In an excerpt from his exclusive interview with Mexico Infrastructure and Sustainability Review 2018, Luis Prados, Director General of Clear Channel Mexico, where he discusses how Clearn Channel navigated into the mobility sector and has transformed cities across the globe with its smartbikes.
Mobility is a key aspect of any city. Ideally, it is an organized and coherent public transport system that eliminates the use of fossil fuels. In Mexico City, this is not always the case. Companies and government players at all levels are moving to change that with the ultimate goal of creating a so-called Smart City. “The first step toward transforming mobility within a city is planning,” says Luis Prados, Director General of Clear Channel Mexico. “When cities try to make this transformation, authorities must first understand the unique characteristics of the city, its needs and how it will adapt.”
Since 2010, Clear Channel, one of the world’s largest outdoor advertising companies, has operated and maintained SEDEMA’s public bike-sharing system, Ecobici. Seven years, 5,120 bicycles and 42 million bike trips later, Ecobici has grown by 400 percent to become the largest bike-sharing system in Latin America. At a cost of MX$416 (US$22) a year, over 240,000 users in Mexico City are able to move through 43 of the city’s main neighborhoods across three delegations, covering an area of 35km2.
Like any other project, Ecobici has a phased approach to expansion within the city, but at the moment it is only present in three of 16 Mexico City municipalities. The program has had a 45 percent increase in bike rides since 2010, but due to its extremely low cost and budget cuts, it has not grown as fast as it could. “If users paid MX$1,200 a year, MX$100 a month, the entire system would be selfsustainable. The money could be used to improve and expand the existing system,” says Prados.
Intelligent mobility systems not only reduce traffic and saturation but can also help deter the impact from climate change. “Cities occupy only 2 percent of the earth’s area, yet they consume 70-80 percent of the world’s energy and generate over 75 percent of CO2 emissions,” Prados says. “In Latin America alone, more than 36 percent of the population lives in a city and by 2050, more than 90 percent of Mexico’s population will live in cities.” Rapid urbanization is pushing the need for new and improved mobility solutions. “The future has no car traffic,” he says. “By 2019 Oslo will ban the circulation of cars and by 2025 it will stop selling gas-powered vehicles. At the moment, 17 percent of cars in Norway are electric.”
But what about Mexico and Latin America? According to Prados, Latin America’s issue is that it listens to respond and not to understand. “We usually hold these solutions at arm’s length due to the socioeconomic differences between Latin America and Europe, instead of really understanding what it implies, but there are also similarities. Just like Mexico, Norway’s main business is gas. But unlike Mexico, it decided to place high taxes on gas-powered cars and exempted all electric cars from paying taxes.” Now, 50 percent of all new cars registered in Norway are electric or hybrid and to further encourage citizens to purchase electric cars, they were also exempt from paying tolls on highways. “It is not that Norway is a first world country, but that the government was able to adapt to the needs and priorities of the citizens,” says Prados.
Clear Channel wants to continue pushing for innovation and its next plan is to incorporate its advertising infrastructure into the city’s communication system. Years ago, contingencies, weather alerts and other important announcements were made through the radio. But an IFT report released in 2016 revealed that only 40 percent of Mexicans listen to the radio. Clear Channel proposes a new way to communicate to the masses. “During contingencies, our screens could be used to send out alerts or alarms in places where the entire city can see,” says Prados. As of 2017, 90 percent of the company’s advertising infrastructure is digital and it has screens of all shapes and sizes scattered throughout Mexico City.