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Corredores Viales and Fare Capping

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Creating a Truly Integrated Transit Network in Mexico City

by Leo Wagner

Leo Wagner is a second-year Master of City Planning student concentrating in Sustainable Transportation and Infrastructure Planning, originally from the Washington, DC area. He is passionate about creating more environmentally sustainable and equitable cities through intelligent land use and transportation planning decisions, with a particular focus on urban planning in Latin America and Francophone Africa.


[1] García, Ana Karen. “9 datos sobre el transporte público concesionado en la CDMX.” El Economista, 3 Sept. 2019.

[2] “Adiós a los micros en estos 4 corredores de CDMX; los cambiarán por autobuses nuevos.” El Financiero, 7 June 2022.

[3] Beyer, Scott. “Peseros: A Look Inside Mexico City’s Private Bus Network.” The Catalyst, 16 Oct. 2019.

[4] Infobae. “Transporte concesionado podrá pagarse con Tarjeta de Movilidad Integrada en CDMX.” Infobae, 16 Jan. 2022.

 García, Ana Karen. “9 datos sobre el transporte..."

[6] Jared Brey, “Fare-Capping Policies May Increase Transit Ridership,” Governing, November 8, 2023.



4.5 million riders traveled on Mexico City’s expansive metro network every day in 2019. Despite the metro’s impressive usage, which is operated by the Secretaría de Movilidad (SEMOVI), its ridership is dwarfed by that of the region’s other public transit services, including formalized bus routes and cable cars, as well as informal, private microbuses known as peseros, which carry about two-thirds of the city’s total public transport users. [1] In order to take broader control of the region’s transit network, SEMOVI is integrating informal services into a unified “Movilidad Integrada” scheme with a common wayfinding system and farecard. This transformative change includes the incorporation of the city’s informal transportation system as well with the creation of corredores viales minibuses to replace operator-run peseros[2]

    The corredores viales represent a dramatic shift away from the informal pesero system, which operates with a relatively low degree of government oversight. Whereas pesero drivers earn a living from individual passenger fares and are often given a daily passenger quota by the owner of their vehicles, corredores viales offer a more formalized, reliable system. Operators of corredores viales receive a regular salary from a company operating SEMOVI-determined routes on concession, and drive vehicles that meet stringent safety standards. [3] The potential outcome is a transformation of Mexico City’s vast informal transport system into one with more consistent wayfinding and infrastructure and improved passenger experiences. 


    Integrating fares between existing and recently formalized services is a critical part of SEMOVI’s mission of unifying the region’s transportation modes. Since January 2022, several of the corredores viales have already started taking the Movilidad Integrada fare payment system, with a fare of MXN$8, or USD$0.47. [4]

The solution
    Despite the revolutionary introduction of corredores viales, the lack of free transfers between modes of transport hinders the attractiveness of the new system to many riders. This limits the potential benefits of this transport re-formalization initiative, as total fares can pile up when riders transfer between services. Today, passengers already strategically limit transfers or even use peseros for their entire journeys to avoid having to pay costly second fares, which encourages long, convoluted trips. 

    The introduction of fare capping on SEMOVI’s services could rectify this issue. Without fare capping, transferring between transit services presents a significant financial and psychological barrier to passengers. For those with more resources, paying separate fares for each service is another reason to opt out of public transit and drive alone or use a ride-hailing service. For those of more limited means it increases the financial burden of transit and can also induce long walks at the beginning or at the end of journey to avoid subsequent fare costs. These resulting changes to travel behavior would limit access to opportunity and further complicate already-arduous commutes. [5]

   Fare-capping is a system where the total amount that a person pays for their travel on public transport within a certain time frame is limited to a specific amount, regardless of the transit mode used. The goal of fare-capping is to make a person’s travel behaviors mode-agnostic so that they can take the fastest combination of transit modes to reach their destination with a capped total fare price and integrated ticketing system. Once a fare-capping limit is reached, any additional journeys taken within the same period are free of charge. [6]

   Fare capping makes public transport more affordable and accessible, particularly for low-income and frequent travelers who may otherwise be deterred by the high costs of multiple journeys. It creates a more equitable system where everyone pays the same fare regardless of how many trips they make within a certain period. This system is especially important considering the geography of public transport users in Mexico City.

   In Mexico City, wealthier residents often live in parts of the urban core that are well served by the Metro system, particularly in its western half. Poorer residents frequently live outside of the urban core in surrounding municipalities and in the region’s east, which is less well served by metro lines. Travelers in the these area soften make transfers from peseros to terminal metro stations, which are often the network’s busiest stations. [7]

Image: Tarjeta MI collage
Source: Jonathan Zisk

Public transit agencies in many cities around the world are turning to fare capping as a strategic planning initiative to increase ridership and fare equity, including elsewhere in Latin America. Santiago, Chile’s Red Metropolitana de Transporte system automatically applies fare-capping for its riders, with a daily limit on the amount a person pays for travel on buses, suburban trains, and the metro. As in Mexico City, these buses are principally concession operations run by private operators on state-determined routes. The distance-based fare structure means that, while bus fares off-peak are higher than metro fares and the reverse is true at rush hour, one pays only the difference between the two fares when transferring modes for a total fare of CLP$800, or approximately USD$0.84. [8]

Fare capping in context

   To address the complications associated with pesero formalization, SEMOVI should pilot a fare-capping transfer system in Mexico City. The fare capping scheme would allow passengers to transfer between the city’s Metro or BRT and corredores viales and pay only the fare of the more-expensive mode. If beginning on a cheaper mode, a passenger’s transit payment card would deduct only the difference in fare when transferring to the more-expensive one, while beginning on a more-expensive mode would allow free transfers to the cheaper mode. 

   The fare-capping system would likely reduce the financial burden on riders who transfer from a metro or BRT terminal onto peseros that serve many of the city’s lower-income neighborhoods. [9] Many riders already make these transfers, but may hesitate to pay a third, separate fare for a BRT, microbus, or formalized bus route that would get them closer to their destination. For routes that parallel a metro line, ridership on the metro may increase as passengers adjust their travel behavior by boarding a pesero between two stations and transferring to the metro at the nearest station.
   Eventually, this fare capping system could encompass all microbus routes (as opposed to just the few corredores viales currently equipped for integrated payment) and include transfers between all state-operated transit systems. This would increase the financial and logistical accessibility of all transit in Mexico City and in the surrounding State of Mexico.

Navigating financial structures

   Fare capping stands to drastically affect ridership patterns across the region, especially where multiple forms of transit currently overlap in key corridors. Where fare capping could help riders switch to high-order metro or BRT services, existing pesero routes could even be put out of business. Any fare capping pilot should be designed to balance the financial constraints of the region’s formal and informal transit services.

   In 1981, the mayor of Mexico City revoked the licenses of private bus concessionaires and consolidated them with one operator. The result was a drastic reduction in the number of bus routes by over 75% and a 50% reduction of total bus trips taken in the city by 1994. [10] The current network of informal peseros emerged in the wake of that transition, and have become a backbone of the region’s mass transit system.  

   Realizing all the potential benefits of fare capping for the region’s transit network requires a combination of increased state subsidies for less profitable, concession-based routes and improved service on formalized, higher-order transit lines. Subsidies for corredores viales should reflect overall ridership and transfer information data. Concessionaires of routes that are vulnerable to fare capping should be given priority access to operation of new corredor vial routes. Service hours that are made available as a result of fare capping could be reinvested on different routes in neighborhoods further from higher-order transit. This would allow faster, mode-agnostic public transit journeys from point to point throughout the metropolitan area, with higher frequencies on routes further from the city center and reduced modal redundancies. The service adjustments enabled by fare capping could be used to contract new routes with existing, private corredores viales operators. 

   This fare capping scheme and its associated benefits would require careful and phased implementation to appease diverse stakeholders. SEMOVI’s existing corredores viales initiative has already been met with resistance from private transit operators. [11] Private pesero companies could potentially lose revenue due to reduced fares and changes in service provision. Ensuring compliance with the new fare system and addressing potential issues with farecard integration will require significant coordination and cooperation between different levels of government and private transportation companies. SEMOVI will need to carefully consider these challenges and its passengers’ needs during the system’s rollout. 

Going further

   Fare capping for SEMOVI’s could serve as a model for growing ridership in other large cities throughout Mexico, as well as elsewhere in Latin America. By embracing existing conditions of informality, pragmatic and budget-conscious interventions can bring about real change to riders’ experiences with the system. Within Mexico City, SEMOVI’s distinct modal  governing bodies have resulted in disparate investment schemes. During recent expansion of the Cablebús cable car system and Metrobús BRT system, there has been comparative neglect and disinvestment in the city’s metro system. [12] While newer technologies have lower construction costs per kilometer than the Metro, the latter has a high passenger capacity and is critical to connecting different parts of the city efficiently and affordably. [13] The introduction of fare capping can create a mode-agnostic system so network planning can be focused on the best mode for the envisioned ridership of a transit line and existing infrastructure in the area. Fare-capping can be a transformative first step in SEMOVI’s reintegration of Mexico City’s transit modes to avoid excessive focus on single modal expansion projects.


   The immense benefits of SEMOVI’s public transport re-formalization initiative can be further improved through the inclusion of a fare-capping scheme in Mexico City’s transit network. The implementation of this system for microbuses will create a network driven by passenger needs, rather than individual operator profit. At the same time, it is important to acknowledge SEMOVI’s existing capacity constraints, and any attempt at fare capping should assume a continuation of the private operator concession scheme currently used to operate re-formalized routes. 

   The proposed fare-capping initiative is just one step in the formation of a multimodal, efficient transit network, whose various components work together to produce a system which uses the right transit mode for the envisioned ridership a line is expected to have and its expected role in the network. SEMOVI can thus serve as a regulatory body, ensuring that at the passenger level cross-city, high-capacity lines and last-mile microbus connections are all part of a seamless experience.

[7] Guerra, Erick. Urban Transport and Land Use in Developing Cities [presentation]. December 1, 2022. University of Pennsylvania: CPLN 5500, Philadelphia, PA, United States.


[8] Red Movilidad. Conoce las tarifas. Retrieved May 8, 2023. 


[9] Mendelson, Zoe. “Mapping Mexico City’s Vast Informal Transit System.” Fast Company, 29 Mar. 2016.


[10] Erick Strom Guerra, “The New Suburbs: Evolving Travel Behavior, the Built Environment, and Subway Investments in Mexico City” (Ph.D., United States -- California, University of California, Berkeley), accessed March 8, 2024.


[11] Serrano, Lizbeth. “Mi Ruta, la aplicación móvil para microbuseros de la CDMX.” Gluc, 11 Aug. 2020.


[12] Oscar Lopez, “Mexico City’s Crumbling Metro System Casts Shadow on Mayor’s 2024 Ambitions,” The Guardian, January 26, 2023, sec. World news.


[13] Fadlala Akabani, “Electromobility and Economic Development in Mexico City,” Mexico Business, October 5, 2022.

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