Celebrating the XI International Congress on Cities and Transport in Mexico City
From October 12 – 14, 2015 our team in Mexico held the XI International Congress on Cities and Transport in Mexico City (XI Congreso Internacional de Ciudades y Transporte). Over the course of three days, more than 1,100 individuals participated in panel discussions, presentations and specialized workshops led by former presidents, transport experts and entrepreneurs. While focusing on sustainable urban transport, the Congress covered a range of topics, such as technological innovation and road safety—all with the goal of creating more human cities, under one theme "Towards a sustainable world" (Hacia un mundo sustentable).
Making Mexican Cities Safer by Design and Redesigning Public Space
Road safety, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists, was a core theme that spanned throughout the Congress. As the World Health Organization 2015 Global Status Report on road safety makes clear, low- and middle-income nations, like Mexico, are disproportionately suffering from traffic fatalities. Offering a path forward, Ben Welle, Senior Associate Transport Planner in the EMBARQ mobility initiative of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, presented Cities Safer by Design, a practical guide that helps cities save lives through better urban street design. Welle urged cities to rethink the way that they understand streets and urban planning: “We have had the status quo for many, many years of designing cities for cars, not people.”
One way to reorient cities away from private vehicles is to focus on creating open and accessible public space. When talking about the impact of pedestrianization during the conference’s opening ceremony, Claudina de Gyves of the Pedestrian League (Liga Peatonal) noted, “it’s not just about going from one place to another, it’s about enjoying the city and enjoying the view.” This ability to enjoy urban space fundamentally depends on quality public spaces throughout cities that facilitate or encourage common use. However, access to public space in Mexico is often hindered by a lack of federal regulation on sidewalks. Instead, city governments are allowed to set their own local regulations. As a result, Mexican walkways are a patchwork of various designs, with quality ranging from good to terrible. In a call to action, the Congress encouraged residents to push for expanded Mexican Official Regulation[AR1] on sidewalks.
The New Climate Economy and Improving Urban Mobility with Technology
The New Climate Economy was the focus of three presentations and three panel discussions. These discussion focused on innovation, sustainable infrastructure, the productivity of natural resources and legislation for low-carbon development.
In his keynote address, former President of Mexico Felipe Calderón presented the key findings of the report and the economic opportunity that comes with sustainable decisions. President Calderón stressed the economics of timely action, explaining that “Not acting now will be much more expensive than acting now.” Indeed, investing in green infrastructure like public transport and building efficiency could generate $17 trillion dollars in net savings for cities by 2050, while cutting global annual greenhouse gas emissions by more than the annual emissions of Japan and Russia combined.
Participants stressed that cities should look to invest in new technology. From innovations in sustainable urban mobility to more energy efficient buildings, technology can be used to solve a plethora of urban problems.
In a panel discussion moderated by Diego Canales, Tools and Data Innovation Associate at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, experts examined the use of open data and information technology on public transport. Jorge Díaz explained how open data can be used to map traffic crashes, analyze areas of high concentration and develop strategies to make the areas safer. The closing panelist, Humberto Fuentes, summed up the importance of data when discussing potential solutions to Mexico City’s mobility problems: “the only way to face this reality is with data.”
While information technology is allowing public transport to collect and utilize innovative data, clean technology is reducing the amount of emissions stemming from cities’ transportation systems. With more than 30 percent of all energy-related emissions in Latin America coming from transport (and growing), cities in South America must prioritize the development and implementation of clean transport technologies. However, panelists warned that while the technology may exist for cleaner transport, the barriers to implementing them can be very high.
About EMBARQ at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities
EMBARQ, Sustainable Urban Mobility by WRI, catalyzes and helps implement environmentally, socially, and financially sustainable urban mobility solutions to improve quality of life in cities.