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Doing Something about Climate Change in San Miguel

Sitting around the conference room at Quinto Loreto after screening a disturbing film about climate change offered by Occupy San Miguel, our shared question was what can be done about it here, in our town.

I kept pondering this question throughout the rest of the day. By dinner time, the answer was evident to me: make the operation of private passenger vehicles more difficult while making shared transportation a desirable alternative.

Within the city of San Miguel de Allende, there are many buses and taxis, and yet both residents and nonresidents insist on bringing private automobiles into the narrow, cobblestoned streets of the city. This results in daily traffic tie-ups and constant gasoline fumes, spewing harmful CO2 into the air.

Standing near the center of San Miguel is a large parking lot. Estacionamiento del Cardo has 650 parking spaces and belongs to Instituto de Seguridad Social del Estado de Guanajuato, part of the local government. The parking lot was constructed so that visitors would be required to park there and take taxis and busses to the Centro. Yet, while the parking lot was built, the mandatory rule was not put into force. The parking lot remains mostly unoccupied.

The Cardo parking lot isn’t the only parking place in San Miguel. If the city wanted to make visitors park outside town and take public transportation, it could do so. The result would be cleaner air, a help with climate change, and far less traffic in a beautiful area which is made for walking.

Suppose that you were trying to help solve the climate change problem and at the same time rid San Miguel of its oppressive traffic. What would you do? Simply force private cars not to drive throughout most of the city, while at the same time making public transport cheap and efficient—maybe even free. Consider subsidizing taxi services. Consider multipassenger jitney service. In other words, make operating private, single-passenger vehicles more difficult, and make shared transportation a desirable alternative. This would open the streets, help cleanse the air, and make San Miguel de Allende a special place—not just for its historical beauty, but also for its willingness to better its own environment.

Such changes would not be hard to do. If all inhabitants were to pay a small, annual mobility tax, the city could afford to fund free transportation. This could be a sales tax or one added to a universal service like cell phones. Visitors could park in a lot and then get free taxi rides to their hotels or B&Bs, which could pay a tax to cover this service.

Overall, people would be encouraged not to drive private automobiles but to ride-share through taxi, bus, and jitney service. Incidentally, this would also increase jobs for drivers while also making driving jobs easier due to a lessening of traffic.

 

Michael T. Hertz

 

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