Today does not trade: 30 years of being wrong

If all cars were electric, congestion on the road would not disappear, although it would stop polluting (except for places where thermal power plants are located). Congestion and pollution are two different problems. None of them have been solved by the Hoy no Circula program, imposed in Mexico City a third of a century ago (on November 20, 1989). More than enough time to recognize the error.

The program prohibits the trading of cars, one of the five days of the week, depending on the license plate number. But postponing travel doesn’t reduce total travel: It carries congestion and pollution to the next day. It suffices for one-fifth of motorists to buy an additional car to nullify the supposed benefit. Not counting taxis, Uber and rented or borrowed cars that come into circulation as an alternative. The total number of trips does not change: it is distributed to more vehicles, with a greater investment to do the same.

The program favored the proliferation of cars in Mexico City. According to INEGI (“Registered Cars in Circulation”), in 1989 there were 1.7 million (for a population of 8.3 million). which rose in 2021 to 6.2 (for a population of 9.2 million). Cars tripled for roughly the same population.

According to Wikipedia (“Taxis in Mexico City”), in 2014 there were about 140,000 people. At the same time (“New York City Taxis”), in New York there were 13,605: a tenth. New York didn’t make the mistake of imposing Hoy no Circula. It has more and better “metro” (etc) and more elevators. It made land use more intensive (same as Mexico City’s population in half a square kilometre). Much of its transportation is vertical: in elevators. Of those, 76,000 were in 2015, according to the New York City Department of Buildings; Approximately 80,000, the Mexican Association of Elevators and Escalators estimates, for the entire country.

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Today it is not circulated, nor does it cost the government, but it has a huge cost to Mexicans. If there are 5 million cars in the city that have been forced into compliance, with an average value of $200,000, then one-fifth of them leave $200 billion in capital unused. Not counting the investment (which could be higher) in parking spaces: at home, on the street and at destinations. To give an idea of ​​the amount: $200 billion will cost the Mexico City government, with all its personnel, expenditures, programs and projects, in 2021.

You must cancel Hoy no Circula. It is a disproportionate tax in kind that only serves auto manufacturers to sell more. It leaves unused capital, accumulated by the fantasies, desires and monthly payments of millions of Mexicans. It’s as ridiculous as building houses, but not occupying one in five to save electricity.

Road congestion and pollution have known and proven solutions: metro development, Trolleybus, Cablebus, RTP (Passenger Transport Network), school and personal transport. Encourage the use of bicycles. Improve the quality of gasoline. Enforce the use of catalytic converters. Use smart traffic lights that reduce unnecessary waiting. Hit the parking meters. Raise taxes on possession, new cars, and gasoline.

The main source of air pollution is residual gases from motor vehicle combustion. They cease to be toxic if they are converted to carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water vapor by a catalytic converter before they leave the exhaust. They cost a few thousand pesos to install, but they come installed on newer cars. For others, installation in the US is required, but not Mexico.

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There are many unnecessary costs in Hoy no Circula. The greatest thing is the missed opportunity, the cost of not having anything to move when it is most needed. Phrase: “Horse, horse, my kingdom by a horse!” (which Shakespeare puts in the words of Richard III, Act 5, Scene 4) shows that having a means of transportation in time can be infinitely more valuable than the means itself. That’s why so many families and businesses end up buying extra cars – they can’t afford to be stuck with opportunities that are worth more than the cost of an extra vehicle. ~

Posted in Reforma on 3/26/23.

Aileen Morales

"Beer nerd. Food fanatic. Alcohol scholar. Tv practitioner. Writer. Troublemaker. Falls down a lot."

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