January 18, 2011

Sustainable Transport Award cities: León

From public bike systems to BRT to integrated mass transit solutions – all of the 2011 Sustainable Transport Award-nominated cities are exemplars in implementing integrated transport solutions. Over the next week, we will cover profiles of the nominated cities – Guangzhou, León, Lima, Nantes, Tehran – culminating in the presentation of the Sustainable Transport Award on January 24 at Transportation Research Board conference in Washington D.C.

León has a population of 1.3 million and is the sixth largest city in Mexico. During 2010, the city continued to prove itself as innovator in public transportation, a reputation forged in 2003 when it pioneered the La Optima BRT, known as ‘the caterpillar’, in Mexico. Last year saw a major expansion of the system in capacity, outreach and efficiency leading to a reduction in carbon emissions, a wider pool of passengers able to access the systems, and quicker journeys. Additionally, León has a level of integration that no other city in Mexico has accomplished yet.

Over the past year León restructured and optimized its bus routes, creating three new BRT lines and integrating auxiliary and feeder routes, leading to a 100 percent rise in trips made. Enabling transfers with a single payment helped achieve this result. This ‘Integrated Transport System’ (SIT), as it’s called, expanded to areas with a large proportion of low-income families, adding 150,000 users and bringing its total daily passenger tally to 350,000 people, representing 65 percent of total demand in the city.

Expansion also enabled the city to conclude years of negotiation with local transport operators. Simultaneous negotiations transformed the operators from individual and loosely affiliated operators into modern companies, fit to manage the new routes smoothly and efficiently.

The environmental benefits of the system are also high, not least because the system introduced articulated buses using Euro IV technology and ultra low sulfur, resulting in 5,600 tons of CO2 reduction annually. In addition, León has a high quanitity of cyclists, in part because of its integration a network of bike lanes to the SIT system.


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