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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Urban transport in developing countries : the peseros of Mexico City Roschlau, Michael Walter


The most serious problems of urban transport in developing countries involve traffic congestion, insufficient space for pedestrians and other non-motorised modes, poor public transit service, the increasing attractiveness of the automobile due to rising incomes, and the chronic lack of financial resources required to make a concerted problem-solving effort. Many of the solutions suggested by planners and consultants from developed countries are both expensive and require a substantial time investment before the benefits can be realised. Others are politically unfeasible or not well-suited to the needs of the city in less developed countries. An indigenous response to the inadequate provision of urban transport in developing countries is the establishment of intermediate forms of public transport, such as jitneys or fixed-route shared taxis. These are able to provide levels of speed, comfort and convenience comparable to those of travel by private car, at considerably lower cost. Jitneys are relatively energy-efficient and consume much less road space per passenger than do private automobiles. The jitney originally developed in North America during the First World War, largely as a response to inadequate public transit service, but virtually disappeared again within a few years since the street railway operators were able to have legislation passed that made jitney operation uneconomic. In Third World cities, jitneys developed independently, and have enjoyed great success, in part due to a much greater demand for public transport and to fewer restrictive regulations. Mexico City is one of the largest urban areas in the developing countries and has a public transport system that includes a very extensive network of jitney services, several different classes of motor buses, trolley coaches, trams, four separate types of taxi services as well as a fast and efficient Metro system. These various elements of public transport are very interdependent and complementary, making remarkably good use of the available road space. A detailed examination of the jitney system in Mexico City, its regulation, organisation and economics was undertaken through personal observation and discussions as well as using an intensive survey of both jitney drivers and passengers. This has revealed that the jitneys are of great value, providing fast, frequent, comfortable and convenient public transportation which serves as a genuine alternative to private cars. The flexible nature of the jitneys makes them very demand-responsive and thereby efficient providers of urban transport. The jitneys employ a large number of people and are a profitable enterprise, contributing positively to the urban economy of Mexico City.

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