Skip to content
CityLab
Transportation

Could Congestion Charges Work in Latin America?

Something must be done as car sales increase and cities grow. A new study envisions a plan for Mexico City, Bogotá, and Santiago, but says improving public transport is essential.
Cars and public buses along a main street in Bogota, Colombia, October 2015.
Cars and public buses along a main street in Bogota, Colombia, October 2015.José Miguel Gómez/Reuters

Latin America is home to several growing megalopolises and an expanding urban landscape. According to UN-Habitat, São Paulo and Mexico City are the 5th and 7th most populated metropolitan areas in the world, with 21.3 and 21.1 million people respectively, while other cities in Latin America––like Santiago, Bogotá, Lima, and Buenos Aires––sprawl from about 7 to 15 million.

Currently, approximately 80 percent of Latin America’s population is urban and according to estimates, by 2050, more than 90 percent of inhabitants will end up living in big, congested cities––in a region where car demand is soaring. Automobile consultant Jato reports that car sales in Latin America skyrocketed by 14.6 percent in 2017. More than 3 million new vehicles were sold with Brazil leading the market, followed by Argentina and Chile. So yes, you guessed it: Vehicular transportation will be key in the future of these cities. And so will congestion charges.