In 2003, Jose Miguel Bejos, the CEO of the private real estate development company Grupo Promotor de Desarrollo e Infraestructura (Grupo PRODI), visited the terminal of the Metro’s Line B for the first time. The Ciudad Azteca Station, in Ecatepec, State of Mexico, looked like any other CETRAM. He saw a large open area, where a massive amount of people were transferring between the Metro and thousands of independent buses, taxis and vans that connected passengers to hundreds of destinations. Mr. Miguel saw a tremendous opportunity to improve one of Ecatepec’s most highly trafficked sites. The area experienced high pedestrian flows which, to a businessman, suggested a large number of potential consumers, but the intermodal site lacked much-needed resources, organization, and maintenance. Mr. Miguel wondered: what if he could meet the public infrastructure needs in a way that was also financially viable for the private sector?
At the time, no other CETRAM had been formally designed and built to facilitate an easy connection between the subway system and the colectivo networks. Mr. Miguel saw the project as more than just organizing an informal bus station — he envisioned a world-class multi-modal station. Mr. Miguel and PRODI’s previous experiences in government contracts gave them a unique perspective to explore the potential of this context. Two projects were key. First, PRODI had recently contracted with the Mexican Federal Government to develop a mixed-use facility at the Los Cabos airport, which included commercial spaces in the terminal for passengers waiting to board. Mr. Miguel imagined that this model could be adapted to other transportation infrastructure projects. The second project was a small government contract in the 1990s to update one of the primary CETRAMs in Mexico City, Cuatro Caminos, in exchange for the right to exploit its advertising spaces. According to Mr. Miguel, this project, his first, was hardly a financial success, since the spaces he was entitled to operate were frequently taken over by informal vendors. However, in retrospect, he credits this project as a formative experience, in which he learned to negotiate with the informal economy and to navigate the complex ecology of mass transfer stations.
In Miguel’s vision for Ciudad Azteca, the pedestrian flows transferring from the Metro to the buses and colectivos would be directed to a commercial center to encourage retail businesses and generate income that could pay for operation of the station, and from there, to an underground transfer platform where taxi, buses, and vans would line-up in an orderly manner to pick up riders. The biggest problem was that the government of the State of Mexico, which was in charge of managing the land and the infrastructure through the Ministry of Communications and Transport as well as the infrastructure and coordinating transport, would have to share Mr. Miguel’s vision if it was going to move forward.