Shame on you, Lomas de Chapultepec.
Today, fellows, I am heartbroken. For I have heard horrid news. (opinion article)
My neighbors of the luxurious, quiet, safe, and somehow also divided in half by an arterial road, Lomas de Chapultepec, are pressuring the local goverment, through complaints and actual lawsuits, not to finish the new BRT line through Reforma despite the obvious savings on environmental damage, commute time, and traffic accidents. Rather, the route will begin on Indios Verdes and finish on the “fuente de petroleos” where regular buses will then continue on to Santa Fe, Bosques de Reforma, and other areas of Mexico City North-West region.
I believe this was their main argument:
" They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
These people sound perfectly rational, right, right?
NO! I SAY SHAME ON YOU!
Shame on you for not studying what the BRT system is or who its users are before criticizing it, Shame on you for not wanting the other citizens of our city have safe and quick passage through OUR avenue. Shame on you for having complete disregard for the truth, logic, and empathy. Shame on you for ignoring what it would’ve done for so many people. It is even good for us. Yes, really! Us…
I was one of you, an avid disbeliever in public transit, one of the 88,000 people that have to enter the Business District (Santa Fe) every single day. Everyday I would get into my overpriced foreign car, put on garbage music and set off into the biggest carpark of the world; Reforma at rush hour. But then it hit me. It hit me when I thought to look up what the BRT was before discarding of it.
What is the Mexico City BRT line?
The Mexico City Bus-Rapid-Transit system was inaugurated on June 2005 and it's officially called the Metro-Bus. It already serves hundreds of thousands of people everyday using top-of-the-line Volvo BRT busses. These aren't normal buses either; at 98" (2.5m) wide and weighting over 30 tons, these vehicles are 40% wider than regular cars and more than ten times heavier. BRTs require special infrastructure placed on the routes: heavy duty tarmac, wider lanes, and elevated stations (since the payment is made using a system similar to the city metro and access is restricted.) In order to keep the average speed up, the BRT in Mexico city has protected lanes that no other private vehicle can use.
These BRTs are more fuel efficient than the goverment RTP buses or the licensed Microbuses. Since BRT conductors (not drivers) need special training that the other drivers may not have, the vehicle is in safer hands. Additionally the stations have restricted access, CCTV cameras, and kiosk payment. These characteristics make the vehicles naturally safer and more economically sustainable since thieves and freeloaders have little incentive to go through those layers of security for little reward.
Personally, I see BRT routes as the middle-ground between full-on metro trains and regular buses. Yes, Metros are bigger, faster, and more efficient. But, Mexico City is growing quickly and our wet, unstable soil isn't specially great to rail-lined tunnels. Desiging new Metro lines is much more expensive and less flexible than laying out simple infrastructure of the like BRT requires, one that can be flexible with the route chart and semi-road friendly. I needed to know more, but, by now it was too late in the morning and I had to leave to work, on my car…
On my commute I thought, after I cut off an RTP bus to move an extra 5 yards, to look into the other cars. These people, just as I, sat in their foreign cars with crap music alone. One person per vehicle, maybe two. Then after almost running over a cyclist I looked to another car, this was a very expensive vehicle, with one person inside it and an escort vehicle behind it. This is when I suddenly discovered something mindbendingly crazy, amazing even…
I discovered MATH.
Now, what do you need to keep roads movin'? You need high-flow of passengers. what does that mean?
It means that if you want the roads to be quicker, you need to use them more eficiently. it means more passengers per m² as this frankly pathetic drawing shows:
This drawing shows the birds eye view of a fictitious Reforma avenue with the BRT line installed, the double black lines means only the BRT can use that lane (which would be closed off with dividers). The dotted black line divides the other two lanes of Reforma avenue. Now, the BRT is humiliatingly efficient when transporting passengers compared to a mid-size sedan like the BMW 535i. Oh and you can point out "The bus isn't always full." and that is true, but it also means that even at half full the bus is using the road more efficiently that the fully loaded BMW.
What does this mean for everyone?
It means that some of the people that use their car everyday on this road would see the huge red bus sprinting past on its protected lane and costing the riders a fraction of what it is costing the car driver. Hopefully, those people will think "Hey the bus is faster now" and rather than bringing out their cars, they use the bus. Now that means that the cars move faster, the bus is more economically viable, and there's less trafic. FOR EVERYONE.
Also, addressing the security threat these neighbors seem to see, do you know what an empty lane means to a police pursuit vehicle, an ambulance, or a fire truck? it means saving lives. It means stopping caos more efficently. Yes, a criminal could enter the restricted lane. But, as a person that has enjoyed speeding, I need to remind you that no one can outrun a police radio.
Because I get it, I really do. I love getting on my car and pretend to drive whistle everyone pretends their horn is a musical instrument, but to some people it is absolutely hellish, and only use their cars because it is the only viable way of getting to work in Santa Fe, A functional public transit system is necessary for a city to work properly and the benefits are obvious for both us the car users and the public transport users.
Shame on you, Lomas de Chapultepec.
A Spanish-language version of this is available here thanks to Mrs. Ruiz.