WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities has a long-standing presence in Mexico City and has been a key change agent for sustainable development. WRI Ross Center’s long-term engagement across multiple sectors in Mexico City makes it one of the organization’s “deep dive” urban geographies. The main objective of this document is to understand the results of this “deep dive” approach in Mexico City by documenting and evaluating lessons learned over the years.

Learning from past successes and failures and documenting the experiences and outcomes of projects undertaken in cities is essential for catalyzing the kind of city-wide change that WRI Ross Center aspires to. To this end, we used a mixed-methods approach to analyze WRI Ross Center’s influence in Mexico City and the effectiveness of its deep dive approach there (starting with its origins as the Center for Sustainable Transportation–CTS).

Key Findings:

  • We found that WRI Mexico’s technical expertise combined with understanding of the political landscape was integral to the success of Mexico City’s implementation of its Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, Metrobús, in 2006. This paper outlines WRI Ross Center’s role in this project and finds that the organization helped contribute to transformative change in the city’s transportation network.
  • Global projects such as the Building Efficiency Accelerator (which focuses on Mexico City) that involved deep collaboration across WRI’s matrix (international offices, programs and centers) and other institutions have allowed for WRI Ross Center to broaden and build its technical expertise in sectors such as building efficiency.
  • Three success factors for sparking the kind of change WRI Ross Center has seen in Mexico City’s transportation sector and beyond include: a relationship of trust with city officials; a deep understanding of the political and institutional ecosystem of the city; and flexibility of funding and institutional structure to encourage innovation.