EMBARQ Mexico hosts tenth International Congress for Sustainable Transport
With great satisfaction, EMBARQ Mexico celebrated the International Congress on Sustainable Transport (“X Congreso”) from October 13 - 15, 2014 in Mexico City. Now in its tenth year, Congreso is one of the largest forums in Latin America for sharing best practices in sustainable mobility and urban development locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. Congreso creates a strong link between companies, investors, educational institutions, and governments to advance sustainable transport. It also provides an opportunity for worldwide experts to convey trends and innovations in sustainable mobility and new ways of understanding and planning cities.
The theme of this year's X Congreso was “Reinventing Cities,” which took an ambitious look at what can be done to shape livable, sustainable cities and megacities – places where millions of people not only live, but thrive. Contemporary megalopolis regions like China’s Pearl River Delta (whose 11 cities include Shenzen, Hong Kong, and Guangzhou) are reshaping the way we think of urban economies and governance in an increasingly globalized world. This shift in thinking demands a parallel shift in planning practices, something cities must embark on together to find solutions at scale.
A meeting place for international thought leaders in sustainable mobility
Past events have featured more than 35 prominent international keynote speakers from a range of disciplines. These include Antanas Mokus and Enrique Peñalosa, former Mayors of Bogotá; Jaime Lerner, former Mayor of Curitiba; Mario Molina, Mexican Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry; Janette Sadik-Khan, former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation; Mexico City heads of government, and governors of different Mexican states.
On its tenth anniversary, X Congreso featured speakers Andrew Steer, President of the World Resources Institute (WRI); Robin Chase, creator of Buzzcar, Zipcar and GoLoco; Luis Revilla, Mayor of La Paz, Bolivia; Guillermo Peñalosa, creator of 8-80 Cities foundation; Michael Smith, creator of Nextbus and Director of Transitime.org; and Francisco Barnés, Coordinator of Megalopolitan Environmental Commission in Mexico, which brings together six Mexican states in a joint effort to improve air quality.
Andrew Steer (left) closed X Congreso with a challenge to city leaders to embrace a new era in sustainable urban development practices. Photo by Taís Policanti/EMBARQ Mexico.
It also featured Alejandro Nieto, Mexico Secretary of the Ministry of Agrarian, Territorial and Urban Development (SEDATU); Senator Francisco Búrquez, who is chairman of the Commission of Urban Development and Land Use Planning in the Mexican Senate of the Republic; in addition to members of the Mexico City government including Laura Ballesteros, Local Deputy; Tanya Müller, Secretary of Environment; Rufino H León, Mobility Secretary, and others who shared experiences and analysis from the government's perspective.
In its ten year history, X Congreso has been attended by nearly 9,000 people from countries worldwide, and has been visited by delegations from India, Tanzania, Brazil and Colombia, among others. This year, the EMBARQ Mexico team was honored by the presence of more than 850 attendees from 13 countries and 96 cities – most of them specialists in urban mobility, public transport, sustainable urban development, climate change, and air quality.
Guillermo ‘Gil’ Peñalosa emphasized the importance of safe cycling and walking for equitable cities. Photo by Taís Policanti/EMBARQ Mexico.
In total, this year’s three-day event hosted 150 speakers who participated in six keynote addresses, 27 academic sessions, PechaKucha style presentations, and poster sessions. The event also featured a number of other activities including workshops, an evening bike ride through the city, the launch of the book "The Financing of Latin American Cities" from the French Agency for Development, The Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA), and the Human City Foundation, and awards to outstanding professionals, companies, and transport leaders for their contributions to promote sustainable transport in Mexico. Companies also featured prominently in event activities. Automakers and other companies known as innovators for accessible, safe, and energy efficient urban transport showcased new bus display and transport technology.
What can we learn from Mexico City?
To open X Congreso, Director of EMBARQ Mexico Adriana Lobo discussed the momentum created by past events and shared some of Mexico City’s progress during the last decade:
"Many things have happened in Mexico City: from the first line of Metrobús, to platforms, programs and technologies like Aventones and public bikes that are now a reality in the city; however, there are still challenges at the local level we must face and work on."
While Congreso addressed issues relevant to cities across the globe, lessons from the history of host Mexico City shouldn’t be overlooked. Long governed by policies that encouraged urban sprawl, the city has recently taken aggressive measures to become more sustainable, livable, and connected. Its new mobility law is among the most transformative in the world for prioritizing pedestrians and cyclists, an effort the city government also supports with robust active transport systems and infrastructure. The city is also the center of national efforts at urban reform that aim to reverse the patterns of sprawl gripping cities across Mexico. Underpinning all of these is one of the largest and most established bus rapid transit (BRT) systems worldwide, Metrobús, which proudly boasts that each of its buses has the capacity to eliminate the need for 126 cars on the road every day. The private sector is also contributing to Mexico City’s sustainable mobility rebirth, with startups like Carrot bringing car-sharing to the city.
As the second largest city in the world, Mexico City faces a number of challenges in providing sustainable mobility to its growing population. But its emerging successes serve as a reminder that reinventing a city, while not possible overnight, is achievable with long-term vision and a commitment to citizens’ needs. This people-oriented approach is one that can be adopted worldwide to make cities better places to live for all.
Read more about expert perspectives from X Congreso on TheCityFix.