In November 2016, Tijuana opened a 23-mile-long Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route. High-speed buses run along the reserved center lanes of the city’s main thoroughfare, only stopping at tram-like stations.
For decades, Tijuana made do with an ad-hoc public transportation system, with local politicians granting private firms contracts to operate buses and collective taxis. They gave rise to a tangle of routes plied by aging, exhaust-spewing vehicles—and a group of politically powerful transportation firms.
Some of these firms’ operators, or “transportistas,” have invested in the BRT project and want it to succeed. But others deeply oppose the new route, even blocking it with their vehicles when it first opened. Their opposition could spell trouble for the line’s success.
This project explores why Tijuana's bus drivers and transportistas support or oppose the new line and how passengers have been affected. Like the Mumbai slum dwellers and Buenos Aires trash collectors covered by past Pulitzer Center grantees, they're a deeply-entrenched urban group in a city eager to implement 21st-century improvements.