Transforming urban mobility in Colima

Written by Gisela Méndez, General Director of El Instituto de Planeación para el Municipio de Colima

“It would not be progressive to ask where do we go, but rather where do we stop?” – Mafalda, Quino

In a congested Colima, it is common to hear “look at all the cars! We are growing so fast”. A few months after seeing our first vehicle-loop open, a young student said “thank goodness, we are already looking like Guadalajara.” This is not a sign of progress. The challenges of urban mobility and transport is to NOT emulate the actions of large cities: catering to an increase in motor transport begets more of the same. The real challenge is to increase mobility while maintaining the freedom to choose the mode of transport.

What does Colima’s metropolitan area look like?
-Population growth of 1.3% annually (trending downward)
-Vehicle growth of over 4% annually
-2.4 people per car, (higher than Mexico City, Leon and Guadalajara, 4th highest in the world)

An effective transportation system is needed now to keep Colima compact: an ounce of medicine equals a pound of cure, as they say. But in reality, the transportation system is already in crisis: disjointed, costly, unpredictable, and highly stigmatized by society, the question is: where to start? What opportunities to create change exist?

And more importantly, with only 250,000 inhabitants, who will pay attention?

Colima began by exploring the experiences of other cities, which proved to be as exciting as it was discouraging: the success stories began with strong political leadership, high technical capacity, integration of urban mobility into urban development, and most importantly, access to financial resources that are generally reserved for large metropolitan areas. Colima possessed none of these elements.

But what Colima did have was the political will to transform an urban culture. The main points to convey in order to make this happen are:
1. Transportation is about the movement of people AND urban design;
2. Urban mobility should be a demand for everyone, not just big cities.
Cultural transformation is a long-term endeavour that requires widespread acceptance, so it is imperative that everyone is given a stake in its success. Students, professionals, academics and subject experts were trained to jointly promote change in the urban planning processes.

By examining case studies from around the world and identifying both success and failures, Colima is creating a unique model incorporating both local context and international best practice. The creation of an association of municipalities and a metropolitan council; the involvement of an educated citizenry; and utilizing national technical experts is leading to a transformation in the governance of mobility. This participatory approach has resulted in an entire city working in tandem towards a more sustainable Colima.

El Instituto de Planeación para el Municipio de Colima is currently working on its master plan to increase mobility in a rapidly growing metropolitan area. Stay tuned for further updates.


About sustainablecitiesnetwork

Sustainable Cities International is a registered not-for-profit organization based in Vancouver, Canada. Operating since 1993, the mission of Sustainable Cities is to catalyze action on urban sustainability with cities around the world. We work by connecting and mobilizing people through the process of co-creating. We facilitate a thriving, international network of cities that act as urban laboratories: adopting, testing and improving on innovations. Ideas are accelerated through sharing of experience and cities are making transformational change a reality
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5 Responses to Transforming urban mobility in Colima

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Transforming urban mobility in Colima | Sustainable Cities : PLUS Network blog --

  2. Gemma says:

    I’m not an expert on urban planning by any stretch of the imagination, but wouldn’t focusing on youth lead to more awareness int he future? Making special lanes for kids bicycles (or at least pathways leading to schools and places where children frequent) have a knock-on effect in the future?

    • Gis Mendez says:

      Hi! You are absolutely right! In fact, is the youth movement in Colima that is promoting bike use on the urban area. It has had an important impact on politicians that now have to think on bikes also… they aren’t taking action still but at least they are learning that is important, possible and a community need! It’s a good start… Youth teaching in action!

  3. Karen says:

    I am all for anything or any idea that stops the next generation being as dependent on their cars as we are

  4. Alex URBACT says:

    Exchanging know-hows seems to be a key element for turning urban mobility into a more sustainable one.

    This is the base of URBACT (, a European program that aims at enhancing cooperation and exchanges of cities’expertise regarding various sectors like social inclusion, cultural heritage, or sustainable mobility.

    Sustainable urban mobility is one URBACT core issue. Indeed, the challenge is to be able to access to all the knowledge and techniques public authorities and automobile industry are developing, and to integrate it to local mobility governance.
    One URBACT project deals with an efficient solution to achieve sustainable urban mobility.

    The EVUE project ( involves 10 cities in Europe, from huge metropolitan areas like London to small cities such as Zografou (Greece), on a specific aspect : the electrification of mobility.

    It aims at integrating sustainable strategies and leadership techniques to promote the use of electric vehicles. Members are municipalities but also national experts on these issue.

    Electrifying mobility is one of the most efficient ways to reduce GHG emissions. It is also a pragmatic solution facing the need commuters have to keep using their car.

    Evidently, the success of the EVUE project lies on the dissemination of best practices led in partner cities. The creation of a multi-stakeholder hub to reshape urban mobility of Colima is certainly a key element to manage such project.

    To know more about the EVUE project and its Lead Expert, Sally Kneeshaw, please have a look on a recent article she wrote about it (

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