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Tijuana’s Costly, Inefficient Transit System Forces a Reliance on Cars

Anyone who has ever been stuck in Tijuana traffic knows it can be a tedious experience. Driving through the city during large periods can make a half-hour journey take two hours – and the number of cars on the road. just keep multiplying.

But getting drivers to change public transportation is a challenge – many people would rather sit in their car than rely on costly, inefficient and unreliable networks in Tijuana by bus and minibus.

Other cities in Mexico – Puebla, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Mexico City – have made the change successfully. Fast bus transportation, with new buses, centralized control, and dedicated lines. But in Tijuana, not all carrier – private operators working under concessions in the city – wanted to make the change. Although federal funding for bridges, stations, special lines and other BRT infrastructure, the municipal transport agency, CHITA, the system has not yet been up and running.

The administration of the Mayor of Tijuana, Montserrat Caballero, was in talks with the carrier, but there is no clear plan to move forward. Today, the whole station “Trunk Road” 23 thousand system sit empty and vandalized, and buses operate occasionally. One possibility is that the city’s BRT operation is transferred to the state government, but so far, no such action has been taken.

A bus stop in Vía Rápida Oriente seen here in January 2022. / Photo courtesy of El Imparcial by Sergio Ortiz

To better understand the city’s challenges, I turned to Jorge Alberto Gutierrez Topete. He is a 56-year-old architect who has been studying transportation issues for many years – both in government and as an outside press for change. Currently head of the Baja California Institute for Sustainable Mobility (IMOS), he oversees public transportation throughout the state. If the SITT is finally handed over to the state, it will be charged for its oversight.

Q: The Mexican Institute for Nonprofit Competitiveness (IMCO) reports that Tijuana loses nearly $ 142 million annually due to traffic congestion. Why does the city have such traffic problems?

A: We are too dependent on cars, and part of the reason is that we have never developed an efficient and quality transit system.

In 2008, 33 percent of the population used public transportation, by 2018 it was 26 percent. It should go in the opposite direction. It is said that a city begins to solve its mobility problems when at least half of the population uses public transport as its main means of transport.

Q: You called Tijuana a city that is “dispersed, disconnected and distant.” What do you mean by that?

A: This is the wrong model for a city – it is a model based on cars and single family homes. Cities that are successful in terms of mobility have … higher density … walkable areas. Connect them with a good transport system and prevent the use of the vehicle. That’s the decent thing to do, and it should end there. Prevent the use of the vehicle.

Q: In San Diego, the cost of buses and forklifts is paid for one-third of the cost of operating the Metropolitan Transportation System – and the rest is subsidized with federal, state, and municipal funds. But the Tijuana system is entirely paid for by the users. What are the fares?

A: Each ticket to Tijuana costs 16 pesos (about 80 cents). But to get to their destination, people have to use two or three buses. (No transfer) They buy five or six round-trip tickets on average. So you’re talking about 80 to 90 pesos a day ($ 4.00 to $ 4.50). We Tijuanenses are spending too much on transportation.

Q: Transportation decisions in the city of Tijuana have historically come under political pressure. Reluctance of some carrier improving and modernizing has prevented attempts at reform. Do you think that can change?

A: Lastly, (members of the transportation industry) are people who want the same thing we do. What we are trying to show them is that their well-being and their future depend on making some changes today, because their livelihoods are getting worse.

Q: Many Tijuana maquiladora factories solve transportation problems by sending their own buses to pick up workers and take them home. Is this a solution?

A: When it was first created a few decades ago, it was meant as a complement to the city’s transportation system, especially for night schedules, when there was no protection. It started as a complementary service, but has now been converted into an extra service, which will replace public transportation. We need to encourage the use of public transportation.

Jorge Alberto Gutierrez Topete, Head of Baja California Sustainable Mobility Institute (IMOS) / Photo courtesy Jorge Alberto Gutierrez Topete

Q: The state government has announced Ruta Violeta – a purple road for women and children, in response to the entire state. sex alert for high levels of violence against women. Can you explain this project?

A: We will soon be inaugurating them in the five main cities. There is a pilot program now on Agua Caliente Boulevard (in Tijuana). It is for women, and children under 12 years of age. All stops will have orange alert buttons where you can request assistance if they follow you.

Q: Some advocate the elimination of the concession system, and instead the public sector operates and finances public transportation systems, such as in San Diego. Is this idea being considered?

A: The intention is to make it work together there carrier, as they did in cities like Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey. The role of government should be regulatory.

Q: What if the city carrier simply does not support the city’s BRT plan and the system cannot launch?

A: I would tell you that seeing the BRT fail would mean failure in the transformation of mobility in Tijuana. So we have to make one last attempt to fix it, in the best way that we can.

In other news

Ukrainian border: Ukrainians fleeing war in their country are making their way to the Tijuana-San Diego border in greater numbers as they seek entry into the United States. at the rate of about 100 people per day. Over the weekend, city officials turned a sports facility in the city’s Zona Norte into a temporary shelter for about 400 refugees. One volunteer told the Union-Tribune on average families spend 34 hours in Tijuana before being admitted to the United States

Title 42: American Centers for Disease Control announced Friday that it is suspended the Title 42 policy from May 23. This policy was implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19, government officials said, but it was repulsed by advocates who argued that it violated U.S. asylum law.

Tijuana Technology Center: With a shortage of U.S. software engineers and other tech workers, San Diego companies have been looking south of Tijuana for their needs, KPBS reported.

Podcast Border City: A new podcast focused on Tijuana and 26 years ago I made the report for the San Diego Union-Tribune launch Tuesday, presented by the Los Angeles Times. Border town is a memoir, personal and journalistic, that delves into the effects of organized crime in Tijuana – but also tells a more personal story of my growing connection to the city.

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