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The man who remade Mexico City

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In short, a city with one of the worst reputations among urbanites for pollution, lawlessness, and general chaos, has an entirely new appeal.

“Outsiders once viewed the city as terrorizing,” says Ivan de la Lanza, who works for the city’s bike sharing program called Ecobici. “Now it’s a city that people want to visit, where they want to live.”

Quality of life

It is on the environmental front that Ebrard has garnered the most international plaudits, and one of the reasons he won the World Mayor’s 2010 prize for best urban leader. After taking office he outlined a 15-year “Green Plan” to reduce the city’s overall greenhouse gas emissions. The Ecobici program now counts over 50,000 users who can forgo their cars to commute to work along 17 paved miles of bike path. The city just unveiled a new $2 billion subway line that not only cuts commutes by an hour and in some cases much more, but also aims to get hundreds of buses off the streets.

“Along with [President] Felipe Calderon, Ebrard has supported environmental causes more than any previous administrations,” says Gustavo Alanis Ortega, the director general of the Mexican Center for Environmental Rights in Mexico City.

There are of course “incongruencies,” says Mr. Alanis Ortega.

The city closed down a giant landfill as part of its environmental plan, but that’s meant that streets have piled up with garbage ever since. Ebrard has forged ahead with new road systems, including a double-decker structure for the highway that rings the city. While it's been supported by some who believe it will relieve unbearable rush-hour traffic, it is criticized by others for the additional cars it will bring to the city center.

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