Building the world’s highest subway: an analysis of the development and financing of Line One of the Metro De Quito
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Line One of the Metro de Quito (PLMQ) is nearing completion after more than a decade of planning and construction. When it is done, it will be the first subway system in the country as well as the highest in the world. Quito faces a unique set of mobility challenges that necessitate this massive undertaking. Mountains to the east and west of the city constrains growth to a dense north-south corridor as the population and automobile ownership rates continue to rise and traffic continues to worsen. Currently, the city has a fairly comprehensive bus and bus rapid transit (BRT) system but these too fall victim to traffic across the city. In the early 2010’s, the city decided to take the next step in developing its public transit infrastructure by beginning to construct an underground metro system. The PLMQ will allow end to end travel in the city in under a half hour. However, the PLMQ would not have been possible for Quito to complete on its own. The PLMQ benefitted from a series of partnerships that addressed shortcomings of the current institutions in the city and country. Local groups conducted social and environmental impact surveys that guided how multilateral banks like the IDB, World Bank, EIB, and CAF helped fund the massive undertaking. Quito also benefited from knowledge sharing and technical support from the Metro de Madrid and other private contractors. The PLMQ, which is scheduled to open in February of 2022, is poised to reduce traffic, lessen pollution, and improve city life overall. This case is a great example of how multilateral finance can be a powerful force for good beyond just providing financial assistance. Multilateral financial institutions can also provide important environmental and social safeguards as well as technical expertise that makes projects like the PLMQ beneficial for residents.
Honors thesis. B.A. in International Relations, Spring 2021, Boston University.
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