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Column 121415 Wall

Monday, December 14, 2015

Will Mexico City's proposed "Gondola" System Ease Traffic Congestion?

By Allan Wall

Mexico City is a great city, an important city, and a fascinating city for tourists to visit.   

It’s a convenient city for visitors, as the tourist attractions are usually grouped together in clusters.  For example, there are a number of sights in the historic Centro, and there are several things to see at Chapultepec Park.

(For links to some articles I’ve written on Mexico City, click here, here and here.)

Nevertheless, you can’t really compare being a tourist with being a resident.  Mexico City’s millions of residents have to get from home to work and other places, and that can be really complicated and congested, with so many people and so many vehicles involved.  Thus, traffic in Mexico City is an enormous challenge.

The TomTom traffic index rates Mexico City as the worst in the world, after Istanbul, Turkey.  

So how does TomTom rate cities on their traffic?  The rating is based on how much extra time is required when there is congestion. 

In Mexico City, a trip is 55% longer if the streets aren’t clear.  In Paris, France it would be 35%, and in New York City it would be 31%.

What can be done in Mexico City?

Almost any proposal would require more mass transit, and more construction to add to existing mass transit systems.  That of course means disruption to the public during the construction phase.

Currently, over 60% of Mexico City's residents use a public transit subway or bus, and 16% operate their own automobiles.

When I go to Mexico I prefer to the use the subway, the “Metro” system. Click here for my article about that.

No one mass transit system is going to be able to serve everybody all the time.  Any new one that is added, or currently existing one that is expanded, would need to justify its existence by significantly alleviating the traffic pressure.

Well, there is a new proposal which they’ve been working on for a few years.  It was designed by SECITI, which is a Spanish-language acronym for the
Secretaría de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación, Mexico City’s Science, Technology and Innovation department.

The system is officially known as TUEP, which is a Spanish acronym for Transporte Urbano Elevado Personalizado (Personalized Elevated Urban Transport).

This system would be an aerial transportation system.  Passengers would ride in a “gondola,” a sort of car or pod suspended from a horizontal track. The track is in the form of a pipe.  

The proposed gondola system for Mexico City would be designed for regular daily commuters to get to work or to other destinations.

A big difference from many other mass transit vehicles is that each car or pod would only carry two passengers.  The car would glide above traffic at a speed of 15 kilometers per hour.  That’s twice as fast as the average Mexico City traffic speed of 8 kilometers per hour.

It would have to be computerized of course, and when the passengers board they would indicate their destination and be taken to it, not having to stop at other stations along the way.

The system is automatic, with no drivers.  It could take passengers to many destinations, utilizing a system of tube-like tracks which can change to fit the routes.

In a press conference, Dr. Rene Drucker Colin, chief of SECITI, said that the system’s design and technology are 100% Mexican, and that it would be safe, sustainable, ecological and long-lasting.

This proposed system could, depending on how many lines were constructed, move millions of passengers.  For example, it’s estimated that a 3-mile line could transport 37 million passengers per year.  If another 10 kilometers were added, it could transport up to 200 million passengers. 

Financing the project would require both public and private investment.  But who knows, if the project works well, in the future there may be interest in such a system for other cities.

As for maintenance, it’s estimated that the system would be 40% less expensive to maintain than the current Metrobús, and 9% cheaper to maintain than the Metro subway system.

The SECITI has an animated video of the proposed system, click here and scroll down to the video. Not only does it look efficient, it also looks fun!


Allan Wall, an educator, resided in Mexico for many years.  His website is located at

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