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Smaller Mexican Cities Making Big Changes in Transportation Systems

Compared to Greater Mexico City’s population of more than 20 million, Zacatecas and Durango are small-time players. Yet these cities in the northern Chihuahuan desert region have big ideas when it comes to improving their transportation systems and solving transport problems similar to those faced by many cities around the country. In September, CCAP visited both cities as part of the USAID-funded Mexico Low Emissions Development (MLED) project where, in a joint effort with CTS Mexico and TetraTech, we organized workshops to identify potential improvements in the cities’ sustainable mobility plans, as well as analyzed barriers and opportunities for their implementation. We found that planners and politicians in northern Mexico recognize that solutions to traffic, air pollution and development problems can also help reduce GHG emissions and boost the economy. With the help of CCAP and other NGO’s, the Mexican national government is working to make sure well-designed sustainable transportation projects can be implemented in cities –large and small– across the country.

Leveraging the PROTRAM program

Both cities are looking for support for their projects from the Public Transportation Federal Support Program (PROTRAM). Started in 2009, PROTRAM is the first national effort to support urban transit projects. Federal funds cover up to 50 percent of construction cost for projects that meet program criteria. They also cover the full cost of required preliminary studies, called Integral Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (PIMUS), which are aimed at positioning new transit projects into a context of a complete, multi-modal transport system. Building the capacity of cities to undertake high quality PIMUS studies has been a priority of the program, and the government hired a Mexican NGO, the Sustainable Transport Center (CTS Mexico), as a capacity-building advisor to PROTRAM.

Through this capacity-building process supported under the MLED program, CCAP and CTS have advanced dialogue on integrated urban planning solutions that can lead to comprehensive low emissions development strategies and Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA) in the transport sector. CCAP uses the capacity building workshops to present both the economic benefits of low carbon urban development and the potential for these types of plans to integrate with national goals, and to gather international financial support through the NAMA process. We shared the example of the Colombia TOD NAMA proposal for consideration in the Mexican context. Our goal is to set the PIMUS into the framework of climate change and low emissions development, and encourage the regions to use the PIMUS as a starting point for further low emissions transportation and land use strategies. All this will be integrated into a TOD NAMA proposal expected to attract additional funding and facilitate the implementation of the necessary policy modifications.