As Mexico City Continues to Expand, Luis Spends More Time and Money Stuck in Transit
Luis lives with his wife and four daughters in the Santo Domingo area of Mexico City. Originally from the lake town of Villa Victoria, 115 kilometers outside of Mexico City, Luis moved to Santo Domingo to find a better job in 1990, and has lived in his home there ever since.
Luis works as a bus driver along the General Anaya highway. The 45 year old typically spends between ten and fifteen hours driving the bus day, from 5:30am until 10pm. Sometimes Luis works a half-day shift, from 1 to 10pm, but because he does not own his vehicle, he still has to pay the bus owner US $26 for the half day shift, compared to $51 for a full day.
On a successful day, Luis’s daily profit is between $14 and 17. These earnings depend on the number of passengers, the season, and most significantly—the traffic. He tries to make three trips carrying 100 people each in order to maximize his earnings, but, he says, “I do not fight [to] get more passengers because I’m older and now more responsible. I have to be very careful always, because many accidents can happen while I’m driving.”
Luis says the pollution is “very strong all around the city,” and significantly affects his workday. While less than half of Mexico City’s population owns a private vehicle, buses account for 56 percent of transportation use, and they have a strong impact on air quality. Mexico City is a sprawling city and has a relatively low population density. Only 16 percent of households in Mexico City are located within 500 meters of a metro, bus rapid transit, light train, or suburban train station. As Mexico City continues to expand, pushing commuters farther from the city’s center, people will become more reliant on unsustainable modes of transport, the air quality will get worse, and people like Luis will spend more time stuck in traffic in order to access their destinations.
Luis dreams of joining his wife as a chef in her restaurant. “Being a truck driver is very hard work,” Luis says, “I’ve been doing this for  years, but the truth is that I’m tired from work, co-workers and people. But I can do nothing. This job gives me food and I have to do it. It is the only thing I know how to do.”