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Uber. Along with the Internet that powers it and, perhaps, Hot Pockets, it is the greatest development most of us have encountered in our lifetime. Whether it’s helping avoid parking hell, improvising when you don’t have access to a car or finding a suitable plan B after overdoing it on the eggnog, per its own estimation, the mobile ride-sharing platform provides some 2 million rides per day.
Last August, the birth of Uber Tijuana was announced at a press conference. The border town became the 169th market in the world where the service was offered; the third market in all of Mexico.
Blowback from politically ingrained public transportation unions quickly ensued, and last month, city authorities effectively banned the service. Since then, no official word has been issued on how to legalize it. VOSD contributor Vicente Calderón has the story.
“Incredibly, the regulations do not say what the requirements are to obtain said permission,” said Luis De Uriarte, director of communications for Uber Mexico.
More from the story:
Tijuana’s transportation companies—many of them tied to unions affiliated with the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI—have long been a political power unto their own in this city.
Their representatives strongly defend the concessions they have been granted to offer transportation services in Tijuana. The companies say that the new, alternative transportation services claimed that they were private to avoid paying for licensing fees and operating permits.
With the support of Mayor Jorge Astiazarán, a member of the PRI, Tijuana’s City Council approved the new Uber restrictions in November.
“It’s not fair that public transport in the city has to meet all these requirements and Uber doesn’t,” Astiazarán said earlier this month.
Still, what the government wants Uber to do isn’t clear. Some Tijuana Council members who opposed the Uber decision said the rules could even affect mothers who form car pools to take their children to school if they arrange the rides over the telephone.
Uber representatives say they want to comply with the new rules, but don’t know how.
Lack of infrastructure and “bike unfriendliness” are two big factors standing in the way of a cross-border bike lane. VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan reports:
[Development agency Casa Familiar’s David Flores] has been working on binational bike infrastructure for years. And while it hasn’t made much headway with the federal government, it’s been working with the city of San Diego for the past 18 months to improve the bike infrastructure in San Ysidro and the South Bay–so that if a binational bike lane does happen, cyclists can seamlessly travel through San Diego.
He said that the San Ysidro community plan update, which is expected to be voted on by the City Council next year, identifies bike routes that would connect from the new pedestrian border-crossing facility being built, through San Ysidro, and connecting through Imperial Beach to the Bayshore Bikeway.
“With the community plan update, we’ve identified routes that make more sense and are safe for people to use,” Flores said. “It’s great because we finally see it as a circuit.”
In the meantime, you can take to the air. A privately operated cross-border bridge at Tijuana’s Abelardo L. Rodríguez International Airport is now reality. The 390-foot Cross Border Xpress pay bridge aims to ease border-crossing waits for travelers and serve as “an airport without a runway,” the U-T’s Sandra Dibble reports.
According to the story, the Tijuana airport served as many as 4.4 million passengers last year, an estimated 60 percent of whom crossed to or from California.
Among the first to use the bridge was Gino Bertozzi , who traveled from Mexico City to San Diego for a few days of shopping. He described the facility as “Very, very nice.”
And Now for the Weather
Researchers in Southern California have joined forces with Mexican civil protection officials to prepare residents of Tijuana’s flood-prone canyons for El Niño, KPBS says.
“We’re working with the community to better understand what the flood risk is in this location,” Kim Serrano, project manager for FloodRISE, a UC Irvine-based project, told KPBS. Education has been the first step, and Serrano has visited makeshift neighborhoods on the Mexico side prone to mudslides and flooding. Sediments and trash from at-risk areas often find their way down the Tijuana River Valley, causing a problem for southern San Diego residents.
“It’s better to work at the origin of the problem than waste human and material resources only on mitigating the effects on the U.S. side,” Ana Eguiarte, community liaison for the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, told KPBS. The reserve, along with Tijuana’s Protección Civil agency are working with UC Irvine on the project. Stateside, preparations are also under way to deal with the burdensome weather pattern.
VOSD’s Ry Rivard has more on how officials in San Diego are scrambling to prepare for El Niño.
The Clone Wars
While some smugglers resort to fancy drones and underground tunnels, others employ more ACME-brand tactics. KRGB in Texas reports that Border Patrol authorities apprehended a man driving what they call “a creative way to blend in”— a cloned BP Tahoe. Laredo, Texas, sector agents found a dozen people stuffed inside the unit. Some bells and whistles in the fake patrol car were a dead giveaway.
“There’s no fender, there’s no ground effect on any of our vehicles. They’re actually pretty bare and about as high as we get the vehicle, because we do go off road,” Omar Zamora of the Border Patrol told KRGB. Your move, Wile E.
The Two Faces of Sinaloa
The so-called “Golden Triangle,” a narcotics-producing area that extends over the Mexican states of Durango, Sinaloa and Chihuahua, is a mainstay in any discussion of drug trafficking. Recentl, VICE News debuted a trailer for its “The Hunt for ‘El Chapo’” investigation. In it, Daniel Hernandez travels to Sinaloa’s mountainous region and talks to locals who have experienced the effects of the hunt for the Twitter-happy kingpin firsthand. Take a look:
Another Sinaloa native making waves is artist Pedro Reyes. For his project “Palas por Pistolas,” Reyes collected 1,527 guns in the state capital of Culiacán, and transformed them into shovels meant to reforest the area. Proving, he says, how “an agent of death can become an agent of life.”
’Tis the Season
… For the handheld delicacy known as tamales. Sure, the corn-husk-wrapped goodies are available year-round, but in Mexico and parts of Central and South America, they are forever tied with the holidays. They are intrinsically synonymous with good eatin’, and tamale recipes are often handed down from generation to generation. The process behind them is intricate and time-consuming — which gives ample time to catch up while prepping masa and to gossip about friends and family while stewing pork. (Poor Verónica, single at 26… she’ll probably never get married!) News-Press delves deep into the delectable tradition.
Finally, are you pressed for a last-minute gift for that Mexi hipster on your list? I leave you with two words: tortilla record.