TBY talks to Augusto Barrera, Mayor of the Municipality of Quito, on the city’s reconfiguration as a transport hub and the advantages of Quito as a place to do business.
TBY What are the main challenges you have faced as Mayor of Quito?
AUGUSTO BARRERA Quito is similar to many cities in Latin America, in that it has experienced aggressive growth. By the mid-20th century, Quito’s population stood at 250,000 or 300,000 people; in the last census we counted approximately 2.3 million. This means that over the course of 60 or 70 years the population has multiplied by 10, which is a very sharp increase. In the 2001 census, Quito recorded 1.8 million people, which means we are registering growth of 50,000 people per year. These demographics present a challenge in terms of the demand for public services, but we have overcome many obstacles. Quito has an extensive water network, covering close to 97% of its area, and sewage systems cover over 91%. Our domestic garbage collection covers 96% of the population. In service supply, we exceed the national average with numbers closer to those seen in European cities. Quito is a capital city with a strong political debate, important government presence, and 23 universities, and we are observing a demographic transformation process. In Quito, we enjoy a deeper notion of modernism, culture, and architecture, and the city has also grown economically over the past few years owing to investments in social mobility.
What impact will the new airport have on the city’s tourism and commerce?
We have huge expectations, as the city has demanded the airport for many years. Quito plays an important role as a tourist destination and an exporter. Quito and the surrounding region have become the largest exporters of flowers, for example. The airport will have an impact on passenger traffic and cargo. We aim to strengthen the export capacity of flowers and traditional products such as handicrafts, as well as non-traditional farming products, which will have a major impact on the economy and the dynamics of the market. In 2011, we served 5.4 million passengers at the Mariscal Sucre International Airport and received almost 500,000 tourists to the city, demonstrating our growth and expansion. The largest transformation of the city has yet to be seen, as the current airport will feature an exit in the north of the city, where tourism will expand. Currently, the airport functions as a virtual barrier between the west and east, and the new exit of the airport will allow us to build a 150-hectare park, reconfigure the city, offer denser services, and make the city more compact.
What will the subway’s main characteristics be, and how will it affect the city’s mobility?
We are working on the structure of the transport corridors. Over the past two years, we have doubled the transport capacity of buses and trolleys. The spine of our system will be the subway, which is in the final stages of analysis. The first stage measured the feasibility of the project, presented in July 2011. The project was proposed by the Metro of Madrid and the analysis offered clear conclusions. We have to install a high-capacity system, structured with the physical unification of the transportation network. We determined that Quito is the ideal city for a subway due to its long shape and the limitation of operating conventional bus services. Currently we are involved in a two-part stage, which includes finishing our detailed research on engineering and the location of stops. We are hoping to formally announce the specifications of the system. Our preliminary figures suggest that the subway will be 22 kilometers long with 15 stops and 106 wagons, and it will take 24 minutes to travel from Labrador to the Quitumbe station, and transport 370,000 people daily in its first year. The construction of two multimodal stations will be put to the test in mid-2012. We will start construction work in the third quarter, as the conceptual stages of the project will be completed in August.
What are the main advantages that Quito offers to foreign investors?
There are several advantages. Currently, much of the foreign investment is geared toward the airport and subway projects. Quito boasts excellent competitiveness, with an educated population, trained professionals, and excellent services. We also have a strong legal process with clear laws; there is legal security because our regulations are respected, which is key for investment. We are also developing a process to set up key investment factors. Through the program, companies can earn what we call a “Seal of Prioritized Investment,” which is designed to accelerate the bureaucratic processes. A number of investments have this seal, which makes them agile. We are organizing the city by industrial areas, which is also key for investment. Many of the risks people face when they make investments involve sustainability and the environment, and we are reconfiguring these areas to increase security. Finally, we have an outstanding cultural agenda. We are the perfect size, with the advantage of a metropolis that is centrally located without the complexities of a huge population.
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