Mexico City
Metrobus
(As of October 2006)
Mexico City is one of the world's megacities, with over 20 million inhabitants.  There are over 30 million vehicular trips in the city each day and over 3.5 million cars.  Between 70 and 80 percent of trips are by public transport, including 4.5 million trips on Mexico City's 125 mile subway system.  There are roughly 28,000 bus concessions in the city, roughly 70 percent of which are microbuses. 

In 2005, it opened Metrobus, a BRT corridor along Avenida de los Insurgentes, probably the most important street in Mexico City.  At 18 miles in length, Avenida de los Insurgentes is the largest avenue in Mexico City and one of the longest streets in the world.  It crosses 16 political jurisdictions in the city and serves some of the city's most important locations, including the World Trade Center complex, a university campus, and numerous residential and commercial districts.  In many ways, Insurgentes is not unlike major avenues in US cities, complete with Starbuck's, fancy restaurants, and gleaming office towers. 

Metrobus serves roughly 12 miles of Insurgentes with 36 stations and two terminals.  It replaced about 350 standard buses with 97 new articulated BRT vehicles. These vehicles dock at enclosed, rail-like stations, and passengers may enter or exit the vehicles at any one of four, double-wide doors.  One apparently unique feature about Metrobus is that although most of the buses are owned by CISA, a private company, some are owned by RTP, a public company.  In most Latin American BRT's, including all that we recently visited (
Bogota, Guayaquil, Pereira), the buses are all privately owned. 
Metrobus cost roughly $30 million to build, a tiny fraction of the cost of a subway or other rail system along the corridor.   A recent survey found that passengers rate Metrobus an 8.2 out of 10, and the new Mayor of Mexico City, Marcelo Ebrard, is actively considering building 10 more Metrobus corridors.  At the time of this report, the timing of when these will open was not clear.  
Fares are collected via automatic ticketing machines located that the entrance to stations.  The fare is roughly US $0.30, which enables passengers to travel any distance they choose along the corridor. 

Although the presence of fare vending machines outside of the turnstiles is an improvement over some systems, like
Transmilenio, the fare collection system could be simplified.  First time users must purchase a smart card for 8 pesos (about 80 US cents) and then immediately charge the smart card.  The process is a little cumbersome and, if you forget to charge the smartcard, you could lose some money in the machine (which happened to one of our staff).
Although Metrobus is clearly providing tremendous benefits in a very crowded and important corridor, there is room for improvement.  Currently, the vehicles are diesel and there are plans to switch to lower emission buses, such as hybrids or CNG. 

It can be difficult as a rider to figure out which station the vehicle is approaching.  This is exacerbated by crowding during peak periods, which make it difficult to see out of the windows.  This could be improved by a better stop announcement system or better signage. 

Some of the infrastructure appeared to be deteriorating too quickly.  For example, the exclusive lanes, or "Carril Exclusivo," are separated from the general traffic lanes by small concrete barriers.  A number of these were broken and lying in the pavement, apparently as a result of being struck by buses and/or by cars.  In the future, Metrobus should consider plastic or other barriers that are not subject to such breakage.  Also, some of the pavement appeared to be deteriorating too quickly.  Apparently, Metrobus is installing thicker and more durable pavement to fix this problem.

Finally, Metrobus uses a rail service pattern -- all vehicles stop at all stations, and there are no express or limited stop services.  This is quite different from
Transmilenio, for example, where there are many  different routes serving each station, including local, limited stop, and express routes. 

Given that Insurgentes is a long route with many stations, a limited stop or express service likely would be a valuable addition.  In
Transmilenio, for example, nearly 75 percent of passengers ride the express services, not the all stop services.  Limited stop or express service is likely to be even more important if Mexico City moves forward with its plans to open additional Metrobus corridors. 

Although the lack of express service is significant, it is important to note that Insurgentes is a relatively narrow corridor in many places. This likely made passing lanes difficult to implement.  Thus, going beyond a basic rail service pattern may not be possible in this corridor.  

The above comments are relatively minor in light of the tremendous benefits Metrobus is providing to Mexico City.  Moreover, except for the lack of the passing lane, each of these issues can be addressed relatively easily.  The Insurgentes Metrobus is a demonstration corridor for Mexico City, and future corridors will undoubtedly incorporate lessons learned from Insurgentes. 

Given the constraints of the corridor, Metrobus is truly an exceptional service.  The City and all who were involved in making Metrobus a reality should be very proud.

Click here to visit the
project web site.  Click here to download a presentation about Metrobus, or here to download a presentation on the air quality benefits of Metrobus. 

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Typical of Latin American BRT's, there is a trust fund that that manages, invests, and distributes all fare revenues (see e.g., Guayaquil).   The trust fund contracts directly with a fare collection contractor which, among other things, provides fare collection equipment, sells smartcards, collects the cash, and deposits the cash with the trust fund.

Vehicles have a maximum capacity of 160 passengers and run at extremely high frequencies, roughly 56 per peak hour along the northen half of the route. This gives Metrobus a maximum capacity of nearly 9,000 passengers per hour, far more than even the best US light rail systems.  Currently, Metrobus is carrying roughly 250,000 passengers per day.

Prior to Metrobus, the travel time along the route was roughly 1.5 hours at an average speed of 14 km/hour.  Metrobus has increased the speed to 21 km/hour and reduced the travel time to 1 hour. 

Traffic flow for cars on Insurgentes also was changed as a result of Metrobus.  For example, left turns were eliminated, except at a few intersections where dedicated left turn only lanes were constructed.  This appears to have improved traffic conditions for cars, even though Metrobus required that the two center lanes be dedicated to buses only.

According to a recent
study, Metrobus is reducing 35,000 tons of CO2 annually.  It also is is reducing passenger exposure to CO, benzene, and PM 2.5 by up to 50 percent, as compared with previous bus service in the corridor.  

The stations are open and very long, providing substantial passenger capacity.  However, many are narrow due to the width of the median on Insurgentes.  Stations do not have glass doors separating passengers from the guideway, a feature found in other systems, like
Transmilenio and Pereira's Megabus