"It’s not just two pesos; it’s the country:" Mexico City’s #PosMeSalto protests rising transit costs
January 12, 2014
Mexico City’s extensive subway system, constantly packed with its 5 million daily users, has just become one of the most expensive public transit systems in the world. On December 13th, 2013 the subway fare was raised from three pesos (roughly 25 cents ) to five pesos (roughly 40 cents.) Basic mathematics informs you that this is a whopping 66.66% increase, placing Mexico City transit costs at the top of the list among the top 30 countries within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). To understand how a 50 cent fare is considered one of the most expensive in the world, you have to take into account Mexico City’s minimum wage which has stagnated around 64 pesos, just shy of five dollars for a day’s work. Therefore, a basic daily commute can account for a minimum of one sixth of one’s daily salary and sometimes up to one half if the commuter has to pay extra for buses or minivans to travel from their house or job to the subway stop.
Confronted by this daunting reality of prohibitively expensive public transit, hundreds of students and young people, largely coordinated via social networks, organized #PosMeSalto on the first day of the fare increase. #PosMeSalto loosely translates into, “guess, i’ll just jump,” a city wide transportation protest which took place in the majority of major train stations on the first day of the fare hike. In the stations, participants assisted thousands of commuters in jumping over the turnstiles, ducking under them or sliding through sideways. Even subway police officers declines to intervene, and some even assisted passengers to duck below, begging them not to vault over the turnstile.
One of the popular chants during the #PosMeSalto actions was “they didn’t survey me, I’m just gonna duck below.” Chanters were referencing a Mitofsky survey that was conducted over two days with only 2400 participants, or a mere .05% of the commuter population of the city. The questions were front loaded, asking commuters if they would be in favor of a two peso increase if the government promised to improve service, increase ventilation and up security in the wagons.
The population of the metropolitan area of Mexico City is currently estimated at 21 million people and has far outgrown the current system. Often commuters have to wait for three trains to pass by before they can even board a wagon in which people are literally packed in like sardines. With these kind of frustrations and questions worded with a focus on the improvements, 52% of the 2400 people surveyed said they would be in support of a fare hike. This government later plastered the statistic all over the subway system in slick advertising promoting the fare hike. In the months before the fare hike, many commuters, including the author of this article, noted a worsening of the subway service, and some suspected that the transit authorities slowed service to convince people of the necessity of a fare hike.
One student spoke anonymously in a video published by Subversiones AAC about what he viewed as the metro’s false promises. “We didn’t see any improvements when they raised the fare before, it continued to be the same, so it’s ridiculous for them to raise it,” commented the young man. Like him, many commuters were outraged by the Mitofsky survey and pointed out the small percentage of people who were surveyed, affirming their opposition to the fare hike.
In contrast, an independent group of multidisciplinary researchers from the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) conducted an online study in which over 34,000 people participated, of which close to 30,000 entries were considered valid. Of these 30,000, who hailed from neighborhoods all across the city and metropolitan region, 93% said they were against the fare hike.