Q&A: Understanding the hottest mobility trends in the Mexico

In our latest Q&A, we speak with Enrique Gomez, CNA’s Coordinator in Mexico, about the different needs of public transport users in the country and how Calypso solutions are helping support new and evolving mobility use cases.

In our latest Q&A, we speak with Enrique Gomez, CNA’s Coordinator in Mexico, about the different needs of public transport users in the country and how Calypso solutions are helping support new and evolving mobility use cases.

1- Please tell us a bit about yourself and your role.

My background is in Physics and Computer Science and I have a keen interest in complex systems and their emergent behaviour. In my role as CNA coordinator for Mexico, I work closely with local authorities that are interested in open technologies for public transport.

I feel very strongly about fairness between the transit sector and government, and therefore my main role is to improve the technical capabilities of every stakeholder, with a strong emphasis on local transport authorities. I have a responsibility for improving overall public transport services, focusing on open technologies and smart ticketing, and push for secure, efficient, and scalable systems. At the same time, I work with local authorities to help them achieve mastery of their own.


2- What are the biggest trends you are seeing with public transport use in your region?

The Metropolitan Area of the Valley of Mexico is a densely populated region of Mexico, representing 18% of the population of the entire country. It is mainly composed of Mexico City and the State of Mexico. Particularly in Mexico City the major trends are seen in the expansion of its transport network, now extending further than just the capital, it connects two metropolises with an intercity fast train – a federal level project that started operations in September 2023.

The State of Mexico’s longstanding transport operators are important stakeholders, as they connect to Mexico City. Due to the proper governance of elected officials, Mexico City is now interoperable with State of Mexico through its transport card, the “Tarjeta de Movilidad Integrada”.

As far as collaboration goes, other Mexican states have been reaching out to Mexico City to learn best practice and gain control of their own system. This reflects the efforts of Mexico City and how it has now become a city of reference for its modernized transport network.

Mexico City is currently enhancing its network with the introduction of the third line of Cablebús; a 5.5km aerial tramway service with six stations that will connect to the main Metro network. Also, the new Electric BRT line, Trolebús Chalco-Santa Martha, which is expected to be finished later this year, will enhance connections between the city and the regional transit network, with interoperable ticketing delivered by the Tarjeta de Movilidad Integrada contactless smartcard.

The region’s train service is also being enhanced with both the second stage of construction on the Tren Interurbano, connecting it to the city’s metro, and the revival of the nation’s railway system, bringing passenger rail to lines that have long been used solely for cargo.


3- What different modes of public transport are prevalent in your region?

Mexico City has many modes of structured and non-structured public transport. The more traditional, structured modes of transport include the Metro (3.5M daily trips), Metrobús (1.6M daily trips), Light rail (80k daily trips), Trolleys (290k daily trips), Cablebús (128k daily trips), RTP–the public buses operated by the city (340k daily trips)– public bikes and Intercity trains.

These are augmented by multiple artisanal transit service providers, primarily private bus services, that provide vital connection between the city outskirts with the centre with 5.5M daily trips. These services are slowly being restructured with new structures and schedules to allow them to incorporate themselves into the city’s network, with onboard validators being introduced that can accept via the Tarjeta de Movilidad Integrada smartcard.

The most popular by far (in terms of the number of passengers transported) is the regular public bus, which is slowly being included into formal modes of transport so that it is interoperable with the rest of the offerings. However, this is a long term political/cultural project for which negotiations with private concessionaires need to take place, to allow for the buses to be upgraded with the onboard validators that allow the city card to be used.

As for the coming decade and within the Megalopolis known as the “Zona Metropolitana del Valle de Mexico”, it seems likely that Mexico City’s network will keep expanding to connect other states via fast trains, just like the current one that connects Toluca.


 4-What challenges have previously faced the transport networks in Mexico and how have these been overcome?

Fraud was a big challenge in Mexico City and still is for other states where the same technology, which is now outdated in Mexico City, is still used. Fraud in Mexico City was eradicated with a change of technology, from a memory card to a Calypso Prime product, and with proper software updates that took advantage of the new technology’s functionality.

Unfortunately, black box solutions are prevalent in every single transit system of Latin America. Black box solutions and a lack of technical capacity from local transport authorities impede transparent and fair conversations between industry and government. The lack of system wide definitions, controlled by the authority, does not allow for the evolution of a true competitive environment where every element of the system can be tendered.

Mexico City has improved upon this situation by developing sufficient technical capabilities to level the playing field with its integrators, but work still needs to be done. Nevertheless, this is a huge step forward: from being at the total mercy of integrators, the authority can now specify the exact business rules of its system without much friction.


5- Which Calypso tools are being used in your region, or are planned to be used? Why?

Mexico City is a leading advocate of open ticketing solutions, making use of Eclipse Keyple, the open-source SDK for ticketing applications. Currently, several of the integrators that work for the city have deployed their solutions using Keyple to incorporate the onboard validators of private bus concessions. Internally within the PTA and PTOs, tools for auditing and controlling cards have also been developed using Keyple.

Mexico City is also planning to implement Calypso virtual cards through an HCE solution in 2024, as a result of the sheer number of cards sold each month (around 400,000). This will help to reduce the environmental impact of creating physical cards, while offering a convenient alternative to many thousands of passengers.


6- What is your view on the future of mobility in Mexico?

Mexico as a country still lacks a proper mobility culture, and this is common throughout Latin America. Governance is pretty much at the root of the problem: we lack strong institutions that focus their efforts on understanding the impact that a poor mobility infrastructure can have on people and the region as a whole. Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey and Mérida, are pushing against this trend, sparking a new path towards sustainable mobility with public transport as a cornerstone.

Mexico City sets the tone for what is hopefully to come with its massive network expansion. Socioeconomically marginalized citizens are considered first class passengers in public transport projects. The rest of the country should follow, especially now that some of the leading political minds in Mexico City step up to higher government positions, bringing with them vast experience in secure and flexible ticketing.