The rapid spatial expansion of Mexico City is not slowing down in the 21st century but accelerating. The main stimulus of this sprawl is income growth, which leads to widespread ownership of private automobiles and the desire of Mexican families to own homes. The number of automobiles in Metropolitan Mexico City (ZMCM) is approaching 10 million, almost double the number in 2000. Most households have access to a private car, many have several cars. Automobiles are responsible for nearly half of all trips. While the 2008–2009 economic downturn dramatically reduced new car purchases, the market has picked up significantly in 2010.
New suburban residential developments for all income levels now stretch up to 40 km from the Zócalo (the main plaza in Mexico City’s center). Some developers sell undeveloped lots; others build family homes. Most of these new developments are in gated communities and are focused on car-owning buyers.
A case can be made that Mexico City is beginning to merge with surrounding urban areas (see map) into a “super city” or megalopolis, with a total population of about 30 million.
The eastern border of the Toluca Metropolitan Area (population 1.6 million) is the Federal District. The Cuernavaca urban area (population 788,000) is only about 20 minutes south by toll road. The western edge of Metropolitan Puebla-Tlaxcala (population 2.1 million) is only about 30 minutes from the eastern edge of Greater Mexico City. Pachuca (population 278,000) is only about 30 minutes north.
A megalopolis is one possible future scenario for Mexico City.
If you have enjoyed this brief excerpt from chapter 23 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico please consider purchasing your own copy of the book. Chapters 21 and 22 analyze Mexico’s 500-year transition to an urban society and the internal geography of Mexico’s cities. Chapter 23 looks at urban issues, problems and trends. To preview more parts of the book, click here and use amazon.com’s “Look Inside” feature.