Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mexico City: Land Use and TODs

Mexico City will have 12 million more inhabitants within the urban city by 2030. This intense growth projection has made transit oriented development a desired form of land use planning. Unfortunately, the capital city has unique and difficult land use laws that make TOD type policies difficult to implement. Since 2009, NGOs have been working with regional and local governments to begin the discussion and potential implementation of “Desarrollo Orientado al Transporte Sustentable (DOTS)”
The outer edges of Mexico City

Currently, Mexico City and its fringes are protected by national agrarian policy. This makes land publically owned, but able to be privatized. This type of land law has allowed illegal settlements to form in private and communal plots around the periphery of the main city. These illegal lots are allowed to happen because the government makes no effort to curb settlements due to their inability to provide affordable housing. Many of the settlements have eventually receivedthe right to own the land so there is also an incentive to actually take the land illegally. It is said that early five million people live in slum like conditions in the outer edges of D.F. Many of these settlements have occurred in environmentally sensitive areas, putting the already scarce resources that Mexico has in jeopardy. In addition to large population growth, Mexico City struggles with the deterioration of natural resources, most importantly water, and increasing climate change.  The combination of little resources and even less land makes the capital city an excellent case study for TODs.
EMBARQ México, an NGO located in Mexico City, implanted a three step pilot project for best practices for the creation of TODs in Mexico in 2009. While TOD type patterns do occur around D.F., they are mostly for affluent city dwellers. Organizations continue to push for more low-income but dense communities. A current project being funded in Mexico City has attempted to create low-income housing, at a cost of $28,000 per unit, equipped with running water and electricity. These dwellings would be surrounded by a central plaza that would encourage walking and community engagement. Although they are currently not near transit stations, these affordable housing projects do go to show that there can be a successful neighborhood that has less interaction between cars and people and is also affordable to the average citizen.
The local government is working closely with EMBARQ to create plans for easily accessible and people-friendly places. Although the Spanish translation of TODs includes an aspect of sustainability (“sustenable” means sustainable), one major element that the city does not plan to add to many potential TODs are parks and greenways. This is due to Mexico’s low water resources. Mexico hopes to create open spaces and encourage environmental awareness with less car use, more walking and biking, and density. There are currently two neighborhoods in Mexico City that are receiving attention for transit development.


  1. That aerial photo is so surprising! I never knew how dense the population was in the suburbs of Mexico. I would assume that the City would be in favor of connecting some sort of fixed line transportation (BRT ext.) to these illegal settlements to encourage growth in certain areas and curtail it in others. I am also very surprised there is no allotment for some type of beautification around these TOD's. Very interesting article!

  2. Daniel, I think that Mexico City is finally realizing that TODs can help with these settlement issues. For now, some of the drawback holding back MC is the cost of TODs around low-income areas and the simple fact of having to change codes and land use laws to allow for these changes. It is a lot more fun to build flashy new projects than to retrofit existing spaces. But from what I have been reading, the local government is FINALLY taking changes like these into account and attempting to go back to its history of urban sustainable development.


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