Private apps, an option for mobility challenges in Mexico City

In Seoul, 65 percent of the population travels by public transportation, one of the best in the world. In Mexico City and the surrounding area, the main reason for travel is work.

Private apps, an option for mobility challenges in Mexico City
The mobility issues in Mexico City can be mitigated with the use of private apps. Photo by Jezael Melgoza on Unsplash

Given the mobility problems in Mexico City, private companies offer solutions through applications to provide transportation, contrary to what happens in Seoul, a city that since 2000 focused on change and is currently one of the cities with the best mobility and privileges pedestrians, highlighted experts during the Colloquium City in Movement of the University Program of City Studies (PUEC) of the UNAM.

Sharon Ocampo Arias, in charge of the Colloquium, explained that Seoul, the capital of South Korea, like other cities in the world, experienced -from 1960 to 1980- accelerated growth with an important road infrastructure for automobiles and constant congestion, which favored the construction of subway lines and the increase of vehicles.

However, in 2001 the paradigm changed and pedestrian and sustainability were the priority; the bus system was improved and the city sought to be an intelligent metropolis, which generated an important investment in public transportation.

The bus system was also optimized; the service, which was like the one in Mexico City, was reformed when it was found to be inefficient; the type of fare collection was innovated by integrating technology through the use of validation cards, according to the distance traveled, which avoids competition among drivers, as they continue to make a profit based on the distance traveled by people.

As a result, 65 percent of people currently use public transportation, followed by cars and cabs. In addition, projects were implemented so that the population is not left behind in the use of technologies, with free internet networks and training for senior citizens, to move towards smart cities.

Unlike Mexico, in Seoul Uber-type applications are prohibited, which is why KakaoTalk is used, connected to all the transportation offered by the city, with maps, subway schedules, cabs, and buses; in addition to government applications such as Seoul where precise times are shown for the arrival of trains, waiting time for boarding, transfer points and suggestions for the user.

Currently, this metropolis plans to reduce the use of automobiles by improving public transportation and building new subway lines; it is expected that by 2027 they will have 130 more kilometers of subway lines. Even those roads that were little used by motorists are transformed into green spaces and paths for people to move freely and live together.

Entrepreneurial proposals to meet mobility challenges

Martín Enrique González Burton, a doctoral student of the Political Science Program at UNAM, said that the Mexico City Mobility Plan identifies three major problems: the fragmentation of the different transportation systems, the inefficiency and neglect of the infrastructure, and the inequity in travel times and travel conditions.

The main reason for travel in the Mexican capital and the metropolitan area is for work; and although the city is home to only 43 percent of the metropolitan population, it is home to 71 percent of the jobs. The vehicle fleets of cars and motorcycles grew at a rate of 2.86 percent and 37.9 percent per year, respectively, from 2012 to 2019.

According to the Integral Mobility Program 2019-2024 of Mexico City, people take, on average, 52 minutes in transportation; the one they use the most is the concessioned collective public transportation, 38.9 of the population; while mass transportation (Metrobus) is used by 22.6 percent, followed by just walking, car, cabs, bicycles, RTP, trolleybus, motorcycles, and others.

Several mobility solutions have been proposed by private entrepreneurs with the development of mobile applications.

Hence, Uber, DiDi, Jetty, and Bussi are popular today. If people want to locate themselves in an environment and make decisions, Google and Waze are usually an option, even though our country has the Digital Agency for Public Innovation, which has carried out important actions in digitalization, but not in mobile applications to help the population with transportation; there is only MiTaxi and Mueve Ciudad, which is related to the operation of parking meters and for conflict resolution.

This is a kind of "virtuous circle, the private sector supports the public sector, but at the end of the day there is a market that represents people who live in cities and these people are looking for different elements to improve their conditions", he commented.