Mexico City: growth at the limit? - LSE Research Online

Mexico City: growth at the limit? - LSE Research Online
Ricky Burdett (ed.)
Mexico City: growth at the limit?


Original citation:
Burdett, Ricky, ed. (2006) Mexico City: growth at the limit? Urban Age.

This version available at:

Originally available from Urban Age

Available in LSE Research Online: May 2013

© 2006 Urban Age

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Mexico City: growth at the limit? - LSE Research Online
Mexico City: growth at the limit? - LSE Research Online
have transformed public transport in the city

                                                   BACK FROM THE BRINK                                                                                      and demonstrated that turning around a
                                                                                                                                                            transport system does not have to entail crip-
                                                                                                                                                            pling levels of expenditure. On the other, his
                                                                                                                                                            personal grand projet, the massive and
                                                                                                                                                            quixotic plan to transform the Peripheral
                                                                        exico is the city that was           Mexico City has had more than the              Ring into a double-decker urban highway,

                                                                        always spoken of as if it was   explosive growth of the flight of the dispos-       asks more questions than it answers. It is
                                                                        one day going to be the         sessed from the countryside to contend with.        enormously expensive but it appears to bene-
                                                                        biggest settlement on the       It has a fractured government system to deal        fit only the relatively prosperous car owning
                                                                        planet. It was probably the     with, divided between the Federal District –        residents of the wealthy areas through which
                                                                        first of the 20th century’s     a territory that was tightly controlled by the      it passes. Visually, the tangle of concrete col-
                                                                        monster cities to make an       federal government in the same way that             umn threaded on top of existing surface roads
                                                                        impression on the wider         Washington, D.C. and many other national            is already a lurid scar on the landscape of the
                                                   world, portrayed as an unstoppable eruption          capitals were until they began acquiring local-     city. Indeed it is a curious outcome for a proj-
                                                   of humanity swamping the landscape to reach          ly elected mayors – and the surrounding             ect initiated by a left leaning mayor. But then
                                                   the horizon in every direction. In the 1970s,        municipalities of the State of Mexico. Until        this is already a city full of unintended out-
                                                   predictions were made that it was well on the        very recently the two administrations have          comes. When the city tried to restrict car use
                                                   way to becoming a megalopolis of 30 million          failed to come to a shared view of what the         by introducing odd and even number plate
                                                   people or more. As it turned out, that has not       place needs to function properly. To compli-        only days, the response of the rich was of
                                                   happened. The population of the city centre is       cate matters further, the whole country is hav-     course to buy a second car. And all of this in a
                                                   static, and some of its denser historic areas        ing to deal with a gradual reawakening of a         city in which commutes of three hours are
                                                   have been in decline, an issue addressed by the      national democratic politics.                       forced on the maids who work for the rich but
                                                   formation of a special public-private partner-            Mexico City has within it the elements of      live in far distant settlements.
                                                   ship to encourage investment and develop-            a global city and the visible impacts of a glob-          It seems that many of Mexico City’s infra-
                                                   ment. What growth there is now concentrates          alised economy, both negative and positive.         structure systems have failed to address the
                                                   in the urban sprawl beyond city limits in the        It has slick business parks and boutique            implications of rapid growth and change.
                                                   administrative control of the State of Mexico.       hotels, and it is loosing industrial jobs to both   The city has a metro system that was its pride
                                                   The lower-middle classes are moving out into         the NAFTA-boosted factories on the US bor-          and joy when Mexico hosted the Olympics in
                                                   areas where gated communities are not just           der and more recently to China. An overval-         1968, an event that marked the country’s
                                                   for the privileged.                                  ued peso is not helping either. But it is also a    attempts to present itself as a modern state.
                                                        Certainly Mexico City grew fast from the        city where what could be seen as pre-modern         The metro was state of the art when it was
                                                   1940s when it began to loose its former incar-       conditions still prevail in certain aspects of      built, but has failed to adapt to what has been
                                                   nation as the Garden of Eden, blessed with a         civic life. It displays the chronic symptoms of     going on around it and the city has outgrown
                                                   near perfect climate, reminiscent of the gold-       uneven development in its lurch toward the          it. Mexico City has a historic centre that was
                                                   en age of Los Angeles, but shaped physically         global economy. Illegal land sales blight devel-    loosing population to more salubrious sub-
                                                   by the remains of its Aztec and its Spanish          opment in some areas, and the informal econ-        urbs even before the impact of the earth-
                                                   past as represented by flower studded baroque        omy is far more than the all pervasive street       quake. It has an urban development pattern
                                                   courtyards, the presence of the surrounding          traders and the 120 000 taxis on the city’s busy    that seems to recall that of Los Angeles: a
                                                   mountains, and the famous lake. The photo-           roads. The Federal District in particular has       downtown that at some point faced becoming
                                                   chemical smog that accompanied its discov-           seen the impact of competing power centres.         irrelevant, a deprived east, and a rich west.
                                                   ery of the motorcar through the medium of            The five year track record of the left leaning      The city has been growing chaotically for long
                                                   the locally produced Volkswagens that once           Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador says a            enough to have already revealed the limits of
                                                   monopolised its streets made that growth             lot about what happens when a democratic            modernisation.
                                                   look particularly threatening. That toxic haze       politician has to juggle constituencies with
                                                   was not helped by Mexico City’s extreme alti-        radically diverging ambitions for a city. Yet,      Deyan Sudjic is Dean of the Faculty of Art,
                                                   tude, and its mountains, two elements that           recent agreeements between the current              Design and Architecture, Kingston University
                                                   conspire to entrap the city’s pollution in the       mayor, Alejandro Encinas, and Enrique Peña          and co-chair of the Urban Age Advisory Board
                                                   brown cloud that seems to thicken under the          Nieto, governor of the State of Mexico – each
                                                   wings of descending aircraft.                        from opposing parties -to collaborate across
                                                        Certainly Mexico City is huge, 18 million       boundaries to solve the city’s structural prob-
                                                   or so people now live in the sprawling               lems does give rise to some optimism about
                                                   metropolis. But that is a close match for            Mexico City’s future.
                                                   Shanghai, New York and London – when their                Obrador, who has recently stepped down
                                                   respective city regions are taken into account.      to run for president in the national elections
                                                   All three have their own disparities in wealth,      to be held in the summer of 2006, was the sec-
                                                   even if Mexico’s seem more violent, and more         ond elected mayor since the Institutional
                                                   entrenched, and do not have the pervasive            Revolutionary Party (PRI) relaxed its three
                                                   impact of 50 years of Mao and Marx to damp           generation grip on the country and its capital.
                                                   down the sometimes chaotic lawlessness of            The presidential candidate of the Party of
                                                   the country in the way in which China has.           Democratic Revolution (PRD), Obrador is
                                                        There are street children and kidnappings       now vying for the presidential palace with
                                                   and water shortages in Mexico City and a             candidates from both the PRI and the
                                                   sewage system at the limits of its original          National Action Party (PAN), the party of the
                                                   design life. But the metropolis never became         current incumbent Vincente Fox. The PRD’s
                                                   the horror story that it sometimes threatened.       symbol is a highly charged Aztec sun, which
a worldwide series of conferences investigating    For a start, its growth has started to taper off,    might go some way to explain Obrador’s vig-
the future of cities
                                                   almost to the point that one might begin to          orous campaign as mayor against the national
organised by the Cities Programme at the           consider the idea that growth might be self          government’s imposition of daylight saving
London School of Economics and Political Science
and the Alfred Herrhausen Society,
                                                   limiting. And second, its reputation might           measures.
the International Forum of Deutsche Bank           have something to do with its accessibility and           On the other hand, Mexico City is clearly
                                                   its proximity to the United States, and so its       also a part of the modern world. One of
                                                   visibility. For those with a taste for the dizzy-    Obrador’s populist measures was to cancel
                                                   ing sense of staring into the urban abyss,           Microsoft software licenses at city hall, and
                                                   Mexico City is a lot more convenient to get          adopt Linux, a free operating systems instead.
                                                   to than Lagos, or Tehran, Dacca or Cairo.            As mayor, he kept a punishing personal
                                                   But Mexico City has nothing to be compla-            schedule with a working day that started at
                                                   cent about. It could deal with its two greatest      5.00 am and included 6.30 am press confer-
                                                   problems: photochemical smog, caused by its          ences. While there have been allegations
                                                   infatuation with the car coupled with                against party members and city officials,
                                                   extremely low petrol prices, and water short-        Obrador stoutly defends his personal reputa-
                                                   ages that are the product of its profligate use      tion for incorruptibility. His two most visible
                                                   of its underground reservoirs. But it has failed     legacies to the city reflect the extremes of
                                                   to address these issues, and between them,           urban life in Mexico. On the one hand he has
                                                   they could still render the city all but unin-       introduced dedicated bus lanes, modelled on
                                                   habitable.                                           the precedents of Curitiba and Bogotá, which

Mexico City: growth at the limit? - LSE Research Online
All photographs © Dante Busquets
                                                                                                       ropolitan regions from various countries          socio-economic classes, 39% in the middle

THE COMPLEXITIES                                                                                       according to the real GDP per capita, as the
                                                                                                       basic measure of productivity, the ZMCM
                                                                                                       comes 63rd. This situation is explained by the
                                                                                                                                                         classes and 44% in the lower classes.
                                                                                                                                                              It is estimated that within the ZMCM,
                                                                                                                                                         there were 33 million journeys/person/day in

OF CHANGE                                                                                              low levels of human capital, research, innova-
                                                                                                       tion and technology and by an insufficiently
                                                                                                       competitive market.
                                                                                                                                                         2005, with an average journey time of 47 min-
                                                                                                                                                         utes; this totals 26 million travel hours per
                                                                                                                                                         day. These totals represent the equivalent of
                                                                                                            The urban sprawl of Mexico City is made      3.2 million eight-hour working days, or one
                                                                                                       up of a vibrant amalgam of 4.2 million homes      day’s work by 42% of the active population
               he Metropolitan Zone of Mexico      in 2003. Despite all this, like all large cities    (2000), a total of 529,000 commercial and         in 2003. This data exemplifies the economic

               City (zmcm) is the most valu-       around the world, Mexico City has undergone         services buildings and 53,000 industrial          impact of the inadequacy of the urban servic-
               able, monumental and complex        indisputable de-industrialisation, although         places of business (2003), all of which is        es. Improving them is vital in order to have
               work that the country has con-      it produces over one fifth of national manu-        joined together by a system of highways, facil-   more efficient and productive cities.
               structed in its entire history:     facturing.                                          ities and infrastructure. All these elements           In a scenario of moderate economic
               in 2005, almost one third of the         At the same time, the relative significance    constitute 1,926km2 of urban area, presenting     growth, it would be hoped that the ZMCM
               gross domestic product was con-     of specialist services grew visibly. The ZMCM       an average density of 9,300 residents/km2         will increase its population by 4.2 million
               centrated in this area. Its urban   absorbed 39% of the GDP of the tertiary sec-        (2000). However, the magnitude and charac-        between 2000 and 2020. To cope with this
sprawl covers approximately 2,000 km2, home        tor in 1960 (trade and services) and in 1970        teristics of its future urban growth will         expansion, 37,000 hectares of new developed
to 19.5 million residents. The ZMCM is cur-        this figure rose to its highest recorded level      depend on the economic dynamics and the           space will be required. The political and eco-
rently the second most populated city on the       (47%). After that, it began its relative decline,   labour market of the ZMCM. The particulari-       nomic future of the country will depend on
planet, although its economic scope is that of     falling to 35% in 2003. The capital concen-         ties of the labour structure are summarised       Mexico City being able to have the public and
a secondary global metropolis, the function        trates 42% of producer services and 59% of          below, to complement this vision of the city      private investment necessary to achieve this
of which is to link up Mexico’s urban system       the financial sector in Mexico. In 2003, its        as a productive social force.                     urban expansion with the appropriate infra-
with the main super-cities worldwide.              profile was as the only leading tertiary centre          In 1960, the ZMCM contained 17% of           structure and facilities in order to join in, on a
      Mexico City has always been the econom-      in the country.                                     the country’s economically active population      competitive basis, with cities worldwide
ic centre of the country, although this pre-            The macroeconomic dynamics of the              (EAP), 22% of secondary sector workers and        because if it does not, its future will be very
dominance has been diminishing in recent           ZMCM explain its urban growth and the evo-          34% of tertiary sector workers. Thereafter, its   uncertain.
years. Having increased its share of the gross     lution of the labour market which, in the early     de-industrialisation meant that in 2003, sec-
domestic product (GDP) from 35-38%                 21st century, are facing one of the greatest        ondary sector labour fell to 19% and tertiary     Gustavo Garza Villarreal is the academic coor-
between 1960 and 1980, the crisis of the 1980s     challenges of their modern history. The inter-      sector labour to 25%. Within its labour struc-    dinator of the Doctoral Programme in Urban
had a greater effect on the city than on other     mittent crisis since the 1980s and economic         ture, an increasing trend towards the tertiary    and Environmental studies at El Colegio de
parts of the county, and its share of the GDP      opening-up have affected them significantly,        sector can be seen; the proportion of the pop-    México
fell to 32% in 1988. After Mexico’s inclusion      dramatically reducing the real income of its        ulation working in services then rose from
in the global economy, this index has been         population in the 1990s. In addition, the col-      58% in 1960 to 75% in 2003. In the last year,
unstable, recovering slightly, reaching 33%        lapse of federal public investment in the city      the EAP in the city totalled 7.7 million.
in 1998, and then falling once more to 30%         makes it impossible to modernise its infra-         The major inequalities in the income from
in 2003.                                           structural framework and it is therefore hard       the various occupations are given concrete
      The share of the ZMCM in the industrial      for the ZMCM to aspire to compete with              form in sharp socio-economic contrasts with-
GDP is higher and its decline even more            European and Asiatic cities which are mod-          in the metropolitan area. According to the
marked, totalling between 44 and 47%               ernising themselves with the implementation         spatial disintegration of the ZMCM into
between 1960 and 1980, reaching its highest        of mega projects of worldwide importance.           more than three thousand Basic Geo-statisti-
ever level (48%) in 1970. Thereafter, this         In a comparative classification of levels of        cal Areas (BGA), 17% of the population are
super-concentration declined, reaching 22%         productivity and competitiveness of 66 met-         concentrated in the upper and upper-middle
                                                                                                                                                                                 URBAN AGE CONFERENCE FEBRUARY 2006
Mexico City: growth at the limit? - LSE Research Online
This trend deepened with the signature of the        Metrobus have been introduced. Metrobus

CONGESTION                                                                                            NAFTA, from the second half of the 1990s
                                                                                                      onwards, the growth in car assembly was
                                                                                                                                                           has 34 stations and runs 80 articulated buses
                                                                                                                                                           running on low-emission engines along
                                                                                                                                                           Insurgentes, one of the city’s main avenues. A

AT THE LIMITS?                                                                                        THE EXPLOSION OF THE CAR
                                                                                                      The impressive dynamics of the car industry
                                                                                                                                                           Cycle Path Project has also been set up, to
                                                                                                                                                           cover 90 km. In addition, a Suburban Train
                                                                                                                                                           Project has been decided on, to the north-
                                                                                                      has been translated, for the AMCM, into an           west, covering 25 km, using the existing rail-
                                                                                                      explosive growth of new vehicles which, at the       way line.
               ehind the serious transport         journeys were done in Low-Capacity vehicles;

                                                                                                      end of the 1990s, was calculated at between
               problem in the Metropolitan         this rapid and negative transformation of the      250,000 and 300,000 additional vehicles on           AND WHAT ABOUT MOBILITY?
               Area of Mexico City (AMCM)          composition of the urban transport service         average per year. Considering that during this       Metrobus and the Cycle Paths are brand-new
               lies the predominance of low-       was the result of the application of erroneous     period, the population growth index for the          initiatives that lack additional investment in
               capacity vehicles both in collec-   government policies, which, for example,           AMCM was reduced to just 1.5% per year on            facilities, stations, signposts, dissemination
               tive and in private transport.      decided on the freezing and subsequent             average, the growth rate of the total number         and maintenance in order to allow for their
               Around 50,000 minibuses and         removal of the service of 4,000 buses in           of cars in the city is four times greater than the   more efficient and optimum use. Also, and in
               microbuses handle the majority      Mexico City, known as Ruta-100 and the pro-        population rate. Under these conditions and          contrast with other major cities, there has
of journeys in the city. Added to these are over   motion, to offset this, of vans, taxis and         after nearly fifteen years of non-construction       been no cultivation of a culture of the added
103,000 taxis in the Federal District and prob-    minibuses as alternatives for saving public        of major roads, the current Federal District         value of collective transport, even less of alter-
ably over 160,000 throughout the city, along       resources, for self-employment and for collec-     Government (GDF) decided to push forward             native transport: only 5% of the users of
with approximately 450,000 vehicles carrying       tive transport. In other words, there was a dis-   a rapid road programme, given that the deficit       Metrobus and the underground also own
loads. These units use the highways intensive-     mantling of a collective transport system          calculated from the same totals 25%. This            cars. Also, with the exception of the
ly and their fragmented and “home-made”,           based on government-owned high-capacity            programme forms part of the sector’s Integral        Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México,
corporate structure is highly inefficient with     resources, promoting in return deregulation,       Programme and is complemented by various             none of the city’s universities has infrastruc-
low productivity, both for the users and for       privatisation and fragmentation, further           collective transport measures.                       ture or programmes that promote alternative
the carriers and for the city in general.          reducing the efficiency and productivity of                                                             transport. This is particularly serious when
Meanwhile, private transport handles only          high-capacity collective transport.                TRANSPORT AND HIGHWAY PROJECTS                       the city is expanding territorially in a greater
19% of journeys but uses 95% of the vehicles,                                                         As part of this Programme, the most impres-          proportion than the population, favouring
which exceeds the 4 million units in circula-      THE PROMOTION OF PRIVATE MOTORISATION              sive works are the road bridges located in the       dispersion and disintegration. As a result,
tion and uses the highest proportion of road       During the 1970s and 1980s, the city saw           ravines on the west side, the “Two Tiers of the      there are elements that are indicative of the
space in the city as a whole.                      accelerated demographic growth which,              Ring Road”, the Eje Vial 5 Poniente, the San         fact that metropolitan mobility is being
     The result of the above is extreme conges-    above all, was translated into territorial         Antonio motorway exit, giving traffic alterna-       organised along urban corridors that limit the
tion and journey stress, particularly serious      expansion. This led to the reinforcement of        tives in the strategic west zone of the city. We     possibility of enjoyment of the city by the citi-
along the main highway corridors and access        the “horizontal extensive growth” of the           should also mention the progress of the other        zens. A new type of segregation and confine-
roads of the city and during rush hour. One        AMCM, which incorporated increasingly              motorway exits of the Eje Troncal                    ment is being promoted, even for those who
third of all journeys are made in the morning      outlying areas with less access to infrastruc-     Metroplitano Oriente. Alongside, in collective       have the privilege of mobility in transport.
rush hour alone, and these journeys are taking     ture and services. This was translated into        transport, we have seen renovation of the
longer and longer. In the second half of the       longer, delayed and costly journeys to get to      infrastructure of significant stretches of           Bernardo Navarro Benítez is a Professor at the
1990s, we saw the determining dominance of         work, schools and services, which make met-        underground, lines 2, 5 and 9, and nine trains       Autonomus Metropolitan University
journeys made in Low-Capacity vehicles             ropolitan journeys and the rise in motorisa-       have been introduced on line 2. In addition,
(cars, vans, taxis and minibuses) which han-       tion one of the most significant aspects of this   the transport capacity of the public bus com-
dled over three quarters of metropolitan jour-     problem in the city. The oil “boom” of the         pany Red de Transportes de Pasajeros (RTP)
neys. A decade before that, only one third of      mid-1980s promoted the purchase of cars.           has increased by 50% and 19.4 km of
Mexico City: growth at the limit? - LSE Research Online
needs. Thus, there has been a proliferation        this part of the city.

MORE HOUSING                                                                                          of clandestine estates and encroachment on
                                                                                                      neighbourhoods and districts to the east and
                                                                                                      south-east. Middle-class housing develop-
                                                                                                                                                              With the new housing produced in the
                                                                                                                                                         city centre between 2000 and 2005, just over
                                                                                                                                                         200,000 people stayed or returned; a positive

OR A BETTER CITY?                                                                                     ments are located in the central band of the
                                                                                                      FD and the residential areas to the west and
                                                                                                      south; they make up the “city of the upper
                                                                                                                                                         balance for recycling of the area, which should
                                                                                                                                                         be recorded with the results of the 2005
                                                                                                                                                         Housing Count.
                                                                                                      classes”, which extends to neighbouring                 The scenario today is very different: the
                                                                                                      districts.                                         supply of free land in the city centre has been
               ow do we recover the loss of       defined its urban policy around “Bando Dos”:             It has been possible to generate new          reduced and has become more expensive;

               housing in central areas without   an order aimed at “reversing the loss of popu-      housing in areas where housing had been lost.      there is growing pressure on working-class
               increasing segregation in the      lation from the four central neighbourhoods,        However, as DeMet indicates, production            housing due to its development potential for
               city? How do we respond to the     making good use of its exhisting infrastruc-        was concentrated in the four central neigh-        the construction of middle-class housing, and
               housing needs of the low-          ture and facilities for the benefit of poor resi-   bourhoods: in 2000, only 30% of the private        the FD does not have any reserves. According
               income population? If building     dents, and regulating disproportionate              supply was in this area; in the second quarter     to Bando Dos, there will be no alternative for
               is forbidden in outlying neigh-    growth in the neighbourhoods to the south           of 2005, the percentage rose to 66%, 72% if        the development of working-class and social
               bourhoods and a significant        and east. In order to protect conservation          only new housing is included.                      housing other than the metropolitan districts.
segment of the population cannot access           land and prevent spread of the urban sprawl              As the land prices are rising, the private         The solution put forward by develop-
housing in the centre, then where exactly         in aquifer recharge zones where a significant       supply of housing of social and working-class      ments in the districts raises new problems for
do people live?                                   proportion of the city’s oxygen is produced”.       interest has fallen in relation to the middle-     the population: outlying locations that mean
     The answers are increasingly complex,        At the same time, for the working-class dis-        class supply, supply of the former being trans-    long, expensive travel and a lack of basic serv-
largely due to the lack of any co-ordination      tricts of the outlying neighbourhoods, it is        ferred to the adjacent districts. Thus, in five    ices and facilities. As for the city, it will contin-
between the Federal District (FD) and the         implementing an improvement programme               years, just over 60,000 new units in central       ue losing its population, and the floating pop-
State of Mexico, patently clear in the housing    which, in addition to expansion and rehabili-       neighbourhoods were built, whilst a property       ulation will rise, along with the requirement
sector. In addition to working with different     tation, includes two kinds of new housing:          boom was recorded in the districts, involving      for public transport on already saturated
town-planning programmes and norms, in            replacement of damaged housing or building          around 150,000 housing units, according to         highways.
the FD, measures have been adopted to regu-       on already inhabited family plots.                  data from the Urban Development                         Bando Dos needs to be revised in light of
late housing production and promote a more             Since the 1950s, the urban area of the         Department of the State of Mexico. The low-        its impacts both within and outside the limits
balanced urban development, without con-          FD has exceeded the limits, accelerating the        income population has only been able to            of the FD, and on the living conditions of the
sidering that the FD forms part of the metro-     development of middle-class housing estates         obtain housing in the city centre, thanks to       average and low-income population. Tools
politan area, that the actions have repercus-     to the west, in districts bordering the State of    programmes of the Housing Institute (INVI-         need to be designed so that the FD can recover
sions outside its limits and that, at the same    Mexico. At the same time, the industrial zone       DF), with its high subsidy levels.                 the added value that generates public invest-
time, these actions have an effect thereupon.     to the north has been consolidated, and with             To cope with rising land prices, private      ment in housing, in order to carry on produc-
An example of these measures: the ban on the      this, the construction of public housing            developers have increased density in housing       ing it. Expanding, gradually, permission to
development of housing estates in the 1950s,      developments concentrated to the north              developments of social and working-class           build working-class and social housing in
and from the mid-sixties onwards, the delimi-     and east of the city.                               interest, which according to DeMet, rose from      outlying neighbourhoods of theFD; in order
tation of conservation areas, the definition           Whilst there is increasing deterioration       350 housing units/hectare in 2000 to over 650      to grow from within, densifying and exploit-
of land-uses, densities and volumes in subse-     and loss of housing in the working-class dis-       housing units/hectare in 2005. They have also      ing the city’s services and facilitates, and
quent neighbourhood town-planning devel-          tricts in the centre, where the capacity for        reduced living space from 57 to 51m2. The          reducing the crowding out of its population
opment programmes, and restrictions on            more profitable uses of the land is growing,        INVI-DF has used up its reserve of land in the     to dormitory zones of the city.
building housing in special controlled devel-     the low-income population is increasing sig-        area; it does not have the resources to buy land
opment zones.                                     nificantly, a population that is turning to the     and depends on expropriation by the local          Noemí Stolarski Rosenthal is a private consult-
     And lastly, in 2000, the FD Government       unofficial market in order to meet its housing      government in order to continue working in         ant specialising in housing issues
                                                                                                                                                                                  URBAN AGE CONFERENCE FEBRUARY 2006
Mexico City: growth at the limit? - LSE Research Online
beyond immediate or physical intervention.         archaeological metropolitan parks is comple-

THE BREATHING SPACES                                                                                      A level of citizen commitment and involve-
                                                                                                          ment has been established that is rarely seen
                                                                                                          in urban programmes in our country. This is
                                                                                                                                                             mented by the zone of the Pirámides de
                                                                                                                                                             Teotihuacan (8), where an extensive master-
                                                                                                                                                             plan is required, for heritage protection and

OF THE CITY                                                                                               the lesson it has learnt. How can we move
                                                                                                          from this towards a metropolitan strategy for
                                                                                                          public spaces and cultural offerings? I would
                                                                                                                                                             for urban parks that service visitors and resi-
                                                                                                                                                             dents. Proposals have also been made for
                                                                                                                                                             Tepozotlan (9), to the north, for the configu-
                                                                                                          like to use this forum to propose a vision that    ration of a system of parks, open spaces and
                                                                                                          I have called “1, 10 y 100 – Espacios Abiertos     heritage sites. The old Azcapotzalco refinery
                                                                                                          y Culturales en la Macropolis de la Ciudad de      (10) also constitutes a major reserve for the

               ublic open spaces are democrat-       an intensity of cultural offerings and facilities
               ic city spaces par excellence; one    in a single place of such ancestral natural          Mexico” (1, 10 and100 – Open and Cultural          creation of a large park with metropolitan
               place belonging to and for            beauty. It is also a central space, easy to access   Spaces in the Macropolis of Mexico City).          cultural and leisure facilities in the central-
               everyone. Streets, boulevards,        from the metropolitan area using mass low-                                                              northern region of the Federal District, repre-
               cultural facilities, public gar-      cost transport: Chapultepec gets between 15          ONE (1) SUPER-CITY SPACE                           senting a significant offering that balances out
               dens, squares, parks and nature       and 16 million visitors a year, 46% of whom          The great opportunity for the configuration        over-use and concentration in Chapultepec.
               reserves constitute a vacuum,         come from the Federal District, 35% from the         of a major system of open spaces and super-
               a negative space that gives its       State of Mexico and just 19% from the rest of        city nature reserves is the former Vaso de         100 URBAN SPACES
form, organises, structures and embellishes          the country and overseas. Chapultepec holds          Texcoco, as various architects, town-planners      However, an ordered system does exist within
the city, allows it to breathe and live. Public      a huge attraction for visitors, faced with an        and engineers have pointed out. I have here a      the context of all these problems, these
spaces generate balance between what is built        urban landscape that offers little, and suffers      unique opportunity for the region, given the       inequalities and this chaos in Mexico City.
and what is private, the opening that society,       enormous disparity and inequality in the dis-        availability of federal public land in the cen-    Heritage is an equaliser of quality of urban life
by consent and by norm, has given itself in          tribution of public open spaces and cultural         tre, of which an enormous urban sprawl has         because of its history, its precedent. Mexico
order to co-exist. In general terms, we can say      and leisure facilities. These absences are par-      already been created. It would be possible to      City is a huge galaxy or universe of chaos and
that it does not matter how large, extensive or      ticularly marked in the north and east, areas        create a vast network of parks, lakes, wetlands    construction (not necessarily architecture)
dense a city is, if in return, it allows its resi-   with the highest population growth and terri-        and conservation areas complemented by             with multiples oases. I refer to the fact that no
dents to access a variety of quality public          torial expansion in the metropolitan area.           public service facilities for the most vulnera-    matter how poor or extensive or outlying a
spaces. In so far as we are able to stroll                What is most impressive in the initiatives      ble population. However, Texcoco could turn        zone of the city may be, we will always find
through its streets, gardens, squares and            and actions that have been implemented to            into a huge problem; these areas have been         wonderful oases in a small square, the historic
parks, we will have a more equitable and dem-        reverse the gradual decline in the ecology,          invaded and populated at a rapid rate.             part of the district, a little glimmer of history.
ocratic and, in short, more human, city.             services and maintenance of Chapultepec is                                                              That is to say, we live in a space that has
     However, who is responsible for ensuring        the fact that these have been promoted and           TEN (10) METROPOLITAN SPACES                       already been inhabited, which we have trans-
that the space that belongs to everyone is not       called for by civil society. The institutional       The cycle track along the old Cuernavac rail-      formed and combined in just one city, but
violated, occupied, invaded, abandoned or            model of intervention, with significant citizen      way is to be completed, turning it into a lineal   which we will always come across and which
ignored? How are marginal areas of the city          participation. This model, although not per-         metropolitan park (1) connecting up a chain        is always here. This is not a conservationist or
affected by the absence or non-existence of          fected, has demonstrated a capacity for lead-        of public spaces to the west. Starting at the      nostalgic vision, but a tool that initiates an
public space and the lack of access to culture?      ership, drive and follow-up within the enor-         lakes and wetlands in Tlahuac to the south (2)     ordered system of equality.
Do social and economic differences become            mous complexity and simultaneity of factors          and passing via the important archaeological            This is my proposal for 111 urban, civic,
even greater?                                        and problems. Fund-raising campaigns have            remains at El Cerro de la Estrella (3) and         natural, historic, accessible and cultural
     Chapultepec is the largest public space in      been launched with a level of participation          El Cerro Texcoxcingo (4), the lineal park will     spaces that could, significantly, create a habit-
Mexico City, bringing together history, cul-         unheard of in our society. The masterplan for        extend to metropolitan parks to the north,         able democratic super-city.
ture, nature and leisure in an exceptional way.      Chapultepec has made possible the co-ordi-           in El Olivar de los Padres (5) and La Cañada
There are few parks in the world with such a         nation, promotion and scheduled implemen-            de Contreras (6), finishing up in El Cerro         Mario Schjetnan is a founding partner of the
layering of historic and symbolic weight and         tation of multiple actions, which go far             del Ajuzco (7). This vision of cultural and        Grupo de DiseñoUrbano
Mexico City: growth at the limit? - LSE Research Online
of their useful life?                               politan interest along with the authorities.

GOVERNING THE                                                                                               Do the capacities of existing governments
                                                                                                       contain the power to resolve these mega-
                                                                                                       problems, as they have already assured the cit-
                                                                                                                                                                 It would seem that the current multitude
                                                                                                                                                           of public institutions and their reduced
                                                                                                                                                           capacity to deal with the requirements of the

MEGA CITY                                                                                              izens they can? Once again, the answer is no.
                                                                                                       Many problems are irreversible, the limits
                                                                                                       have been reached. It is clear that a new para-
                                                                                                                                                           metropolis have reached a historic limit and
                                                                                                                                                           that we need to think about new structures, so
                                                                                                                                                           that the stakeholders become jointly responsi-
                                                                                                       digm is required, for raising questions not         ble with the state when it comes to decisions
                                                                                                       raised up until now, courses of action not          concerning the development of the metropo-

        s it possible to govern the Mexican         in terms of super-cities (Central Region of        attempted in the past. The citizens, some           lis. In order to do things differently and with
        mega-metropolis? The initial response       Mexico or RCM), a circle of cities surrounds       intuitively, others in a more structured fash-      better prospects of success, it is necessary to
        is yes, since it is obvious that this       the Metropolitan Zone of the Valley of             ion, are wondering what should be proposed          plan the metropolis from a long-term, inte-
        occurs on a daily basis. However, this      Mexico (ZMVM). These cities are growing at         in order to govern and run this metropolis? It      grated point of view perhaps with a
        process involves 79 executive bodies in     rates of around 1.9% per year and the RCM          would seem clear that it is only possible to        Metropolitan Planning Institute. It would also
        3 areas of government; they legislate       comprises a macro-regional space which has         take positive steps within a jointly responsible    be vital to “observe” the evolution of the phe-
        for 63 legislative zones and at least 80    26.1 million residents, 11 metropolitan zones,     action by the government and democratic             nomena, via, for example, a Metropolitan
        territorial plans and programmes exist,     6 Federatal entities and 158 districts. Even in    stakeholders. Which brings us to governance.        Supervisory Body.
for “planning”. It is clear that fragmented and     the most enclosed area of the ZMVM, and                 This means firstly defining what “metro-             In order to expand the overall economic
sectorised action prevails, and it is proving       notwithstanding the huge number of activi-         politan” is and what it is not, in terms of the     space of the ZMVM, it would be necessary to
enormously difficult to define and execute a        ties shared by the two main jurisdictions that     existing policies and services required for the     focus investment policies and promote eco-
long-term metropolitan vision. And yet it is        govern it (EM and FD), there is a lack of effec-   functioning of the metropolis. It is also obvi-     nomic development using models such as
working! But how is it working? Does it offer       tive co-ordination dealing with the needs of       ous that inter-governmental metropolitan co-        economic development corporations. It is
reasonable conditions for competitive eco-          the metropolis. Hence, legislation, planning       ordination needs to be made compulsory              clear that it is also necessary to have appropri-
nomic development, in order to improve              and urban taxation (tax on property), barely       (both between authorities as well as between        ate resources for metropolitan projects and to
quality of life and security in a community,        have any common ground, since neither body         sectors of government). To this end, it is clear    institutionalise the existing Metropolitan
so that its organisation and environment are        considers the other in its own institutional,      that we need a greater political will than exists   Fund. Mexico City would benefit from the
sustainable? The answer is no, because it is        governing and public policy decisions.             now. There are three alternatives: (1) to gov-      creation of public/mixed companies that
offering fewer positive conditions and the                This metropolis also presents serious        ern and run the metropolis as has been done         guarantee the public interest and involve pri-
feeling is growing that basic problems are          environmental problems. Can it keep con-           until now, but with improvements – this in          vate actors. These structures would raise
increasing disproportionately.                      suming 62 m3 of water per second, drying out       reality is happening; (2) to explore new forms      investment in services of metropolitan inter-
      One in five Mexicans live in the metropo-     the Valley of Mexico and the river basins that     of co-operation and community involvement           ests, in order to meet, on an integrated basis,
lis, and in 2005, the population reached 19.5       export water to the city, without a plan for       through non-profit organisations, particular-       requirements in terms of water, transport,
million: 56% live in the 59 suburban districts      collecting water and for water processing and      ly municipal, since this aspect of government       solid waste, etc.
of the State of Mexico (EM) the remaining           reuse? Can it keep adding to the number of         has been lacking in metropolitan co-ordina-               This is but a bare outline of the main
44% in the 16 neighbourhoods of the Federal         cars at the rate of 280,000 per year until rush    tion decisions; (3) the best option, but one        themes that need to be tackled. All these prob-
District (FD). Although the annual rates of         hours lasts five or ten hours, without a metro-    that involves exchanges of funds, is to turn to-    lems have now gone beyond public action and
growth are falling (4.37% 1970-1980, and            politan public transport project that deals        wards a metropolitan government, via assem-         require a new vision, structured within a
0.9% 2000-2005) and the FD is not growing,          with the 4.5 million plus cars already on the      blies or parliaments that legislate strictly on     strategy of urban reform for Mexico.
the districts in the EM are demonstrating a         road? Is it possible to continue producing         metropolitan matters, and via executive and
process of extensive expansion rising to 1.6%       nearly 23,000 tons of waste per day, when the      citizen Metropolitan Councils that take deci-       Alfonso Xavier Iracheta Cenecorta is a Profesor
(higher than the national average). However,        sites where it is dumped are almost at the end     sions concerning public policies of metro-          at El Colegio Mexiquense

                                                                                                       some pay taxes and others do not, the reality is    – c. 25,000 street vendors operate in the

THE INFORMAL ECONOMY                                                                                   that in Mexico City, we are all informal in that
                                                                                                       we benefit from it as much as we suffer.
                                                                                                             The geography of the informal economy
                                                                                                                                                           Historic Centre alone, this number has
                                                                                                                                                           increased by 40% in the last 5 years and dou-
                                                                                                                                                           bles each December;

AS A WAY OF LIFE                                                                                       in Mexico City is both the historic centre and
                                                                                                       the outlying districts, both traditional public
                                                                                                       spaces – such as squares and parks – and
                                                                                                                                                           – it is estimated that 65% of music sold in
                                                                                                                                                           Mexico is pirate music.
                                                                                                                                                                 The mantra of democracy and liberalism
                                                                                                       transport interchanges. It occupies poor areas      as prerequisites of development has been
                                                                                                       such as Iztapalapa or Chimalhuacán and priv-        eroded by the informal economy, replacing

                o paraphrase Louis Wirth in his     considered marginal than on repeating what         ileged areas like Santa Fé. The corners of          this with the principle of negotiation. In
                classic study of more than 60       was, before,“normative”. Today, the judicious      Mexico City have been turned into the pre-          Mexico City, both the law and physical space
                years ago, we can affirm that the   and negative stigma of the informal economy        ferred space for the informal economy where         are negotiated. It is not unusual to see that
                informal economy, in the con-       has diminished and it has been taken on more       products are sold (from telephone cards,            informal leaders, whether street selling or
                text of Mexico City, has become     as a problem, as a fact.                           sweets, food to pets), entertainment (mimes,        invading land, move on to party structures
                a way of life. Mexico City is not        The informal economy covers the whole         clowns, acrobats), exchange of information          and elected positions. Social negotiation net-
                the only city where this informal   spectrum of the urban economic cycle, from         (surveys, distribution of political propa-          works that are being woven in the informal
                economy exists, nor the place       elemental forms of production, to recycling.       ganda), and services (cleaning windscreens          economy are being transformed into clientele
where it is most exacerbated. However, it is        It includes goods and services such as hous-       or whole cars).                                     networks useful in politics.
perhaps where the density, scale and hetero-        ing, transport, the infrastructure, credit and           It has been affirmed that the informal              It has been argued that the informal
geneity of the phenomenon most clearly show         occupation of space, extending as far as politi-   economy has its origins in the inability of the     economy is neither good nor bad, it is simply
how this has altered the city both in its eco-      cal negotiation. The whole informal activity       State and of the market to supply goods, serv-      a fact. Some see it as a problem, others as an
nomic and social dynamics as well as in the         features techniques, decisions and strategies      ices and employment to its citizens, acting as      opportunity. However, it is hard to avoid pre-
production of urban space and everyday              that, although not very orthodox, entail a         an escape valve; also mentioned is tolerance        conceptions and generate new perceptions of
experience.                                         form of planning and organisation. They may        of disorder and crime, the lack of any simple       this urban phenomenon. Are we condemned
     The term informal is elusive, ambiguous,       be sophisticated and effective in the way in       regulation and the lack of economic policy          to only making more or less intelligent, more
temporary and problematic. Today, it has            which they allocate resources, organise space      reforms. Amongst its effects, people mention,       or less marginal comments on the phenome-
become a kind of conceptual umbrella that           and deal with both social and economic             exploitation and labour abuse, privatisation        non? Is it possible only to work with the
covers forms and practices of production,           requirements.                                      of public space, erosion of standards of coex-      effects of the phenomenon, reducing its nega-
consumption and social relations that make               The informal economy appears to be            istence and civility and the loss of economic       tive impacts and capitalising on its potential?
up the city. What is informal offers proof of       linked with official and regulated processes       competition. The question that should be            Is it possible to come up with a new taxonomy
what exists outside what is legal, regulated,       but even, more surprisingly, in some case,         asked is whether the informal economy and           of the informal economy that better diag-
taxed, controlled or lawful.                        modifies these official processes and policies.    its effects are hindering or benefiting the         noses the origin of urban policies and more
     Both the definitions of informal and the       The leading mobile telephone company,              urban economy as a whole.                           effective responses? Perhaps it is possible to
attitudes to this have been changing, over          whose owner is the richest man in South                  The figures on the informal economy in        imagine that a new knowledge of the city
time, in Mexico City. Forty years ago, the          America, employs sales and distribution tech-      Mexico City are elusive and statistically           might emerge from a better understanding of
housing units built by Mario Pani were con-         niques specific to the informal economy such       unspecified but to give an idea of the magni-       the informal economy as a driving and deter-
sidered “Proper Housing”, whilst the hun-           as street selling on corners. Similarly, the       tude of the phenomenon, here are a few facts:       mining force in major cities.
dreds of thousands of houses built in outlying      mechanisms for financing, in the case of           – c. 60% of housing construction occurs
districts like Ciudad Neza were considered          micro-credit, replicate the mutually binding       informally;                                         José Manuel Castillo Olea is a Profesor at the
“informal settlements” or “parachutist settle-      and guarantee networks that have existed for       – over 60% of jobs are in the informal              Universidad Iberoamericana
ments”. Today, official housing policies are        years in the world of informal credit.             economy;
more focused on supporting what used to be          Although some are rich and others poor,            – c. 25% of the 105,000 taxis are unofficial;

                                                                                                                                                                                  URBAN AGE CONFERENCE FEBRUARY 2006
    MEXICO CITY                                                                                                                                    8



                                                                                                                    6                                                      8

                                                                                                        1          3                                         7


1 SANTA FE: FROM CITY DUMP TO GLOBAL NODE          some see the node as an extension of the cor-        elites and transnational real estate interests.    expanding and improving the capacity of the
The “corporate centre” of Lomas de Santa Fe,       porate corridor along the Reforma Boulevard               The restoration plan underway has vari-       main controlled access roads, improving
as locals know the area, is located in a hilly     and Chapultepec. Santa Fe may be seen as a           ous objectives: to attract private investment,     journeys, reducing travel time and reducing
section of the sub-municipal district of           symbol of a modernising Mexico City and of           reactivate its unutilised building stock, ensure   contamination indicators.
Alvaro Obregón in the Federal District's west-     the city’s rising status in the global economy.      the economic revitalisation of the zone and to          The project has been controversial and
ern edge. A new metropolitan centrality locat-     On the other hand, detractors may point to           generate formal employment. On the social          citizens were even consulted for their
ed 30 km from the Benito Juárez international      the highly exclusionary character of the area        dimension, the aims are to improve the live-       approval. The year 2002 saw the beginning of
airport and 40 km from Toluca airport in the       that is reflected in its introverted urban fabric    ability of the area, attract residents back and    the work which, planned over four separate
State of Mexico, the redeveloped Santa Fe now      of single-point blocks, big-box mall typolo-         solve issues of insecurity and congestion          stages, overall, totalled 35 km of road. An
has a completely different shape from what it      gies and gated residential complexes. The            caused by the overwhelmingly large presence        approximate total investment of 2,000 million
did two decades ago: the area had first con-       reality is that Santa Fe is still growing and        of street vendors. Although the plan has           pesos will be required. The first phase of the
tained various sand mines and it subsequently      it may still be in order to question both the        already begun to show positive outcomes, and       work is complete and measures 13.8 km in
became home to huge city dumps. The steep          shape the area is taking and how this nodality       there is a visible movement of employers and       length. The construction of this stage has
hills below the development, however, are still    interacts with the rest of the city.                 residents returning to the centre, several ques-   already required 1,500 million pesos, the
largely occupied by precarious popular settle-                                                          tions remain unanswered. What will be the          equivalent of a significant percentage of the
ments and low-income neighbourhoods.               2 REVITALISING THE HISTORIC CENTRE                   most desirable mix of industries and activities    2002 budget for transport and road pro-
     As part of the policies for the rehabilita-   In the last 20 years, the historic centre of         for the area? What type of employment will be      grammes. The second, third and fourth phas-
tion of Mexico City, Santa Fe was reconfig-        Mexico City has suffered serious economic,           created? How will the new economy solve            es consist of the design and construction of a
ured from 1989 onwards. Via the Urban              social and urban decay, chiefly after the earth-     issues of informality? Will a revitalised centre   second tier, in both directions, over other sec-
Development Master Plan (ZEDEC), Santa Fe          quakes in 1985. Between 1970 and 1995, the           keep a percentage of social housing? Will the      tions of the Periférico, the Viaducto and other
was transformed into an urban mega-project         central city zone lost approximately 40% of its      most important civic space in the city main-       urban main roads.
which, multi-functional in nature, includes:       population. In 1990, the Historic Centre Trust       tain its socially mixed character or will pro-
various corporate towers where multinational       was set up with the mission of revitalising this     cesses of gentrification and displacement take     4 THE SUBURBAN TRAIN
corporations have set up their offices in          central urban quarter and restoring its valu-        hold and purge its diversity and vibrancy?         In the Metropolitan area of Mexico City,
Mexico City; large-scale commercial facilities;    able yet rapidly decaying architectural her-                                                            around 35 million journeys are made daily,
the campus of one of Mexico’s most presti-         itage. The Trust’s board is made up of repre-        3 REACHING FOR THE STARS: TWO-TIER MOTORWAYS       and those who travel from the suburbs spend
gious private universities; and an up-market       sentatives of federal and city government, of        The Government of the City of Mexico has           between five and six hours commuting each
housing stock. Road infrastructure has been        private actors and of civil society organisa-        proposed the construction of two tiers over        day. The Suburban Train Project, which will
provided and Santa Fe has good connectivity        tions – critics argue, however, that the revitali-   the Periférico (Ring Road) and the Viaducto        connect the Federal District to the State of
with other metropolitan centralities, in fact      sation process is now dominated by business          (Miguel Alemán Viaduct) with the aim of            Mexico, is the first step towards dealing with

                                                                                                                                                                                  URBAN AGE CONFERENCE FEBRUARY 2006
the need to improve a metropolitan transport         de Texcoco zone; to produce a new ecological         aquifers due to the multiplication of impervi-
infrastructure.                                      park on the eight hectares that used to be the       ous surfaces, increasing quantities of potable
     The project is being co-financed by three       Azcapotzalco Refinery and join it to other           water were being wasted because of leakages
governments: the Federal government, the             parks along a green linear corridor; and to          through the overextended pipe system.
State of Mexico government and the Federal           distribute pocket parks throughout the city.               Stricter growth controls in outer bor-
District government who are joining forces to        Mexico City seems to be rediscovering the            oughs and a streamlined process to grant
start up the railway that will connect the old       importance of high-quality green open spaces         building permits at the core are the two con-
central railway station of Buenavista with           and, in this respect, taking the same path           crete policies announced by the Bando Dos.
suburbs in the State of Mexico. Its final desti-     shown in initiatives such as London’s Green          In the five-year period since the initiative was
nation will be Huehuetoca, covering 240 km.          Grid or the Mayor’s 100 Public Spaces, or the        first implemented, the four core boroughs
Construction of the first 25 km, from                initiatives to revitalise the Los Angeles River      have witnessed both a construction boom and
Buenavista to Cuautitlán, has already begun.         and transform it into an armature that could         steep hikes in housing prices that have also
The suburban train will carry 320,000 passen-        rearticulate the disjointed urban landscape          impacted on the rest of the metropolitan
gers a day, mostly workers and students who          of Southern California.                              housing market. There has also been a prolif-
will save more than 2.5 hours daily on each                                                               eration of low-density subdivisions and gated
round trip. The fare will be equivalent to what      7 THE FARO (LIGHTHOUSE) TO THE EAST OF THE CITY      communities at the edges of the metropolitan
people are paying today on other means of            In Mexico City, the supply of public space           zone in the State of Mexico. Is the re-densifi-
transport. The train will also contribute to         and cultural facilities has been concentrated        cation of the core an achievement of the
reducing the road problem and will have a            in a narrow area bordering the centre and            Bando Dos or was it already underway before
positive impact on environmental conditions          south-west of the city, where the most privi-        the initiative? Are the negative metropolitan
in the area.                                         leged social groups live. As a result, the eastern   dynamics unintended consequences of the
                                                     zone of the city suffers from both economic          policy? There is a wide range of opinions from
5 METROBÚS: THE FUTURE OF COLLECTIVE                 disadvantage and cultural neglect. With the          both detractors and supporters of this contro-
TRANSPORT IN MEXICO CITY?                            intention of decentralising and democratising        versial re-densification initiative. The case
It is estimated that in the Federal District,        the access to culture, the city government           also illustrates wider debates on the relation-
there are already 3.2 million registered vehi-       decided to create a cultural centre in the east.     ship between urban densities and housing
cles, which are responsible for 70% of the air       In 1998 a project was approved to create a cul-      affordability, the need to consider the role of
contamination. With the central objective of         tural centre in an abandoned property that           design in re-densification initiatives, and the
reducing road congestion and contaminating           had been built years ago by the architect            limits of territorial policies in taming sprawl
emissions, the Federal District has promoted         Alberto Kalach, who was also commissioned            when they are not implemented within wide
the construction of a dedicated-lane bus sys-        to refurbish the site for its new purpose. Since     regional frameworks.
tem since 2002. This initiative follows the suc-     its opening in the year 2000, the F-ábrica de
cess of the BRT systems (Bus Rapid Transit)          AR-tes y O-ficios de Oriente (Factory of Arts        9 HOUSING IMPROVEMENT PROGRAMME
in South American cities such as Curitiba,           and Crafts of the East) offers workshops to          (PROGRAMA DE MEJORAMIENTO DE VIVIENDA- PMV)
Bogotá, Sao Paulo and Quito. With the advan-         around 1,700 children, youngsters and adults;        The PMV dates back to 1998. It was jointly
tage that they use the existing road infrastruc-     a library and internet access; film screenings       designed by the city government and repre-
ture, the BRT systems have constituted an            and other cultural activities – all free of          sentatives from the various NGOs from the
option that is economically more viable than         charge. It also holds huge concerts and youth-       Habitat Coalition-Mexico to address the
other collective transport systems such as the       oriented events for nearly 10,000 people at a        acute housing problems of popular settle-
underground, which requires approximately            time. These events are known for their safety.       ments, which were originally informally
10 times more investment.                            No major incidents have been reported, even          developed and cover more than half of the
      Inaugurated on 19 June 2005, Metrobus          though the facilities sit in a high-crime area       metropolitan surface. The PMV grants loans
required an estimated investment of 48 mil-          with several opposing gangs active. Middle-          to low-income families living in the Federal
lion pesos in road works and approximately           class young people are beginning to attend           District (heads of household earning less than
212 million pesos in coaches. It has approxi-        these events regularly.                              US$ 600 per month) and it provides technical
mately 85 articulated buses that travel along             The FARO is located in the borough of           assistance to programme participants con-
the some 20 km of Avenida Insurgentes at an          Iztapalapa, one of the poorest and troubled          cerning design issues and spatial arrange-
average speed of 21 km/h. It has 34 stops and        areas of the Federal District, just a few blocks     ments within the housing unit. It was first
2 terminals (Dr. Gálvez and Indios Verdes).          from the city’s largest dump, in a popular           co-financed by the city’s administration and
On its busiest section, Metrobus carries             neighbourhood built over the dried-up                NGOs and it has now been put under the
around 5,500 passengers per hour.                    Texcoco Lake. The FARO has been described            entire supervision of the Federal District’s
                                                     as a socially inclusive and culturally alterna-      Housing Institute.
6 URBAN PARKS                                        tive space, and although its ability to respond           The PMV’s main objectives are to create
It seems almost unnecessary to mention the           to the lack of cultural facilities in the east of    better living conditions for socially disadvan-
vital importance of parks, green and open            the city is limited, this initiative, now being      taged families; to deal with problems of over-
spaces in dense urban areas. Urban parks             reproduced in other parts of the city, hints at      crowding; and to improve precarious, dam-
beautify their surroundings and are funda-           the potential that social inclusion and cultural     aged or at-risk housing units. The interven-
mental as aquifer recharge zones, for produc-        production offer to revitalise cities.               tions sponsored by the programme to reach
ing oxygen and for reducing contaminants.                                                                 these goals include: expansion; improvement;
Green spaces in the Federal District cover           8 THE RE-DENSIFICATION OF THE URBAN CORE:            preventive, corrective or general mainte-
only 12,828 hectares. The green space average         BANDO DOS                                           nance; new progressive housing, designed
is 15.1m2/resident if we take into considera-        In December 2000, the then Mayor Andrés              for subsequent expansion; and new finished
tion both private and public green spaces and        Manuel López Obrador issued Bando Dos                units. Since 2001, around 62,417 loans have
this figure falls to only 5.2m2/resident if limit-   (Informative Decree 2), a policy initiative to       been granted by this programme and it is
ed to public green spaces. The amount of             promote the re-densification of the Federal          envisaged that by the end of 2006, the pro-
green space in Mexico City therefore is not          District’s four core boroughs of Cuauhtémoc,         gramme will have organised almost 130,000
only much lower than that available in               Miguel Hidalgo, Benito Juárez and                    housing operations – while these figures fall
European cities but it also falls considerably       Venustiano Carranza and to curtail develop-          far below existing needs, the PMV represents
below levels achieved in other high-density          ment in peripheral zones, particularly those         the largest public intervention to improve
cities with comparably large populations such        with a high degree of environmental sensi-           housing conditions in popular settlements to
as Shanghai.                                         tivity. The initiative responds to three main        date. However, those who question the pro-
     Because of these shortages, many green          concerns: population losses at the urban core        gramme focus on the quality of its implemen-
spaces have suffered serious damage due to           that generate conditions of underutilised            tation rather than on the scale that it has
overuse. A case in point is Chapultepec Park.        infrastructure; urban sprawl over land to be         achieved. The PMV has been critiqued for not
With 686 hectares of woods, the largest              preserved as green fields; and decreasing lev-       following up with loan recipients on building
regional park in Latin America is visited by         els of local water supply from within the met-       details pertaining to their individual units
15 million people a year and up to 17,000 visi-      ropolitan area. From the 1970s onwards,              and even less on the positive effects that the
tors each Sunday. Because this space had been        Mexico City experienced a gradual decline in         interventions could have on the physical
invaded by street vendors, waste and contami-        the population living in central zones and a         shape of their neighbourhoods. Their bottom
nation, the Chapultepec Park Trust was set up        rapid expansion of peripheral neighbour-             line is that the PMV has only accelerated
for its restoration. The aim was to gather           hoods. Between 1970 and 2000, the four core          self-help construction without really solving
resources and draft a masterplan to restore          boroughs lost over one million residents and         structural problems in the housing stock and
every corner of this urban asset, which is also      their share of the city’s total population fell      conditions of overcrowding.
one of the few inclusive spaces in the city.         from 73% in 1950 to 20% in 2000. At the same
Other ambitious initiatives include the pro-         time the city was progressively losing its
posal to recreate the dried-up lake in the Vaso      capacity to retain rain water to replenish its

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