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Mexico City's Epic Transformation From Most Polluted To Sustainable Transporter

Mexico City has been awarded the 2013 Sustainable Transport Award. The accolade is a major accomplishment for a city that has historically struggled with transportation for its 8.8 million citizens.

If you haven’t visited the largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere recently, the word pairing of “sustainable transportation” in context to the city would be laughable.

See our story: The Greening of Tijuana

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The United Nations named Mexico City as the world’s most polluted city in 1992. Since then, the city has taken tremendous strides to get its air pollution with (from the Washington Post article) “skies so poisonous that birds dropped dead in flight” to reasonable levels.

Walter Hook is the CEO for The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, echoed the sentiment to Environmental News. What ITDP recognized was drastic improvements Mexico City took in a short amount of time. Hook cited the investment in Metrobus BRT system, a reinvestment in public space, expanding bike programs and a more pedestrian-friendly pathway as reasons Mexico City won the award.

Mexico City also implemented a parking program called ecoParq, a system that was not welcomed by some of the city’s longtime residents, via National Geographic:

The new parking system, called ecoParq, introduced multispace meters to thousands of parking spots on streets where parking previously had been free—officially free, anyway. In reality, much on-street parking was controlled by unregulated valets or attendants known as franeleros, who would stake out territories and charge drivers small fees to park and receive protection in their spaces. When the city hired a contractor to take over parking management, starting in the upscale Polanco district, franeleros protested. They reportedly marched through the neighborhood carrying signs bearing messages such as, "The streets are not for sale," and "A parking meter doesn't take care of your car."

Mexico City is the 10th city to be recognized by the ITDP. Past award recipients include San Fransisco, Medellín, Seoul and Paris.

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