reduction and reuse of the materials consumed each day and encourage a sense of shared responsibility in the service sector and commerce more broadly.
Cutting waste is hardly at the top of politicians’ agendas but sometimes messages hit home. One such example has been the aggressive advertising campaign run by the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, in which it informed the public of the environmental consequences of using plastic straws. A huge beverage company said that it will introduce packages that don’t need straws anymore.