Sustainable, connected cities: Urban Reform for Mexico
EMBARQ Mexico has worked to support urban reform measures that improve the quality of life for the 90 million urban residents in Mexico, many of which spend up to 50% of their household income on transport. Too many Mexican city dwellers face long commutes, air pollution, compromised public spaces, and insufficient mobility options on a daily basis.
In order to combat both rural and urban poverty, the country must take aggressive steps toward urban reform that address the major economic repercussions of urban sprawl. Sprawling, disconnected cities go hand in hand with auto-mobility and the problems associated with it. Congestion, for instance, contributes to huge losses in economic productivity, as residents are forced to sit in traffic. Furthermore, it’s estimated that improvements to air quality, particularly reducing particulate matter, could save as much as US$ 760 million in health costs. Finally, transport remains a major contributor to climate change, and Mexico is the world’s 12th largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs).
The solution: Urban reform in national policy
In 2012, EMBARQ Mexico mounted a campaign to modify the General Law on Human Settlements, a policy that guides urban development at the federal level. Working with the Senate Commission on Urban Development, EMBARQ Mexico put forth “100 ideas for Urban Reform,” which seek to put Mexico’s cities on the path towards compact, sustainable growth.
EMBARQ Mexico’s Fernando Páez, Director of Transport Systems, and Gisela Méndez, Senior Coordinator for the Network of Cities, presented to the Senate Commissions on Urban Development and Land Use Planning, Housing, Regional Development, as well as the two committees in the legislative government on studies that show the importance of such urban reform measures in combatting inequality. EMBARQ Mexico called for an expansion of the General Law of Human Settlements to include four priorities: simplifying and strengthening the national planning system, mobility through sustainable transit-oriented development (TOD), strengthening municipal governments, and improving coordination and implementation in metropolitan urban planning systems across the country.
Simplifying and strengthening the national planning system
In November, EMBARQ Mexico presented to the committees a proposal to reform the national urban planning system, focusing on streamlining the system, strengthening the governing power of municipalities, and implementing effective resources for urban development. The reforms would also include sustainable urban mobility and transit-oriented development as core elements of the law.
Moving forward, the EMBARQ Mexico team proposed a simplification of the national planning systems that allows municipalities to concentrate their diverse planning efforts into a single, stronger document. Such restructuring links all of the requirements from the legislature and the executive branches together to allocate budget for urban policies and projects. This would streamline the planning and financial processes, rather than having different and diverse planning documents for each sector of the federal government. This entails the transformation of urban legal frameworks and planning instruments to renew and reinvent Mexican cities, which, as a result of poor planning policy, have a history of sprawl and dispersion in both physical layout and financial systems.
Today, the urban reform initiative has become a priority for the parliament, with six committees working to revise the bill. Upon completion, the bill will be part of the legislative agenda in the Senate during the second legislative period, which is set to end next September. EMBARQ Mexico has contributed immensely to this bill by drafting proposals that are now being reviewed by the various commissions. EMBARQ Mexico will continue to use its expertise to create recommendations and advise legislators to create the strongest, most impactful bill possible. This bill marks a huge upgrade for urban legislation in Mexico, which has not received any significant attention since 1991, and EMBARQ Mexico hopes that it will allows cities to grow to their full potential while delivering on the urban development solutions that Mexico needs.