Getting Around Quito

Abstract

Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is currently experiencing rapid economic development and population growth. The rural Ecuadorian population is migrating to Quito in search of work opportunities, while income per capital throughout the country is increasing rapidly. These changes have led to intolerable levels of traffic, attributed to increased private car ownership and an existing public transport system having reached its capacity. Policy makers are attempting to keep pace with increasing demand for public transportation.

Quito’s Mayor, Augusto Barrera, has led the initiative to build the city’s first metro line. The metro would be a symbol of Quito’s emergence as a sophisticated, modern city, as well as serve the needs of a rapidly expanding city. Feasibility studies led by a private contractor showed that the proposed metro would increase the efficiency of the flow of people through the city. The Municipality of Quito has since attracted investments from international development banks to support the metro’s construction. Construction began in 2013, just before Quito’s mayoral elections in February 2014.

This case is intended to prompt readers to question the motivations behind the decisions of local policy-makers. The case emphasizes how Mayor Barrera has fervently advocated for a metro: he used the metro as the platform for his mayoral campaign in 2009 and focused on the project throughout his time in office. Though studies and published data support the implementation of a metro, enough political issues exist—the abandoned light rail system of the previous administration, the lack of engagement of Ecuador’s own transportation expert Cesar Arias, as well as the possibility of budget overruns—to wonder whether Barrera has alternative objectives.

This case study is part of a series of cases designed for the course "Case Studies in Sustainable Development" at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

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