On November 28 and 29, as well as December 2, Mexico City’s government, using three polling companies, will aim to know whether the population agrees on increasing the price of the ticket Subway (Metro) from 3 to 5 pesos per journey. Regardless of the negative effects that subsidized prices imply for this massive mobility transportation system, it is well known how politically costly would be the decision of increasing its tariff (which, even with the increase would be subsidized in more than 50%). This seems to be the essential motivation that has boosted the local government into looking for a mechanism that, in case of trouble, would allow it to detach itself from the responsibilities of taking such a decision. The survey would theoretically legitimize the decision but, if it does not, the government would not be accountable. Regardless of the result of this particular poll, it is nonsense trying to govern using surveys for Executive actions.
Increasing the cost of Metro should be a technical rather than popular decision. Joel Ortega, head of the aforementioned service, stated that the 2 pesos increase would generate 3 additional billion pesos needed to improve the operative infrastructure – buying and repairing wagons to ease congestion of Metro lines, appointment of more security officers, a steady maintenance of stations and machinery -, although it would still not be enough to broaden the network. Over the past five years, the Metro has operated with an average annual deficit of 54%. To continue delaying the elimination or decrease of the subsidy would be irresponsible. Although the government of Mexico City has known for years the urgency of dismantling this policy, it has never been clear on how to approach it, not from the technical nor the political side. The situation is even more peculiar when observed from another perspective: the lack of clarity disseminates when trying to face pressure put by private entities that dominate the franchised public transportation (buses and minibuses). The Mexico City government tends to give in upon the demands – and blackmail – of franchises to increase their tariffs, regardless of the appalling and sometimes infrahuman service provided to its passengers. In these cases, authorities do not hesitate and have not used surveys to legitimize a decision that is mostly sustained in “putting out a political fire” than in improving transportation conditions. For the current standard in an eventual increase in the price of Metro tickets, the use of surveys is perceived as a way to shield Miguel Ángel Mancera from his ruling responsibilities.
During his campaign for the Mayor’s Office, Mancera coined up the motto “deciding together” (which was taken from the pre-campaign of Carlos Navarrete for that very post) with the purpose of, using several surveys, getting to know the problems and solutions proposed in each of Mexico City’s boroughs. As a campaign mechanism, the use of polls allows acknowledging voters’ needs but it does not justify public policy decisions in the exercise of power. For the implementation of necessary (though unpopular) policies, it is absurd to ask people their opinions because it will, predictably, turn out to be negative. If the survey results points out that people reject an increase, will the local government decide not to increase the price despite the fact that it has already sent the proposal to the Legislative Assembly or will it lie about the result? Unpopular but necessary decisions have to be taken regardless of the political cost they might generate. Allegedly, that is the reason why they were voted in the first place, which is even more so with the case of Mancera, who gained almost 70% of voting. Even worse, this is even more hard to understand when Mancera does not take advantage of the political bonus – which has increasingly deteriorated – from such a landslide victory occurred in the previous year. Even the two predecessor of the current Mayor did not “venture” into adjusting the price without a survey or consultation (López Obrador did it in 2001 and Ebrard, in 2010). Nevertheless, the distinction of Mancera appears to be “deciding together in order to not decide at all”. The question now is whether the control exercised by PRD in Mexico City shall be able to sustain all this.