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Same Problems as 12 Years ago

By Jesús Aguado

The increase of felonies in town, the placement of parking meters at the Historic Center, closing the center and turning it into a pedestrian zone, renting the sidewalks, prioritizing the pedestrians—these problems still exist in San Miguel.

Doing more promotion to bring tourism to the World’s Best City, with or without an airport, and creating plans for new roads that could take the eighteen-wheelers outside of the urban area and prevent accidents at the Pípila traffic circle have all been topics that have been bandied about in the local government for at least 12 years. And where are the solutions?

Sidewalks for lease

The Transit and Transportation Regulation for San Miguel de Allende was approved by the city council in 2005; the document was authorized, and it included some articles mentioning the installation of parking meters. That was also the year when the proposal to close the historic center to traffic was made and approved. That was the year when calle Cuna de Allende, Correo, and Umarán were closed for the use of pedestrians.

On September 13 of that year, the city council headed by Luis Alberto Villarreal approved setting up tables outside restaurants and bars on calles Umarán between Portal Allende and Jesús, Portal Allende, Portal de Guadalupe, and Cuna de Allende.

The agreement from the city council, registered in book L-III, also states that the monthly payment for the rent of the streets would be 500 pesos for ice cream shops and 1,000 pesos for cafés and restaurants. The city council also decided—and it was written in the document—that the money would go for the creation of a wind instrument band, controlled by the House of Culture.

Recently, the topic of renting sidewalks or streets was brought up again by the Direction of World Heritage and Sustainable Development—headed by Ángel Gastelum. It approved the use of the lobby of the Ángela Peralta Theater as a café. But not only the lobby was included; he also approved the use of the public plaza outside the theater, where the administrators of El Mesón placed four tables with four chairs each. In the agreement from 2005, the use of sidewalks on calle Mesones was not addressed.

Neither Gonzalo González, Secretary of the City Council, nor Ángel Gastelum have the information about the amount that El Mesón is paying for the use of the theater lobby or for placing their tables on the sidewalk. The tables were removed a few days later after the opening, and according to Gonzalo González, the topic of the sidewalk usage has to be discussed further and approved or disapproved by the city council.

According to information provided by Gonzalo González, the administrators of Café del Jardín owed a debt to the local government (for the use of the public space) for 400,000 pesos that has already been paid. About the Bella Italia restaurant and the Café de Don Tomás, “I do not remember, but their debts were between 50 and 100 thousand pesos,” said Secretary González, who stated that all of them have paid their debts.

In 2005, the local administration was collecting 16,000 pesos a month for the use of the streets, but it is unknown if the money went to the financing of a band. Currently, the money goes to a common account and the use is not specified. This year, the Law of Incomes for the Municipality states that restaurants, cafés, and ice cream shops must pay 1,590 pesos monthly for the use of a public space at the Historic Center.

Parking lots and parking meters: seven pesos per hour

At the end of 2003, the proposal for placing parking meters in the Historic Center of San Miguel de Allende was presented before then Mayor Luis Alberto Villarreal by Donald Patterson. The proposal was approved by the city councilors, assistant mayor, and mayor on July 11, 2005. The agreement stated that the service would be privatized and “in the short term” a call would be published for interested companies; the parking price would be seven pesos per hour. This year, the topic was revived by Mayor Ricardo Villarreal.

There have been traffic problems in the city since a decade ago, when 7,000 vehicles were driving though the World Heritage area. Now the number has doubled. In 2005 the problem of traffic was to be resolved with the construction of a giant parking lot at El Cardo. It was actually constructed and had a capacity for almost 700 vehicles. There was to be public and special transportation from the parking lot to the historic center and vice versa. However, the space did not work and it was sold by the state government last year. A new project will be constructed there.

The latest plan is to construct parking lots at the four accesses to the city—Querétaro, Celaya, La Estación, and Dolores. The one at the Querétaro entrance would also have a Visitors’ Center and space for 1,000 vehicles in its final phase (of four). Tourists would be able to go to the Historic Center using public transportation or the hop on-hop off trolley with 24-hour service. The trolleys, according to the Incomes Law, pay close to 2,000 pesos a month for the use of bases in the historic center.

On April 30 this year, a citizens’ consultation was conducted in the city. It had 20 propositions for qualified citizens to vote on for solving the mobility problems in town, and one of those was the creation of parking lots at the four accesses to the city. It also proposed that parking meters should not be installed in the city before having the parking spaces. Also, people who did not have the option to vote individually for every proposition said yes to increase the price of the parking lots: “the closer to the historic center, the more expensive they have to be.” That Sunday, 4,424 participated in the voting, and 93.2 percent said yes to the proposals.

Public transportation for eight pesos

During the 2009–2012 administration, the Traffic and Transportation Department proposed the creation of a transportation enterprise made up of all those with permits issued by the local government. Those involved in the company would have small, ecological buses and they would also offer a single fare and transfers to the users. Maps with the routes and schedules of the buses would be published at the stops. The project never succeeded.

Now the local administration has approved the increase of the transportation fares from five to seven pesos in its first phase, and it will go from seven to eight pesos in 2018. There are some preferential fares (50 percent discounts for students, handicapped, and elderly). The city council agreed and the concessionaires accepted that before September this year, they will offer Internet, surveillance cameras, and environmental music for the users, plus comfort with better units. If they do not improve the buses and do not respect the agreement, after citizens’ consultation, the local administration could hire a private company to offer a better service and night service in the city.

People who voted at the consultation said yes to placing maps with the routes and schedules of the buses at the bus stops; however, they didn’t consider that that users have been complaining for three years about the current stone bus stops that do not protect them from the sun, the rain, or the polluted air. Secretary González believes that a financial resource must be invested to improve these stone bus stops before putting up the maps.

Traffic circle and heavy traffic

El Pípila traffic circle was inaugurated in 2002. Since then, several people have died in car accidents there. The reasons have been a combination of high speed, mechanical failures, and alcohol, as well as the lack of a runaway truck ramp. The first accident took place just a few days after the opening. That day a truck lost its brakes and crashed into a wall where the gas station was under construction. The driver and a worker died. On July 22, 2005, Monserrat Bennet and Eduardo Edén were crossing the circle in their car. Suddenly, they were struck by an eighteen-wheeler at the speed of 100 kilometers per hour. The trailer carrying broccoli lost its brakes at El Caracol. The couple died. The driver paid a bailment of 206 pesos for the culpable crime. The last accident, which did not take lives, took place on April 26 this year. An eighteen-wheeler carrying garlic lost its brakes and crashed into three vehicles at the glorieta. Two of them caught on fire, and the accident impeded traffic for four hours.

Alan Álvarez, director of the Civil Protection Department, proposed, as it was proposed in 2000, the construction of a runaway truck ramp at the Caracol and also suggested taking the heavy traffic out of the urban zone. Felipe Tapia, director of the Public Works Department, told Atención that the idea is not possible because there is not enough space at the Caracol to build a ramp, but in the days to come a call will be published to obtain project ideas to solve the problem.

During his mayoral campaign, Ricardo Villarreal said that there were executive projects for the construction of a road to connect the carretera a Celaya with the road to Querétaro and also the construction of a road to connect the road to Dolores with the carretera to Dr. Mora (a project that has been planned for at least two decades). They are still just projects.

What About Safety?

Safety precautions are always increasing, according to the citizens’ appreciation letters in the files of Atención. The state government tried to keep Guanajuato safe with the installation of hundreds of cameras (200 are in San Miguel) since 2012; they also installed road arches with cameras to detect the plates of cars reported as stolen or used in the commission of a crime.

The numbers published by Atención are based on the data provided online by the National System of Public Safety. Check out the Police Blotter on page 7. It is a comparative chart of the main crimes from January–March from 2011 to 2017.


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