Press Release

Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center Announces 2009 Roy Family Award for Environmental Partnership

Sep. 03, 2009

Mexico City Metrobus System reduces air pollution, improves urban mobility

CAMBRIDGE, MA- The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University announced today that the 2009 Roy Family Award for Environmental Partnership will be given to the Mexico City Metrobus, a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that reduces air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, while improving the quality of life and transportation options in one of the largest cities in the world.

The award - presented bi-annually to celebrate an outstanding public-private partnership project that enhances environmental quality through the use of novel and creative approaches - will be presented to the recipients at a Harvard Kennedy School event later this fall. The purpose of the Roy Family Award is to draw attention to an exceptional partnership and its achievements while inspiring others to replicate or expand upon its success.

The Metrobus system is a result of a partnership launched by EMBARQ - The World Resources Institute Center for Sustainable Transport - with assistance from CEIBA (a Mexican NGO) and the Mexico City government and with funding and support from the Shell Foundation, Caterpillar Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, and the World Bank. Through this collaboration, EMBARQ, CEIBA and Mexico City established the Center for Sustainable Transport in Mexico, the not-for-profit organization that has provided ongoing technical assistance to the Metrobus system from its inception through its expansion.

After several years of planning and development, Metrobus opened in 2005 along 20 kilometers of the central transport artery in Mexico City, Insurgentes Avenue. In 2008, the route was extended an additional nine kilometers. At the end of that year, Metrobus extended its network by launching the Eje 4 Sur corridor, which added 22 kilometers to the system.

By introducing cleaner, more efficient buses, and convincing many commuters to leave their cars at home, Metrobus has reduced carbon dioxide emissions from Mexico City traffic by an estimated 80,000 tons a year.  The new buses, which operate on clean-burning ultra low sulfur diesel fuel, make more than 450,000 trips per day.

Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard has applauded the Metrobus system, saying he wants to extend the system to 10 bus lines. "If we make it greener," he said of his city, which is known for its extreme pollution, "the city will be able to survive."

EMBARQ and CTS-México also are now advising other cities in Mexico on how to develop their own BRT systems. The organizations provided technical and financial support to help launch Guadalajara's Macrobus, which opened in March with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Mexican President Felipe Calderón (MPA 2000).

"This model is transferable to cities throughout the developing world - cities that are wrestling with the dual problem of moving people around in a highly congested area, while combating very high pollution levels," said Henry Lee, director of the Environment and Natural Resources program at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, in announcing the 2009 award winner.

The partnership was selected from a group of highly qualified nominated projects from around the world that tackled tough environmental problems ranging from clean fuel adoption to nuclear waste clean-up. More than 20 experts both inside and outside of Harvard reviewed the nominees.

Reviewers praised the Metrobus project's innovative partnership with the owners of small, polluting mini-buses that once traveled on the Metrobus route. After a year of negotiating with around 350 mini-bus owners, Metrobus created a consortium of public-private owners that includes the former mini-bus owners and operators. Due to the expansion of the system, a total of 839 polluting mini-buses have been permanently removed from the roads.

"Given the fact that most of the world's population growth over the coming decades will be in cities, this initiative is addressing a critical and increasingly important issue - the livability and ecological sustainability of these cities," noted Vanessa Timmer, director of One Earth, a reviewer of the Roy Award submissions.

The Roy Family has been a long-time supporter of the development of public-private partnerships to meet social goals. The Roy Family Award attempts to provide positive incentives for companies and organizations worldwide to push the boundaries of creativity and take risks that result in significant changes that benefit the environment.

Partners and Sponsors of Metrobus Project

World Resources Institute

EMBARQ - The World Resources Institute Center for Sustainable Transport

Center for Sustainable Transport in Mexico


Shell Foundation

Caterpillar Foundation

The World Bank

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

The Global Environment Facility


For more information on this publication: Please contact Environment and Natural Resources
For Academic Citation:Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center Announces 2009 Roy Family Award for Environmental Partnership.” Press Release, September 3, 2009.