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Sustainable Cities
Updated: 11 hours 37 min ago

Every Tree Matters: Brazilian Cities Prioritize Urban Restoration

Fri, 2017-02-03 00:08

Joinville Brazil is a Leading Proponent of Urban Trees. Photo by Mariana Gil / WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities

In addition to counting people, cars and kilometers of infrastructure, cities today are counting trees. Urban forests are another tool to combat climate change and increase quality of life in cities. Furthermore, concrete urban jungles lack a connection to nature, which directly correlates with various health problems for residents.

Urban trees have always been loved for beautifying public spaces. However, they contribute much more, with an impact on the economic, social and environmental sustainability of cities. Through real estate research, one can see that people prefer to live and work on greener streets. In addition to the visual attributes, a wooded space can reduce stress by creating calmer environments conducive to physical exercise and active transportation.

Furthermore, trees provide thermal control associated with humidity and shade. By sheltering buildings from direct sunlight, the shade from a tree can save up to 10 percent of the energy needed to regulate a building’s temperature. Urban trees also reduce air pollution and absorb water, thereby reducing the risk of flooding and erosion. For these reasons, prioritizing urban tree restoration is also a priority for enhancing quality of life.

The World Economic Forum and SENSEable City, a laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), developed the Green View Index (GVI) or Treepedia, a metric that evaluates and compares the treetops of cities. The GVI is calculated using Google Street View, which measures the density of canopy cover in street images. So far, 12 cities around the world have been studied: Boston, Geneva, London, Los Angeles, Paris, New York, Sacramento, Seattle, Tel Aviv, Toronto, Turin and Vancouver.

“As many cities experience warming temperatures, increased storm frequency and continued air pollution, the well-being of our urban trees has never been more important,” said Carlo Ratti, Director of SENSEable City. Although cities always need large infrastructure projects, small changes like planting trees can also make a big impact. Treepedia also allows people to know the location and size of trees in their communities, and residents can help classify, track and even advocate for more tree plantings.

Although Vancouver is the Treepedia city with the highest percentage of coverage (25.9 percent), New York City, with 13.5 percent, is highlighted. For more than a year, the metropolis has developed a program that aims to map each tree, one by one. The city’s Parks Department, with the help of 2,300 volunteers, recorded more than 685,000 street trees in all five boroughs, with statistics on species, health, width, latitude, longitude and GPS coordinates. The final product, an interactive Tree Map, houses the information for each tree on New York City streets.

Trees line the streets of Curitiba, Brazil. Photo by Mariana Gil / WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities / Flickr

Brazilian Cities are Making Tree Restoration their Master Plan

Brazilian cities are following the global trend of prioritizing care for urban forests. Curitiba is considered to be one of the greenest cities in Latin America, due to its many green spaces and approach to caring for the environment. Since 2013, Curitiba has followed its Public Afforestation Plan, a set of preventive actions and maintenance for the thousands of trees lining public roads.

Since then, 139,000 trees have been planted in accordance with the document, which requires planning based on technical and scientific criteria. The seedlings planted in public roads are selected according to their size, canopy architecture, resistance to pests and diseases, adaptability to the climate, root system and the presence of flowers or fruits. In addition, 80 percent of the trees are native to the area. Each year, the Department of Plant Production receives 15,000 requests for cutting or pruning trees on public roads and, on average, 25 percent are carried out. Each up-rooted tree is replaced by two in its place.

Porto Alegre, Brazil is home to one million urban trees. Photo by Benoit Colin / EMBARQ / Flickr

Porto Alegre is also leading the charge toward greener cities. The city implemented its Afforestation Master Plan in 2006, to provide guidance for planting policy, preservation, management and expansion of trees in the city. The plan’s objective is to establish parameters for urban trees, such as ensuring public sidewalks are 40 percent plant-covered. According to the latest IBGE Census, Porto Alegre is among the 15 most forested cities in the country, with around one million trees.

A year ago, thousands of trees were damaged by a storm that transformed the landscape of Porto Alegre. With winds that reached up to 120 km/h (75 mph), the event made clear the fundamental role that urban trees play in climatic resilience: Places with a high concentration of trees served as barriers against the force of the winds, avoiding greater damages.

Porto Alegre has already launched its First Resilience Strategy, a product from when the city was selected to participate in the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge. The strategy gathers recommendations and actions to prepare the city to face natural or man-made adversities.

Developing the Right Plan

Joinville is in the process of developing its tree restoration plan. According to Luiz Fernando Hagemann, architect and town planner, the Afforestation Master Plan will be completed in the first half of 2017. The process of constructing the document consists of several steps, including a very detailed analysis of UN recommendations, studies from earlier research in the city, a look into other cities’ plans and updating Joinville diagnostics.

This blog was originally published in Portuguese on TheCityFixBrasil

The Next Step in Financing Transit-Oriented Development in India

Wed, 2017-02-01 20:37

Busy Road in Jaipur, India. Photo by EMBARQ / Flickr

India’s urban population is expected to reach 600 million by 2031. Providing infrastructure to accommodate this growth will be a huge task. The Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) is encouraging Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) as one of its strategies for sustainable urban growth. There has been increased interest in India for scaling-up TOD projects in order to solve issues in existing and newly emerging urban areas. Therefore, it is important to understand that implementation requires cross-disciplinary integration and partnering at various tiers of government.

However, owing to the significant capital investments required, and long gestation periods without definite returns, few have signed on for TOD projects. There is a need to develop suitable financing mechanisms and concrete policy frameworks and regulations to encourage success.

Financing is Crucial to TOD

Successful global practices have shown that TOD cannot adhere to a one size fits all policy, especially when it comes to the financing model involved. Each component of the project needs to be looked at separately and the appropriate financing model applied. In addition, the role of all stakeholders in the financing process and the possible changes to the financing model need to be charted out.

There is significant capital available, allocated by the local, state and central governments, in addition to available funds from public transit agencies, businesses, financial institutions, community based organizations, philanthropies and developers. However, this money needs to be accessed and channeled effectively.

Existing Mechanisms to Finance Infrastructure

At present, there are several financial mechanisms that have been used for large-scale infrastructure projects in India. Depending on the type of project and the stakeholders involved, replicating these models could help future TOD projects get off the ground.

Public-Public Partnership: When two or more public agencies come together for a project, resources and responsibilities are pooled within a partnership agreement. For example, when the Ministry of Urban Development approved the Delhi TOD policy in July 2015, a pilot TOD project was initiated by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the state-owned NBCC (India) Limited to take the project forward.

Credit Assistance: This method is traditionally used for large-scale infrastructure projects in India and involves budgetary support, grants and loans from multilateral or bilateral development agencies. One such example is the Delhi Metro, which is an equity joint venture between the state government and the central government, along with significant soft-loan assistance from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Land Value Capture: This method recovers all or some of the increase in land and property value as a result of public infrastructure provision. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has successfully employed this financing method through property development. Phase-III of the Delhi Metro is looking to generate funds of close to INR 2500 crore (US $367 million) through the same method. The new Value Capture Framework Policy could help the government recover value generated via public infrastructure investments.

Public- Private Partnership (PPP): This approach involves private finance and advanced technical expertise made attractive with guarantees from the government. For instance, the Hyderabad Metro Rail Ltd (HMR) has been set up as a Special Project Vehicle (SPV) between the state government and the concessionaire, L&T.

Municipal Bonds: Tax-free bonds are issued by Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) in order to finance city improvement projects. The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation was the first ULB to issue redeemable tax-free bonds in 2005. While the municipal bond market in India has thus far played only a limited role as a funding source, it has a high-track record in terms of repayment across all ULBs that have issued them.

Dedicated Funds Model: The Government of Karnataka has established a Dedicated Funds Model, where money is mobilized by imposing a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) tax based on the market guidance value of all properties within a distance of 500 meters (1640 feet) from the Phase-II of the Bangalore metro line. The funds would be credited to the Metro Infrastructure Fund and shared proportionately between the ULB and infrastructure providers.

Moving Forward

While TOD has had widespread global success, as with any infrastructure project, TOD will not be successful in India until the question of finance is answered. Infrastructure financing mechanisms should be contextual and financially sustainable. These could include tax increment financing (TIF), betterment tax, user charges, selling of air rights, green bonds, project bonds and others.

An encouraging sign is that the government has become flexible in terms of allowing commercial bank lending, using tools such as take-out financing, infrastructure financing institutions, infrastructure debt funds, external commercial borrowing and foreign direct investments (FDIs). The applicability of existing finance mechanisms and the possibility of innovative methods for financing will be crucial for the implementation and scaling-up of TOD.

This was originally published by WRI India

Voices of Efficiency: Cristina Gamboa, Juan Camilo González and Bogotá’s Leadership through Partnership

Tue, 2017-01-31 19:57

Bogota, Colombia is a Partner City of the Building Efficiency Accelerator. Photo by Rosalba Tarazona / Flickr

As Colombia’s capital and largest city, Bogotá has significant local government capacity. However, because of limited experience with implementing efficiency policies, the city lacks technical expertise to implement a new national building energy regulation or otherwise encourage more efficient construction. Bogotá is working with local stakeholders and the global Building Efficiency Accelerator (BEA) partnership to develop and implement locally-relevant efficiency actions.

To understand more about driving action on efficiency in Bogotá, WRI’s Eric Mackres talked with two local change agents: Cristina Gamboa is CEO of Consejo Colombiano de Construcción Sostenible (CCCS, the Colombia Green Building Council) and Vice-chair of World Green Building Council. Juan Camilo González is Manager of the North City Project for the Mayor’s Office and Advisor to Bogotá’s Mayor Enrique Peñalosa. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Eric: Why do you work on building efficiency? What opportunities or benefits do you see for economic, environmental or social impacts in Bogotá from taking action to improve building efficiency? 

Cristina: I got involved in the sustainable building industry in August 2009. We saw advocating for sustainability in the built environment as a key feature to combat climate change. As a developing country, there is a lot of opportunity to lock in efficiency early on. What motivated me was changing people’s mindsets and doing business in a sector like the construction industry in a different way: to continue bringing profitability to businesses but also facilitating strong social impact and environmental protection.

Two years ago, with WRI’s Jennifer Layke, we were dreaming of a project like the BEA that drives different actors forward and makes the private sector more conscious of decisions they make. CCCS has created a dynamic and profitable green building sector, and we want to further impact the affordable housing industry. Through these efforts, we want to focus on health and wellbeing—not only the business case.

Juan Camilo: Buildings account for a large percentage of global energy and water consumption, over a third for energy and a quarter for water, so there is a lot we can do to improve our cities. As we build our homes and commercial buildings better, we will be able to help our citizens, especially low-income citizens, save valuable resources and money.

One big opportunity we see for Bogotá is that because it’s located 2,644 meters (8,675 feet) above sea level, we don’t require air conditioning or heating, and gravity delivers our water from higher elevation with little energy. Therefore, our energy use is lower than most cities. If you are able to take advantage of that and become more efficient in other areas, it will be easy to become a zero emission city, one of our goals for new development.

What are the main challenges you see for achieving efficient buildings in Bogotá?

Juan Camilo: I see three main challenges:

The first is creating realistic norms. In Colombia, when talking about environmental laws, in many cases, the best possible scenario is adopting a legal norm. Often this norm is not feasible, and therefore no one complies. As a result, we don’t get the dream we wanted nor do we get what could have happened if norms had been designed to be feasible.

The second challenge is ensuring that adequately-designed norms are actually applied. Urban control is hard. We have issues with buildings that are built where they shouldn’t be. Imagine additionally trying to control for buildings to be built in a sustainable way. That’s even harder to control.

The third challenge is creating the right incentives. Beyond what’s mandatory, we need the right incentives: financial and cultural incentives, in terms of the real estate market, so that stakeholders start applying norms not because they have to, but because they want to. Those are the three main challenges.

Cristina: I would put the same issues in a different way. For a market to change and increase levels of sustainability in a city, particularly in the built environment, there has to be a mix of “push” and “pull” factors. The “push” is that there must be norms and urban control incentives. The “pull” is that there has to be a change in the mindset of people in the construction industry. By this, I mean that delivering sustainable buildings and green infrastructure in the short-term may be difficult because it’s not the way that business has been done for many years. However, seeing the opportunity of delivering value, while also having return on investment, can shift that mindset.

How did the city begin taking steps to improve energy efficiency in buildings? How did the leadership, vision and momentum emerge? Who were the critical players involved? What roles did they play?

Juan Camilo: It starts with the culture of the population. Bogotá’s population is starting to care about the environment; that is a big step. When everyone starts rallying around a common cause, and its proponents aren’t solely leadership, it helps the leaders and stakeholders do things better. Mayor of Bogotá Enrique Peñalosa believes that we have to be as efficient as we can and occupy well-designed and built space, instead of growing unplanned, which results in many inefficiencies.

What we have today is a national regulation that is not currently applicable because it still has some definitions that aren’t well-understood. We are now working with CCCS, WRI and the BEA to develop an energy efficiency initiative in Bogotá, make existing norms more applicable to Bogotá and apply them.

Cristina: There is total commitment from Mayor Peñalosa, and these programs reflect what citizens want to see in the medium and long term. In 2030, when we look back and see the growth of the population and built environment, we are going to be proud that we planted the seed of energy efficiency early on, in this decade. Bogotá is looking at cities as main places to combat climate change and deliver a high quality of life as we look forward.

What kinds of actions is Bogotá taking or will be taking to improve building efficiency? Why were these actions selected? 

Cristina: As Juan Camilo noted, one of the key things that Bogotá wants to work on is effective implementation of a national norm that mandates energy efficiency and water savings in new buildings. Through the BEA, we will work to deliver a policy that is adapted to the city’s needs and its climate and technical capacities. We need a tracking and data system to understand what the policy will do for curbing greenhouse gas emissions. We need to know how Bogotá fits into Colombia’s commitments for the Paris Agreement and the national goals of low-carbon growth.

Additionally, we want to have a demonstration project that will begin construction within one year. The idea of working through a project in the Plan Parcial Triangulo de Fenicia (a district redevelopment plan associated with the Universidad de los Andes) is to deliver, through the context of urban development, lessons learned for larger-scale development and replication in other parts of the city. Through these programs, the administration can showcase to other cities the way forward in delivering green change in urban spaces.

Building Efficiency Accelerator Workshop in Bogota, Colombia. Photo by Consejo Colombiano de Construcción Sostenible/ Flickr

What role has stakeholder and private sector collaboration—through the Building Efficiency Accelerator partnership or otherwise—played in supporting the city to take action and achieve its goals? What are some examples?

Juan Camilo: To develop an effective norm, you need to work together with those that have technical expertise. Here, in the Secretary of Planning’s office, we don’t have the technical expertise or experience to know if what we are designing will work. Therefore, it’s key for the success of the norm that we involve stakeholders and the private sector in designing and controlling the norm–we cannot do that by ourselves.

For example, Bogotá’s eco-urbanism norm has specifications for rainwater that are so demanding that the water company isn’t able to properly apply them. If the Secretary of Planning and the water company collaborated in designing this norm, however, the city could have saved gallons and gallons of water. But because there was no collaboration, it didn’t work.

Today, we are seeing that partners know a lot of things that we don’t. By bridging the knowledge gap, collaboration is helping us anticipate mistakes that we would make if we designed the norms by ourselves.

Cristina: The key word is leadership, and this kind of leadership is about partnership. Having these discussions early on, before policies are adopted, and having cross-sector dialogue and collaboration is key. The built environment is very complex, and its governance is shaped by diverse actors. The BEA partnership works across these conversations in an efficient and productive way. It also gives many organizations the opportunity to have their voices heard and incorporate technical problem solving, thus avoiding mistakes and doing things right from the beginning.

What tools and mechanisms have you used to communicate with and engage stakeholders? 

Juan Camilo: We started with a workshop where we invited different sectors: developers, experts, etc., and we heard what they had to say. There was a survey that WRI provided to understand what each stakeholder thought about the main issues, challenges and opportunities. Now, we are working with specific groups—a group for designing the norm, a technical group and one for the pilot project—that each involve people from the public and private sectors with technical expertise. We make sure they participate throughout the whole process.

Cristina: In addition to the workshop, survey, project management system and one-on-one conversation, having the backing and credibility of the Mayor and the Secretary of Planning has enabled this project to have the traction it needs to create effective conversations. We are building upon current knowledge and doing away with any gaps, thanks in part to the international partnership. This type of hands-on conversation and work is what keeps the city interested because it’s delivering results and not just a diagnosis. This is different from earlier projects that started but didn’t have the resources to make an impact through policies, projects and mechanisms to enable long-term change.

On-demand Buses in India: Opportunities and Challenges in Implementation

Mon, 2017-01-30 19:42

Bangalore Bus Network. Photo by Benoit Colin / WRI / Flickr

Imagine hailing a bus through a smartphone application in India for your daily commute from home to college or work.

On-demand transportation leverages technology to connect a bus in the vicinity with a passenger looking to travel in the same direction. This implies following a demand-responsive route to a pre-determined destination, finding passengers along the way. In contrast, conventional public buses ride along fixed corridors in a city, expecting to be found by commuters.

Convenient pick up aside, on-demand buses provide their passengers the assurance of seating for the duration of the journey, only allowing as many to board as there are empty seats. Consequently, accommodating fewer passengers on board, unlike conventional buses, also means fewer stops and a relatively quicker commute.

With air-conditioning and, in some cases, wireless internet as one of its features, an on-demand bus may be well-positioned to attract those commuting every day by privately owned vehicles. This is important if our roads are to be rid of traffic jams. An on-demand bus can carry up to forty passengers, reducing as many cars and motorbikes on the road, thus alleviating congestion. Commuters may also benefit personally, saving capital and operational costs involved in private vehicle ownership and usage.

Despite the benefits for cities and commuters, this model, backed mostly by the private sector, has repeatedly run into problems with state authorities. In Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, where the model has been in service since 2015, operations were suspended from time to time over issues of permit or competition with government-run public transport services.

In recent months, however, government agencies have recognized the benefits and have sought to regulate the sector. Implementation of on-demand buses has remained a challenge in Indian cities due to three key factors, which regulation must address: Permits, fare structures and route selection.

1. Types of Permits:

Public bus transportation in India, in simple terms, may be understood based on how commuters use a bus. If all passengers may only board a bus at Point A and be dropped off at Point B, as it happens on inter-city buses, a Contract Carriage Permit is awarded. On the other hand, if passengers may board or get off a bus anywhere along its route, as on any city bus, the operator needs a Stage Carriage Permit.

For operations in a city, therefore, on-demand bus operators require the latter. They have been unsuccessful in procuring one so far as the issue of such a permit has until now been reserved exclusively for state-run transport corporations. The reason: in order to extend public transport access to the poor, fares had to be kept low, making such operations unviable to the private sector. To guarantee uninterrupted services in such an environment, public transport came to be operated by government agencies.

Targeting a city’s premium-end commuters, however, on-demand bus operators could make a case for Stage Carriage Permit. But with state-run corporations providing air-conditioned bus services as well, regulation will need to ensure on-demand buses complement existing services and don’t compete.

2. Fare Structure:

While competition ensures that fares remain static or low, it may not ensure the long-term viability of either bus service and therefore threaten urban mobility. In a scenario where competition is eliminated, on-demand buses and state-run buses could collaborate in serving a city, resulting in a net addition of bus services.

Such an increase in bus capacity is crucial to meet the travel demands of a city’s rising population, which often turns to private vehicle ownership citing the scarcity of public transport services. For instance, in Bengaluru, studies have indicated a bus fleet requirement of over 10,000, while the city’s public transport provider currently only operates around 6,300 buses.

The elimination of competition may be achieved by a combination of cooperation and optimum fare levels. Working together in Public Private Partnership (PPP) models, the sharing of costs and revenues could better ensure the long-run sustainability of premium public bus services in Indian cities.

3. Route Selection:

Partnerships also hold the key to preventing on-demand bus operators from limiting services to the most profitable routes. A city needs connectivity throughout and not only on select corridors.

The current policy framework in which public buses operate in India allows little room for innovation. With restrictions on permits and capping of premium fares by law in some states, technology-enabled public bus models like the one described here, are too constrained to serve the cities in which they operate.

Greater involvement from the private sector in the provision of on-demand bus transport presents an opportunity for Indian cities to scale up capacity and meet the rising demand for everyday commutes. Enabling more innovation in public transport is crucial for less congested urban roads and more liveable cities.

Originally posted by WRI India

3 Students Look Toward the Future of Sustainable Transport

Tue, 2017-01-24 21:46

During Transforming Transportation 2017, Global Director of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities Ani Dasgupta met with three students (left to right), Manuel Santana Palacios, Seema Singh and Paul Molta to discuss the future of urban development. Photo by Luca Lo Re / WRI / Flickr

Transforming Transportation (#TTDC17) is the annual conference co-organized by the World Bank and the EMBARQ mobility initiative of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. This year’s conference was themed Beyond Commitments: Sustainable Mobility for All, and took place on January 12 and 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. Join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #TTDC17, by following @WRIcities and @WBG_Transport on Twitter.

Transforming Transportation 2017 not only highlighted the voices of transport experts, but it also amplified the voices of curious students. During the conference, Global Director of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities Ani Dasgupta met with three students, Paul Molta, Seema Singh and Manuel Santana Palacios, to discuss the future of sustainable mobility and urban development. We asked the students to reflect on Transforming Transportation and their key takeaways:

Paul Molta, Master of Environmental Management Candidate, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

2017 is an inflection point for transportation systems. Three forces are converging: 1. Ubiquitous digital connectivity, 2. Propulsion technology changes, and 3. Consumer preferences shifting from ownership to usership. However, looking to the past to inform the future will not lead to the transformational changes we need. This year is a call to action that business-as-usual does not work. Leaders around the world need to collaborate and create a shared vision for the transformation of transportation. This vision should set goals that all can aspire to, but craft solutions that meet local needs.

Three of these goals were mentioned multiple times. The first is that we must break down the binary between personal transport and mass transit. If quality mass transit is not delivered, people revert to personal ownership of vehicles. One solution is the creation of demand response public transport. The second goal is thus that growth must be green and inclusive. Technology is the enabler to go beyond the COP-21 goals, but it does not inherently deliver solutions. Sharing of data from all actors is one strategy  to enable a collective improvement in services, allowing the sum of technological pieces to be greater than the parts.

Third is a reminder that transportation is about access, quality, and safety. This can be achieved through the integration of public and private action using three main drivers: 1. Take people’s perspective (shift from only supply-side management to include demand-side management), 2. Provide options with intermodal transport that is vertically integrated in global planning, 3. Leverage transport to enable progress on equity issues (transportation can easily support the paradigm of inequity we have today). This allows transportation leaders to change the paradigm to Enable/Avoid/Shift/Improve. New business models are needed to engage multinational institutions to help break cycles in developing cities that can’t afford big changes, but will benefit greatly from them in the future. For example, separate asset ownership and service provision during the initial shift toward electric mass transit vehicles to reduce cost burdens. To further improve the cost-benefit analysis, there is a need to properly capture the co-benefits of access to transportation, beyond just transportation. There is a difference between funding and financing, and there is not enough local funding to do all the required innovative transportation projects.

Ultimately, transportation is at a fork in the road. We have the tools to deliver sustainable and equitable transportation. What is needed is the vision to guide the journey, and it is clear that global leaders have started to imagine this world; 2017 is thus a year of action and people are ready to move.

Seema Singh, PhD candidate in City & Regional Planning, Cornell University

Transforming Transportation, the two-day conference brought together policy makers, planners and leading transport experts from different parts of the world. From providing access of sustainable mobility to all to financing, from innovation in transporting goods to technological disruptions in mobility, from reclaiming public spaces to reducing energy consumption in transportation sector, the discussions over the two days covered a wide range of issues/ challenges faced by cities in the transport area and the way ahead. This blog post draws out my key takeaways from the conference.

A large part of the discussions at the conference centered around challenges faced in translating the international commitments and global targets set over the last few years (in climate change, sustainable development and road safety) into effective action on the ground. It was realized that to meet these global targets, there is a need for adequate political support at all levels. Ensuring greater alignment and synergy in transport initiatives taken at the local, regional, country and global level would also play a key role.

Some of the key transport focus areas that emerged from the conference discussions include the following:

  • Access to all: Transportation sector is undergoing a lot of technological innovation and transformation on one hand, however, there is a still a large section of the population which does not have access to transport. Discussions clearly brought forward a need to do a lot more to ensure provision of equal access of sustainable mobility options to all irrespective of age, gender, or otherwise.
  • Reduction in emissions from transport: Emissions from the transport sector are rising and will continue to rise in the business as usual scenario. While there is a need to promote more sustainable modes of transport (like walking and cycling), it is also important to come up with stricter regulations to regulate the large numbers of autonomous vehicles circulating on roads, especially in developing countries.
  • Safe systems approach: Road safety also emerged as a major area of concern. With statistics indicating more than 1.25 million deaths on road every year due to road accidents, there was consensus about adopting a ‘safe systems’ approach for safer cities rather than playing victim to the increasing accident rates. Most of these accidents/fatalities can be avoided or prevented by safer design and educating people on road safety.

In conclusion, it is certain that the transport sector will continue to undergo transformation in the coming years. While cities plan ahead to adapt to these new technological interventions, policy makers and planners should not forget the basic city and transport planning knowledge and aim to provide accessible and affordable transport solutions to all.

Manuel Santana Palacios, PhD candidate, University of California, Berkeley, Department of City & Regional Planning

This year’s Transforming Transportation conference, titled “Beyond Commitments: Sustainable Mobility for All,” emphasized on changing the paradigm in transport planning. Probably the main message was that well-planned transport projects and policies have an immense potential to reduce urban inequalities by providing better job accessibility for the poor and women; however, this potential has not reached its peak. I shared the belief that there is an enormous room for improvement in this regard, especially in cities in the Global South. This was highlighted by the excellent work on current gender and social equity levels in places like Mexico City, Lima, Peru, and Cali, Colombia, presented by experts from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. I was also impressed by the continued emphasis on the relevance of shifting from top-down approaches in transport to human-centered ones, stated by decision makers participating in the event. The notion of more inclusive planning processes resonates with the idea of planning cities for people and not for just fast mobility by private automobile – one of the main principles of sustainable transport. Despite the potential that transport has to reduce inequality, cities require more than infrastructure, digital technologies, and progressive policies; planners and decision makers need to better understand who are benefiting from sustainable transport interventions and being open to initiatives such as integrating bus rapid transit with pre-existing public transport solutions, including informal transport.

China Moves Toward Smart, Green and Inclusive Freight Transport

Mon, 2017-01-23 20:37

China’s freight sector needs a green overhaul. Photo by Kaj17 / Flickr

In China, trucks dominate the freight transport market and are increasing at a fast rate. In 2014, trucks moved more than 33 billion tonnes of freight in China. This accounted for more than 75 percent of total freight movement, which is 22 times higher than in 1980. As a result, trucks are the fastest-growing source of emissions from the transport sector. While freight trucks account for only 15 percent of the total vehicles in China (excluding motorcycles), they contributed to more than 50 percent of vehicle carbon dioxide (CO2), 35 percent of carbon monoxide, 41 percent of hydrocarbons, 68 percent of nitrogen oxides and 79 percent of particulate matter emissions in 2014. Road freight, especially heavy-duty trucks, are recognized as the most polluted mode of transport, contributing significantly to poor air quality. The World Health Organization found a strong link between air pollution exposure and public health. In addition to health implications, air pollution impacts the economy. In China, the total welfare loss due to outdoor air pollution was an equivalent of 9.9 percent of GPD. As a result, transport experts are trying to find solutions to achieve green, smart and inclusive freight transport in China.

Data source: China Statistical Yearbook (2015)

A Fragmented and Unorganized Market

In addition to being the most polluted, road freight has the most unorganized market in China’s transport sector. According to China’s Ministry of Transport, the road freight market is challenged by “3 lows and 1 high:” i) low concentration, ii) low technology level, iii) low efficiency and iv) high fuel consumption.

  • Low Concentration: Current trucking companies in China are characterized as “small, fragmented and weak.” More than 90 percent of the freight market is dominated by a large number of small companies with fewer than ten trucks; most of these small companies are “owner-driver” companies, and there were more than 6 million of them in 2015. The market is highly competitive, labor-intensive and not very profitable.
  • Low Technology Level: China’s road freight sector has poor truck and facilities conditions, illegal truck retrofitting and a lack of standards, logistics information systems and intelligent transport systems.
  • Low Efficiency: The average operational efficiency of road freight is lower than 60 percent, which is 33 percent lower than developed countries. In addition, road tolls are a major cost for trucking companies. Truckers have to choose less efficient routes in order to avoid excess road tolls. Additionally, excessive road tolls also contribute to overloading and oversized trucks.
  • High Fuel Consumption: China’s truck fleet is not fuel-efficient; its fuel consumption is 25 percent, 20 percent and 10 percent higher than Europe, Japan and the U.S. respectively. In addition, most trucks cannot meet the required emissions standards.
Solutions for Achieving Smart Road Freight

Due to the inherent challenges of the freight system in China, green freight was a major topic of discussion during the World Metropolitan Transport Development Forum (WMTD). On October 24 – 25, 2016, over 500 participants gathered in Beijing to discuss challenges and solutions for sustainable transport development. WRI China, Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport (BMCT), and Beijing Transport Institute (BTI) co-organized the forum, striving to encourage city leaders and transport professionals to address challenges in urban mobility.

During the forum, experts from around the world discussed methods to improve freight transport. WRI’s China team summarized the key takeaways and potential sustainable solutions:

  • Multimodal Freight Transport and Transshipment: China should encourage more multimodal freight transportation, especially to improve the intermodal transshipment (moving cargo from one mode of transport to another) in logistics hubs to enhance the connectivity of rail, waterway/port, road and air. International experience shows that efficient multimodal operation can save around 40 percent of emissions.
  • Internet Plus Logistics:  The traditional places for transaction and information exchange cannot meet the requirement of today’s logistics market. More and more logistics companies are applying the “Internet Plus Logistics” concept and “Uber-like” apps, such as Truck Alliance, to do route planning and cross-docking. To enhance logistics efficiency, big data and the new information technologies will soon replace the traditional information platforms. Experience shows that internet technology can help reduce 30-50 percent of empty miles (distance traveled by trucks without loading any cargo) in China.
  • Drop-and-hook (tractor-trailer): Drop-and-hook is a method to organize transport and trailer pool management to reduce empty miles and dwelling time (the waiting time for trucks to load and unload), and eventually optimize performance. “Drop” refers to delivering a trailer and dropping at the customer site (or a distribution center), and “hook” refers to immediately hooking up a loaded trailer and moving it to the destination. Evidence from Guangzhou trucking companies at the WMTD forum shows that drop-and-hook can save about 34 percent of logistics costs.
  • New Energy Trucks and Clean Technologies: Most practitioners encourage new-energy vehicles and clean technologies. Electric trucks, which have reduced noise and zero tank-to-wheel emissions are especially suitable for urban deliveries with frequent stop-and-go conditions. Experience from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency SmartWay Program shows that trucks can reduce 5-85 percent fuel emissions by using a combination of the verified clean technologies.
  • Low Emission Zone and Emission Standards: China also needs to introduce low emission zones (LEZ) and enhance vehicle emission standards nationwide. According to WRI’s recent study, LEZs can reduce particulate matter and nitrogen oxides by 25 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Furthermore, introducing LEZs in 20 major Chinese cities can also reduce more than 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030.
Creating a Cohesive, Green Logistics Industry

A smart, green and inclusive freight market depends on the eco-efficiency of the logistics chain as a whole. Fortunately, China’s logistics stakeholders have already started to work together on establishing a green logistics industry. China Road Transport Association, the biggest transport association in China, has been conducting a China Green Freight Initiative in recent years, establishing a strong stakeholder network to promote green freight. China’s Ministry of Transport also identified green freight as a top priority in its 13th Five-Year Strategy on environmental protection for transport. The government intends for freight carbon dioxide emissions to decrease by 7-8 percent by 2020. Fleets will also meet even more air pollutant reductions in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei, Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta regions. As a result, China will have a more sustainable transport sector and a greener logistics market.

Urban Biking Advice from Copenhagen, Portland and Beyond

Fri, 2017-01-20 20:28

WRI’s Andrew Steer and Claudia Adriazola on the Pennsylvania Avenue biketrack. Photo by WRI/Flickr

Does the future of city transport roll on two wheels?

After a nearly three-mile bike ride from World Resources Institute to Washington’s National Press Club, advocates of city cycling offered advice on how to make bicycles a healthy, economical, environmentally sustainable mode of urban transportation.

This is already a reality in Copenhagen, where half of all workers commute by bike and biking accounts for 17 percent of all trips and 50 percent of all work commutes around Denmark’s capital, according to Klaus Bondam, Copenhagen’s former technical mayor, who participated in the panel discussion on January 11. The typical worker in Copenhagen spends only 4 percent of income on commuting, compared to those in Houston, where the cost is 14 percent of a typical worker’s pay. In Washington, a relatively bike-friendly U.S. city, only 4 percent of commutes are by bicycle.

Panelists offered five steps cities can take to persuade more commuters to trade four wheels for two.

1. Create Political Buy-in

Let city leaders know that bike riders can mobilize as a political force. Sam Adams, WRI’s U.S. director and former major of Portland, Oregon, noted that cyclists were consistently ignored until they formed a Bike PAC which endorsed candidates and made donations. Even though the sums involved were small, politicians began to pay attention to the cyclists’ concerns about safety and the need for better infrastructure.

Finding common concerns among all stakeholders is key, and a good place to start is the urban economy. Traffic can drag down economic growth, at a rate ranging from 1.1 percent in New York City to 15 percent in Beijing.

“One of the key strategies in Denmark has been the National Bicycle Strategy, which brought together all different stakeholders and created a common language in the field,” Bondam said. Building public support for urban biking requires the same tools used to raise the public health hazards of smoking.

In order from left: Klaus Bondam, Danish Cyclists Federation; Leif Dormsjo, District Dept. of Transportation; Greg Billing, Washington Area Bicycle Association; Sam Adams, WRI; Craig Iscoe, Cycling Without Age; Jason Margolies, PRI (moderator). Photo by WRI/Flickr

2. Invest in Infrastructure

Encourage cycling by making room for cyclists. New bike-friendly infrastructure brought a 24 percent rise in Copenhagen ridership, with a 63 percent increase in a feeling of safety, Bondam said. When choosing where to build, prioritize use and accident reduction, as well as linkage of cycletracks to create full networks.  Building “cycle superhighways” that link suburbs with inner cities can be particularly effective. Shared bike platforms, like the Bikeshare system in DC, also play an important part in increasing ridership.

3. Combine Modes of Transit

Biking needs to be integrated with other modes of transport. That means ensuring that buses have bike racks, and making it easier for riders to bring their bikes on trains – a measure that helped expand the commuting range for cyclists in Copenhagen.

4. Emphasize Practicality and Benefits

In Copenhagen, a poll showed that only 5 percent of respondents said they bike for environmental reasons – 56 percent said it’s faster, and another 27 percent said it’s more convenient.

More than a quarter of respondents said they bike because it’s healthier. Bondam jokingly said that Danes like biking because it flatters their Viking roots—“there’s a sense of conquest when you get to the office”—but there’s plenty of research that suggests employees are happierhealthier and more productive when they get in a bit of exercise on their morning commute.

And it’s not just healthier for the cyclists. More bikes on the road means fewer cars, which decreases pollution. Lars Loese, the Danish ambassador to Washington who also attended the event, said 50,000 Americans die every year from pollution, a problem biking can help alleviate.

Bondam also emphasized the degree to which biking is an activity through which families bond in Denmark; more than a third of Danish families bike with their children. Danish kids start learning cycle games in kindergarten.

5. Have Patience

Nothing happens overnight. When asked how long it might take for residents of a U.S. city to embrace biking as Copenhagen has, Bondam responded cautiously: “A long time. Fifty years, maybe.” Not only do investments in infrastructure need to be made, but it takes a long time to internalize the culture of biking into a city’s DNA.

Progress is Possible

Sam Adams takes off from the WRI headquarters, leading our bike convoy. Photo by WRI/Flickr

The ride to the National Press Club showed that progress has already been made in the U.S. capital: the route followed bike-specific infrastructure most of the way, including a specific bike track and bike lanes down the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue between the Capitol and the White House. It was a glorious ride, in unseasonably pleasant January weather, and recalled perhaps the best argument of all for biking, which Bondam quoted from President John F. Kennedy: “Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bicycle.”

Protecting Our Water Sources Brings a Wealth of Benefits

Fri, 2017-01-20 01:25

River divides the urban landscape of Shanghai, China. Photo by ThalesEGO / Flickr

The journey of our water from source to tap is long, and not one we think much about. For most of us, our water starts high in the mountains, hundreds of miles away. From there, water flows across natural and working lands until a portion is channeled to water pipes that move water to our faucets, to farms and to various types of businesses. Most often we think of those pipes as being our main water infrastructure, but upstream lands play a key role in capturing, storing and moving our water. By conserving these lands, we can better protect our water and generate additional benefits for people and nature.

Today, approximately 40 percent of the land in urban source watersheds of the world’s largest cities show high to moderate levels of degradation. This degradation impacts the present and future quality and reliability of water flows. But by investing in nature, we can reduce these impacts.

A new report released by The Nature Conservancy, Beyond the Source: The environmental, economic and community benefits of source water protection, shows that forest protection, reforestation and the use of cover crops can help four out of five of the 4,000 cities analyzed reduce sediment and nutrient pollution in waterways by a meaningful amount. For one in six cities analyzed in the report, the cost of implementing source water protection activities could be recouped through savings in annual water treatment costs alone. For half of the cities analyzed, these activities could be implemented for about US$2 per person annually.

These nature-based solutions also provide a number of co-benefits, including improving the health and well-being of people, preserving biodiversity, capturing and storing carbon and building more climate-resilient communities. When cities “stack” the value of these co-benefits on top of the savings realized in water treatment costs, they can derive even greater value.

Infographic: © The Nature Conservancy

Maximizing the benefits of conservation activities will require collective action. Water funds, which enable downstream water users to jointly invest in upstream land conservation and restoration, are a successful mechanism for securing improved water quality and, in some cases, more reliable flows.

For example, in Nairobi, Kenya, high sediment levels in the Tana River from agricultural run-off and development in the mountains catalyzed the development of Africa’s first water fund. Partners in the Upper Tana-Nairobi Water Fund jointly invest in providing upstream farmers with the training, resources and equipment they need to help keep the river healthy, conserve water and reap the benefits of higher crop yields and more stable farms. The fund also has downstream projected benefits including improved water yields and reduced sediment in the river. An analysis of the water fund structure showed that even by conservative estimates the selected watershed interventions could deliver a two-to-one return on investment on average over a 30-year timeframe. During a recent trip to Kenya, the message from water fund investors and participants was clear: it’s in their best interest to make this work. Taking care of the land will ensure the longevity of the agricultural community and create a more sustainable water future throughout the watershed.

As cities and populations grow, and climate change adds undue pressure on vulnerable freshwater systems, maintaining healthy lands around our water sources will be increasingly vital to the future of our water security. By investing in nature, we also invest in our future.

Download the report at nature.org/beyondthesource or visit www.protectingwater.org to explore the data using an interactive map.

Urban Water Governance in the Developing World: Accountability and Affordability Are Keys to Water Access

Thu, 2017-01-19 21:06

A woman carries water home in urban Mozambique. Photo by: John Hogg / World Bank / Flickr

In 2015, the United Nations and World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that there are 663 million people around the world without access to safe drinking water, with nearly half of these people living in sub-Saharan Africa. While Africa’s urban areas had a slightly higher rate of access to piped water than rural areas, this access decreased from 43 percent in 1990 to 33 percent in 2015. Seeing as Africa’s urban population doubled from 2000 to 2015, access to water remains a critical issue in the region, growing even more urgent.

How people in developing countries access water and what access entails are often mysterious notions for countries where clean water from the tap is pretty much automatic. To illustrate water scarcity and the emotion behind access to water, NGO and donor publications often feed the public with images of happy children playing in or putting their hands under clean water from a standpipe, like the image below:

A young woman drinks from water pump in Mali. Photo by Curt Carnemark / World Bank / Flickr

Solving the problem of access to water for 600-700 million is easy, right? Just give it to them, no? Sadly, this is not the case. Promising water projects can fail for a whole host of reasons—financial, economic, social, institutional, technological or hydrological. Pumps break, wells run dry, get polluted, projects don’t get finished…things fall apart.

Unfortunately, there is no shortage of failure in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector. Anyone who has worked in the sector, myself included, can list an instance where a project failed for some reason or another. The Playpump story is well-known. Others, such as this IIED studied example, are not. My doctoral research in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania documented a national infrastructure scandal that forced the resignation of the prime minister, unnecessary cholera outbreaks and institutional dysfunction in the water sector in the wake of a failed private sector participation effort.

In my view, failure—and potential success—will always be a factor of economics and governance. Economics is relevant because not only does infrastructure take funds to build, but water services also cost money to maintain. Governance is relevant because decisions about where services are built and maintained are often a factor of political, economic and administrative choice.

Service Delivery Models

If one takes a step back and thinks about what access to water is, whether one is getting water from the private or public sector, one often pays taxes and/or per unit purchase costs. An excellent exposition of this sort of service delivery model is the 2004 World Bank World Development Report – “Making Services Work for the Poor”. As seen in Figure 1, this simple model of WASH governance shows the “short route” accountability that is associated with purchasing water or sanitation services from the private sector. The “long route” of accountability is the more complex interaction that includes pressure on the government (central, regional or local) to either provide WASH services or regulate private sector provision.

Figure 1: Long and Short Route Accountability- 2004 World Bank WDR.

The realities of service provision are, of course, not as black and white as this simple model suggests. There are many WASH management models that have some permutation. While I acknowledge that the complex interactions implicit in any specific management model are critical, stripping down the analysis to the bare-bones basics is useful for messaging and conceptualizing the challenges.

Household Agency, the Enabling Environment and Project Sustainability

The take-home message is effectively one based in human geography. Individuals and households have certain levels of economic wherewithal and ability to exert political pressure on their government to provide WASH services, and these abilities (or inabilities) determine how and to what extent they are able (or unable) to access water. All too many times, those who lack access to water are those who are disenfranchised economically or politically.

Rather than constantly react to the myriad instances of failure, the WASH sector should proactively build on sustainability efforts through better analyses of country, regional and local enabling environment issues and through individual project design.

Fortunately, many of these systems of sustainability analysis exist. The problem is a lack of uniform agreement on how to implement them.

At the country level, these decision tools are numerous. My favorite is the set of FIETS criteria. Additionally, UNICEF has created an excellent Bottleneck Analysis Tool (BAT) to address enabling environment challenges in the WASH sector. At the level of the individual project, I believe that every single water project should have to pass some sort of sustainability test— giving donors, NGOs and governments a better sense of whether those new sources of water will even be there in five or ten years. USAID’s Sustainability Index Tool (SIT) is one potentially useful tool in this regard.

While improving the financial means of households and accountability of governments are two of the biggest imaginable challenges, these two concerns are critical to sustained increases in access to water. Acknowledging the more complex and country-specific service delivery frameworks and employing country-level and project-specific analytical tools are the only ways out of patterns of repeated failure.

What Does This Mean For Urban Populations? 

At minimum, it is essential to emphasize the importance of the governance and economics of access to water. Even more so, as David Satterthwaite rightfully asserts, access to clean and regular water, along with high rates of urbanization, increases disease and other environmental risks. The informal and unplanned settlements in the largest developing country megacities house a complex set of economic and governance factors. These areas are home to some of the most disenfranchised vulnerable populations. Water projects need to understand and account for this context.

In another blog post, Ed Bourque describes some of the most intractable barriers and constraints to increased access. It must be noted that markets for water do not always function fairly or perfectly, and in this blog post, he points to a classic case of “water mafias” who sabotaged and rendered a water supply project pointless. To read more about Ed Bourque’s work, click here.

Live from Transforming Transportation 2017: How Do Cities Make Disruptive Technologies Work for All?

Sat, 2017-01-14 04:16

Day 2 of Transforming Transportation 2017 explored disruptive technologies and their impact on mobility. This panel featured experts in mode sharing, electrification and automation of road vehicles. Photo by Luca Lo Re / WRI

Transforming Transportation (#TTDC17) is the annual conference co-organized by the World Bank and the EMBARQ mobility initiative of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. This year’s conference is themed Beyond Commitments: Sustainable Mobility for All, and takes place on January 12 and 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. Join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #TTDC17, by following @WRIcities and @WBG_Transport on Twitter, and tune in to http://live.worldbank.org/transforming-transportation-2017 for video streaming of select sessions.

New kinds of mobility—ride sharing platforms, electric cars and buses, autonomous vehicles—are creating disruptions in the transport sector. Thanks to big data and the widespread use of smart phones, personal transport planning around the world is increasingly becoming a continuum, where people can use a number of different integrated modes to make seamless, efficient trips, as Robin Chase, Founder of Zipcar, explained. While the evidence is still mixed on the current impact, the hope is that all this will get people away from personal car ownership.

Emily Castor, Director of Transportation Policy at Lyft, pushed back against the idea that one technology alone will create positive economic and social impact. Instead, she pointed out, technologies need to be integrated to ensure that they work in a way that creates public good. When it comes to mobility, disruptive technologies like automation, electrification and on-demand ride-sharing need to be integrated in order to mitigate the individual technologies’ potential downsides, like greater congestion and traffic fatalities.

As Sam Parker, Director of Shell Foundation, noted, there are barriers to making new mobility technologies achieve social good. For many low-income populations, ride-sourcing apps like Uber and Lyft are prohibitively expensive given their scale. “We’re going to need to think about how we reach this population so that innovation works for them. Don’t assume the technology will do everything—success depends on the business model.” Emily Castor added to this by pointing out that personal vehicle ownership is currently cheaper than shared mobility, which will need to reach a viable price point in order to create benefits for all.

Getting to this point is going to require smart regulations and public policies. This is a huge challenge given that decision makers will need to balance a legitimate concern for safer and public good while also providing the private sector with the right enabling environment for investment and entrepreneurship. One of the biggest challenges here is the status quo—the lack of collaboration thus far between the private and public sectors to improve urban mobility for all.

 Heaven or Hell? Weighing Opportunities and Challenges in New Mobility

Are shared, autonomous, electric vehicles the silver bullet to a sustainable future? Referencing Robin Chase’s notion of “Heaven or Hell,” the following panel highlighted the opportunities and challenges of these mobility revolutions. While advances in mobility pose many benefits to the future of urban transport, they also call much into question. “There could be many efficiencies gained by autonomous mode shares,” said STEPS Director at UC Davis Lewis Fulton, “but we could also end up with single or zero occupant vehicles, leading to increased congestion and sprawl.” Furthermore, “automation is going to lead to lower per-trip costs,” he explained, but “if the cost comes down a lot, the appeal for sharing might drop as well.”

Peter Jones, Professor of Transport and Sustainable Development at Imperial College, additionally discusses the notion of “Heaven and Hell,” as he describes many of the challenges associated with autonomous vehicles. “Many cities are concerned that this development in technology will swamp the city unless people start thinking now,” cautioned Jones. These problems can been mitigated with early and comprehensive planning initiatives. These are political issues and that need to be discussed now: “If we think ahead,” concludes Jones, “there can be many real benefits.”

Will the mobility transformation have an impact on traditional transportation? Toni Lindau, Director of WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities, seems to think it will. Lindau believes that autonomous vehicles will pose a great challenge the current transit market: conventional buses, bus rapid transit routes and other feeder systems will be at risk.

How Will 2017 Shape the Transport Agenda?

Moderator Melinda Crane opened the final plenary session of Transforming Transportation 2017 with a look at the year ahead. 2016 was the year of global agreements and shaping the agenda on climate, urban development and sustainable development. 2017, on the other hand, will be the year for joint action. According to Daniel Günther: “2017 needs to be about starting action on the ground, scaling up and implementing these agendas… Let’s start some transformative action.” Portugal’s Secretary of State Jose Mendez believes that “in 2017, we will get to know how strong the Paris agreement will be.” Like the global protocol, transforming transportation requires a global approach: “When you transform a sector,” said Mendes, “it isn’t a task for a country or a city. It is a task for many stakeholders.”

While global coordination may be difficult, Secretary General of SLoCaT Cornie Huizenga draws our attention to areas of progress on global coordination, proving that it is possible. “If we want to get the focus that our topic requires, to get the political attention and make the changes we need,” he said, “we will have to speak with one voice.”

In their closing remarks, EMBARQ Director Holger Dalkmann and Director of Transport and ICT at the World Bank Jose Luis Irigoyen emphasized the need for joint action as we enter the year of implementation. “The various goals have to be seen as one,” said Irigoyen, “you cannot have sustainable mobility unless you champion climate resilience, access, efficiency and safety and for all.”

Live from Transforming Transportation 2017: Leadership and Private Finance Drive a Safe Mobility Shift

Fri, 2017-01-13 05:08

Andrew Steer, CEO and President of World Resources Institute, and Laura Tuck, Vice President for Sustainable Development at the World Bank, opened Day 1 of Transforming Transportation 2017 with moderator Melinda Crane. Photo by Luca Lo Re / WRI.

Transforming Transportation (#TTDC17) is the annual conference co-organized by the World Bank and the EMBARQ mobility initiative of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. This year’s conference is themed Beyond Commitments: Sustainable Mobility for All, and takes place on January 12 and 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. Join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #TTDC17, by following @WRIcities and @WBG_Transport on Twitter, and tune in live for video streaming of select sessions.

Why do some issues rise to the top of the global agenda while others struggle to become part of the mainstream? Look at climate change, which has taken center stage through the COP process and played a role in local and national elections throughout 2016. What did the climate community get right?

As Andrew Steer, President and CEO of World Resources Institute, explained, a lot of this has to do with the clarity of the narrative and the extent to which its messengers have pushed its message to the public and onto the international agenda. We can learn from the successes of climate negotiations, but so far transport hasn’t been able to rally around a common, compelling narrative. The evidence is there—1.25 million people die from traffic crashes per year, 23 percent of all GHG emissions come from transport—and the commitments have been made—the Paris Agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and more—but we need to be politically and psychologically smarter. Only a radical shift in the discourse will get us to a tipping point for transformative change.

Key Leadership in Changing Transport Trends  

The first plenary session highlighted the importance of leadership in catalyzing transformation within the transport sector. “This is a moment of unique responsibility for political leaders,” said Jose Viegas, Secretary-General at ITF, “countries have the right to say what they want to do on transport.” Through each country’s Nationally Determined Contributions, national governments have the great opportunity to dictate how to shape their national agendas. In addition to national leadership, “local governments are more in power than ever, for transport,” said Secretary General of UITP Alain Flausch. Due to heightened technological advancements, city authorities have access to real-time, robust datasets on mobility. Through analyzing this data, local governments can take action through regulation, engaging governments on all levels.

While the opportunity for strong governmental action resonated throughout the panel, Mayor of Santiago Carolina Toha also directed attention to everyday citizens. “It is a priority to view transportation through the eyes and hearts of the people,” she said. After all, residents have the power to drive change in the transport sector; people elect how they move about their cities. Mayor Toha emphasized the need to get the minds people on board to achieve city goals. Similarly, Patrick Oliva, Senior VP of Michelin Group, turns to the people for results: “If you want to achieve something, you need to know where you’re going, and then you have to unleash the creativity of the people to meet the objectives.” By syncing the transport agenda with the needs of its residents, cities can build efficient, connected and sustainable cities. “If we have serious politicians and goodwill, we have a chance,“ said Alain Flausch, “we need goodwill.”

Cities Must Leverage Private Funds to Have a Voice

Financing is one of the greatest challenges for urban mobility worldwide. The problem, however, does not result from the lack money, bur rather from the proper investment and application of those funds A business as usual model creates significant economic costs that could be applied to other sectors. Research from the New Climate Economy indicates that investment in public transit can save $11 trillion in energy savings by 2050.

Liberating the transit sector from the status quo requires action. “Transit solutions will never pay for themselves through the fare box,” said Chief Economist and Senior Vice President at the World Bank Paul Romer. What must be prioritized, described Laura Tuck in her opening statement, is increased private funding, which requires immense changes in the financial sector and mobilizing private finance at scale. But how do cities leverage private funding? According to Carlos Mier Y Teran, Director of Ports, Airports and Gas Pipelines with Banobras-Mexico, if a project is well planned, there is lower technical, environmental, economic and social risk, and therefore, banks will feel more comfortable providing funding. This financial shift is imperative for cities to transform their transportation sectors. For now, however, “if they don’t have access to finances, cities won’t have a voice,” said Mayor Toha.

Moving the Narrative Forward on Road Safety

What needs to happen to move the narrative forward for road safety, a health crisis taking the lives of 1.2 million people a year? David Ward, CEO of Towards Zero Foundation, put it directly, “we need to stop blaming the victim. This isn’t about human error—this is about a failure of the system.”

The safe systems approach to road safety is all about flipping this line of logic and making road safety a shared responsibility. The safe systems approach emphasizes designing roads to be safer in the first place rather than relying on behavioral measures like education and enforcement. But as Soames Job, Director of Global Road Safety Facility at the Work Bank, explained, “road safety advocates have not done a good job of communicating this approach to non-road safety advocates.” The next step in updating the narrative will be about mainstreaming this message.

So how can low- and middle-income countries—where 92 percent of fatalities are concentrated—leapfrog the problems experienced by developed countries? Too often the true social costs of the road deaths are not factored into the financial costs of road projects, noted Walid Abdelwahab, Director of Infrastructure Department at the Islamic Development Bank. This leads to investors and decision makers choosing the road that’s cheaper in the short term, but costly in the long term in terms of fatalities and social costs. Updating the global road safety narrative means also mainstreaming an approach to cost accounting that takes into consideration the full costs.

Lastly, panelists discussed the need to move people into safer modes of transport like mass transit instead of onto roads. Motorcycles, which move at high speeds in congested conditions, are on the road in many cities around the world. A comprehensive, safe systems approach to road safety needs to address this trend and push for a fundamental paradigm shift. As multiple speakers concluded, we can’t settle for reducing or even halving fatalities—zero is the only acceptable number.

Transforming Transportation: Toward Sustainable Mobility for All

Thu, 2017-01-12 02:55

São Paulo, Brazil Offers a Variety of Mobility Options. Photo by Mariana Gil / WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities / Flickr

From taxi apps to car sharing, from buses to the metro, from bike sharing to walking, not to mention personal cars, there are more transportation choices than ever before for that staple of modern life: the daily commute. The same goes for the transport of goods, which can get from A to B by road, air, rail, waterways and soon drones. There are currently more than 12,600 km (nearly 8000 miles) of metro or urban rail and 5,400 km (3,300 miles) of bus rapid transit (BRT), collectively providing 154 million trips a day in 250 cities. Increased access to transport and enhanced connectivity decreases travel time and generates higher rates of direct employment, keys to elevating overall economic opportunity.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the increase in mobility options comes at a high price. The challenges associated with growing traffic, especially in cities, are significant and threaten to become insurmountable. And despite the wide range of ways to get around, there have never been so many people who lack access to transportation or the means use transportation.

Personal cars were a 20th century’s symbol of prosperity, but in the 21st century, they contribute to three pernicious trends:

  • Congestion
    There are one billion cars already on the road, and experts forecast a doubling of that number by 2050. Cities like São Paulo and Nairobi are so clogged that low-income populations struggle to get to work, schools and health care facilities. In Cairo, only 15 percent of jobs in the metropolitan area are accessible in less than an hour.
  • Pollution and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
    Transport accounts for 23 percent of carbon dioxideemissions from the burning of fossil fuels and is a significant contributor to the air pollution in urban settings. Urban air pollution is estimated to cause about 9 percent of lung cancer deaths and 5 percent of cardiopulmonary deaths.
  • Road Accidents
    Globally, about 1.25 million people die each year because of road traffic crashes. Ninety percent of the world’s road fatalities occur in low- and middle-income countries, even though these countries have only about 50 percent of the world’s vehicles. Half of these global road fatalities occur among the most vulnerable populations: pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists. As if a fatality in itself is not devastating enough, road traffic fatalities cause economic losses to the victim’s family and society: traffic crashes cost countries between 3 and 5 percent of their GDP.

In 2015 and 2016, the international community has made a series of global commitments, which provide a clear vision of what sustainable transport looks like: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the New Urban Agenda at Habitat III, the Brasilia Declaration on road safety, and the Ashgabat Declaration. These commitments frame the space within which governments, the private sector and civil society will have to act on transport for the next 15 years.

Sustainable transport, as envisioned in those commitments, is defined by the following:

  1. Accessible to all
  2. Safety and secure
  3. Efficient and reliable
  4. Green, clean and resilient

To transform this vision into a reality, all actors in the international transport community must come together. 2017 is a year of opportunities to shape the implementation of the global agenda. The policy vehicles of each agreement, like NDCs and SDGs, are more effective when implemented with an integrated vision, creating a strong, cohesive and resilient future.

To make best use of these opportunities, we need to act now. Articulating and implementing that vision requires from the leadership of governments, cities, the private sector, civil society and international organizations that will together galvanize action. This involves reaching a consensus among all actors around a set of common and ambitious goals, a global tracking framework to monitor progress and a global program of actions. The solution is not to reinvent the wheel, but to create an umbrella initiative that can bring together existing programs and partnerships and that also can fill the gaps, where no program exists, for example on the key issue of accessibility.

Overall, countries need strong policy guidance, and the private sector needs better visibility on the evolution of regulatory frameworks  to drive tangible change. Concretely, this global program of actions should include a strong push for carbon pricing, urban sustainability action plans in medium and large cities, and climate finance reform – getting more Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding for climate-friendly transport projects in developing countries can leverage public and private investment.

We are excited to convene global leaders and experts this week at Transforming Transportation in Washington, discussing avenues to align transportation with the global agendas for climate and urban development. Co-hosted by the World Bank and WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, the central theme is Sustainable Mobility for All.

The goal is to channel governments, the private sector and individual transport choices in the right direction. It is not about optimizing one form of transportation over another, but rather it is about increasing the opportunity for all to live in a more prosperous, healthy and safe environment.

This piece was also published on the World Bank’s blog.

WRI Ross Center at the Transportation Research Board 96th Annual Meeting

Thu, 2017-01-05 03:22

Santiago, Chile is looking for ways to close the public transport funding gap through Transport Demand Management measures. Experts will discuss this case study at the 96th annual TRB meeting in Washington, D.C. Photo by: Claudio Olivares Medina / Flickr

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) 96th Annual Meeting will be held in Washington D.C. on January 7-12. The meeting program will cover all modes of transportation, with more than 5,000 presentations in over 800 sessions and workshops, addressing topics of interest to policy makers, administrators, practitioners, researchers and representatives of government, industry and academic institutions. This year’s spotlight theme will be “Transportation Innovation: Leading the Way in an Era of Rapid Change.”

WRI has been an active TRB participant in the past, presenting multiple papers in lectures and poster sessions, including two award-winning papers. This year is no exception; we will have a strong presence in multiple workshops, sessions and committees. Below we highlight events in which WRI researchers will be present:

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Nexus of Transportation and Environmental Health Governance: Intersections and Collisions Across and Within Borders

Sunday, January 8, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM, Convention Center, 147A, Workshop 101

Claudia Adriazola-Steil and Amit Bhatt, WRI

Presentation: Mobility Patterns, Physical Activities and Safety: Case Studies from Ahmedabad and Mexico City

This research explores the nature of implementing a bus rapid transit (BRT) lane in an arterial street in Mexico City and its impact on traffic safety, air quality and physical activity. The results show positive impacts for health and also provide cues for further research and design adjustments to have a greater positive impact.

Performance Measures and Targets Across the Pillars of the Decade of Action for Road Safety

Sunday, January 8, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM, Convention Center, 101, Workshop 136

Claudia Adriazola-Steil, WRI and Natalie Draisin, FIA Foundation

Presentation: Global Update and SDG 3.6

This session will review the progress achieved in the UN Sustainable Development Goal 3.6: “Globally, the United Nations has set a sustainable development goal to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from traffic accidents by 2025.”

Innovations in Financing of Urban Public Transport and Non-motorized Transportation Infrastructure

Sunday, January 8, 1:30 PM – 4:30 PM, Convention Center, Salon B, Workshop 155

Dario Hidalgo, WRI

Financing Sustainable Mobility in Bogotá and Cali, Colombia and Santiago, Chile. Analysis of how Bogotá has financed its BRT, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure networks as well as how it is looking for ways to cover the public transport funding gap through Transport Demand Management measures, also replicated in Cali, Colombia and Santiago, Chile.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Transportation in the Developing Countries Committee

Monday, January 9, 1:30 PM – 5:30 PM, Marriott Marquis, Marquis Ballroom Salon 10 (M2)

Adriana Lobo, Amit Bhat, Adriana Lobo and Madhav Pai, WRI

This session highlights the research and activities of multilateral, bilateral and non-government organizations, including WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Transit Capacity and Quality of Service

Tuesday, January 10, 1:30 PM – 3:15 PM, Convention Center, Hall E

Luis A. Lindau, Mariana Barcelos, Maria Beatriz Berti da Costa, Carla ten Caten, Cristina Albuquerque Moreira da Silva, Brenda Pereira, WRI Brazil

Poster: Benchmarking Focused on Satisfaction of Bus Transit Users

This session discusses the results and lessons from standardized user satisfaction surveys applied in several Latin American Cities.  

Sustainable Transport Award Ceremony 2017 honoring Santiago, Chile; Windhoek, Namibia and Curitiba, Brazil

Tuesday, January 10, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM, Convention Center, Ballroom C

Holger Dalkmann, WRI; Clayton Lane and Michael Kodransky, ITDP

The Sustainable Transport Award recognizes profound leadership, vision, and achievement in sustainable transport and urban livability. Established in 2005, it has been given annually to a city that has implemented innovative sustainable transport projects in the preceding year. These strategies improve mobility for all residents, reduce transport greenhouse and air pollution emissions, and improve safety and access for bicyclists and pedestrians. Award committee members represent the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), The World Bank, WRI Clean Air Asia, Clean Air Institute, Codatu, Despacio, GIZ, ICLEI and the BRT Center of Excellence.

Free registration here

Bikesharing and Electric Bikes and Trikes in Asia and Latin America

Tuesday, January 10, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM, Convention Center, 103A

Ajay Kumar, The World Bank and Dario Hidalgo, WRI, presiding

This session discusses research from applications in Indonesia, China and Mexico.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Public Transport, BRT and Innovations Subcommittee, ABE90(2)

Wednesday, January 11, 8:00 AM – 9:45 AM, Marriott Marquis, Marquis Ballroom Salon 13 (M2)

Dario Hidalgo, WRI, presiding

Presentations:

Juan Pablo Bocarejo/Claudia Diaz, Secretary of Transportation, Bogotá Colombia, Plans and Progress for Making Bogotá the Bicycling Capital of the Americas

Jyot Chada/Amit Bhatt, WRI India. “Gender and Innovation in Public Transport, India Perspective”

Clayton Lane/Aimee Gauthier, ITDP, “Evaluating Country Performance in Meeting Transit Needs of Urban Populations”

Juan Carlos Muñoz, CEDEUS, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, “Free Transit: Uthopian or Practical?”

Commentary from:

Andrea Monje/Isabel Granada, Inter-American Development Bank (Gender and Transport)

Jorge Kogan/Harvey Scorcia, CAF-Development Bank of Latin America (Urban Mobility Observatory)

Holly Krambeck/Roger Gorgham, World Bank (Innovation, Big Data/Africa)

Current Research on Bus Rapid Transit Planning, Design, and Operations

Wednesday, January 11, 10:15 AM – 12:00 PM, Convention Center, 103A

Pablo Guarda, Juan M. Velasquez, Thet Hein Tun, WRI; Xumei Chen, Zhong Guo, China Academy of Transportation Sciences

Presentation: Comparing Chinese and Non-Chinese Bus Rapid Transit: Evidence from Evaluation of Global BRT Based on BRT Design Indicators

Benchmarking study on design features and performance of systems compared with Chinese applications.

Urban Stories 2017: Brazil’s Top Issues to Watch in the Year Ahead

Wed, 2017-01-04 20:20

Metropolitan areas in Brazil will have to deliver development plans by January 2018. Photo by: Mariana Gil/WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities

As the year comes to an end, Urban Stories explores the emerging trends, key decisions and major changes on the horizon for cities around the world in 2017. With a new installment each day from India, Brazil and Washington, D.C., our series will provide an insightful overview of what’s happening in cities globally.

2016 will go down in history as a year of unexpected outcomes, including Brexit, Donald Trump’s election and presidential impeachments in South Korea and Brazil. In addition, 2016 will be remembered for unprecedented innovation in transport and technology. The way residents move about cities changed with the rise of on-demand transportation services, like Uber and Cabify, and with merges between Original Engine Manufacturers (OEM) and innovative technology companies. This new mobility, however, is not going to extinguish the necessity for high-quality sustainable public transportation (and the challenges of financing it), safer streets designed for people and meeting climate commitments.

WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities established an important partnership this year with FNP (National Association of Mayors) that will accelerate the scaling up of our work in the year ahead. This partnership will leverage our capacity to disseminate knowledge and replicate successful projects. The role of mayors will play an important role in building upon our momentum in 2017.

On January 1, 2017, newly elected mayors will take office in more than 5,500 cities, home to more than 200 million people. The new city administrations will provide a fresh start, at the local level, for a four-year cycle of city transformation. In Brazil, the vision of mayors is key to determining the development path of a city, since they are politically empowered to invest in infrastructure.

A Shifting Financial Strategy

The federal government recently reshaped its financing strategy; it is now focused on Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) and in tune with the New Urban Agenda, the document that came out of Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador. As a result, Brazil’s new mayors will face the challenge of advancing PPPs, instead of counting on loans for implementing infrastructure projects.

To access new opportunities, Brazilian cities need to improve their capacity to develop bankable projects that are sustainable. Traditionally, mayors seek access to non-refundable assets from the federal or state governments or try to contract loans from multilateral or Brazilian development banks. There is a current lack of knowledge regarding the use of alternative financing mechanisms, including green financing, which open new and important perspectives for urban mobility projects.

WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities urges new city administrations to engage with sustainable and smart urban principles. Mayors will have to establish a long-term vision for new infrastructure projects that need to be economically and environmentally sustainable to attract private partners and access green financing. We will support municipalities to improve new urban projects and heighten their capacity to do so.

Smart Cities Focus on People

Brazilian Cities are late to the game in adopting new technological innovations and exploring the potential benefits of a data revolution. Existing regulations need to be adapted to account for the rapid growth of disruptive technology that is impacting many services, especially urban mobility.

Brazil has been lacking visionary mayors that can drive a transformation toward a contemporary model of the city—one that replaces last century’s car-centric culture. Implementing projects for cyclists and pedestrians, with a focus on road safety and elevating the quality of public transportation, is critical not only for mobility but also for public health. Residents are taking on a more empowered role in the decision-making process, to ensure that new mayoral agendas reflect the true needs of the cities; people want their cities to be smarter.

It is important to engage city staff, designers and consultants all over Brazil. Infrastructure projects in the country are lagging far behind the state of the practice in cities around the world. Working closely with the Ministry of Cities, WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities has identified knowledge gaps that are now being addressed by guidelines and criteria, such as the Seven Steps – How to Build an Urban Mobility Plan and the set of criteria for designing smart and people-friendly urban mobility infrastructure.

Time for Change is Now

New city administrations have to be engaged with sustainable and smart urban principles to mitigate emissions and adapt urban areas. The conversation around clean energy needs to become more present in Brazil, from the electrification of vehicles to the efficiency of buildings and public infrastructure. We believe that city dwellers are going to be the catalyst toward a zero-carbon reality, since 85 percent of Brazilians live in cities.

In addition to cities, metropolitan regions will play a key role in new Brazilian development. The recent law that requires each metropolitan area in Brazil to create a development plan by January 2018 established the opportunity to advance mobility and sustainable development beyond the limits of a particular city. Metropolitan areas host around 45 percent of the Brazilian population. As a result, embedding long-term, climate-smart policies into development plans can lay the foundation for a zero-carbon future.

Increasing expert and civilian awareness and engagement on these issues can make governments, on all levels, react. According to Pew Research Center’s Spring 2015 survey, 90 percent of Brazilians say climate change is harming people now. If Brazil is to become an innovative country in Latin America for climate-smart development, individual behaviors, laws and practices much change. Technology can make cities climate-friendly by improving public services that impact public health, social equity, road safety, urban mobility and the economy. It’s time for climate change to be on the agenda for every decision in the public and private sectors.

2017 Is the Year for a Fresh Start

In 2017, WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities will focus on scaling up the work it has been successfully deploying at the city and national level since 2005. We will capitalize on opportunities created from the new mayors’ agendas, a solid relationship with the Ministry of Cities and the recent partnership with FNP. Brazil is one of the world’s main players in climate discussions and had a leadership role in Quito, working to include the “right to the city” in the New Urban Agenda. Now is the time to bridge the gap between discourse and action.

Urban Stories 2017: India’s Top Issues to Watch in the Year Ahead

Wed, 2017-01-04 02:23

In 2017, India Will Enhance its Public Bicycling Infrastructure as a part of the Ministry of Urban Development’s Smart Cities Mission. Photo by Benoit Colin / EMBARQ / Flickr

As the year comes to an end, Urban Stories explores the emerging trends, key decisions and major changes on the horizon for cities around the world in 2017. With a new installment each day from India, Brazil and Washington, D.C., our series will provide an insightful overview of what’s happening in cities globally.

Public Outcry Grows in Response to Local Problems

Over the last year, Indian cities have witnessed growing conflict over issues related to urban growth, development, transport and the delivery of other public services. Poor service delivery, inadequate access, deteriorating urban infrastructure and ineffective decision making have resulted in public outcry in several cities.

For instance, in Bangalore, the government’s decision to construct a 6.72 km, INR 1791 crore (4.18 mile, USD 263 million) steel flyover was met with intense public opposition. Tens of thousands of citizens took to the streets in protest, mobilized online campaigns and demanded that the local authorities rethink the project. In Delhi, air quality has been a much-discussed issue, with pollution readings hitting hazardous levels. Various citizens’ groups, supported by celebrities, staged protests demanding that the government take immediate and effective measures to curb the rising pollution levels. And in Mumbai, questions around open public spaces and affordable housing were triggered by the new proposed city Development Plan, forcing the city government to order a revision of that plan.

India’s politics and administrative structures are undergoing a significant transformation with growing urban populations. Experts in the field, academics and the general public have recognized that current governance structures and the resulting decisions are not adequately addressing the issues cities are facing. The debates and discussion of significant issues, like devolution of power to local governments, housing and tenure for new immigrants and the adoption of participatory planning approaches, will take another decade or two to fully resolve. In the meantime, we will continue to see more conflict as we go into 2017.

100 Smart Cities: From Good Proposals to Great Projects

In early 2016, the Government of India’s Ministry of Urban Development launched the Smart Cities Mission, inviting applications from cities to participate in a competitive process that would award INR 100 crore (USD 14.7 million) in funding for urban transformation projects. The Mission is aimed at improving governance, promoting equitable growth and access to services and ensuring public participation in urban development, resulting in an enhanced quality of life for residents.

Several innovative proposals were submitted for projects, ranging from public bicycling, pedestrian-friendly streets, public spaces, e-governance, use of technology to improve transportation systems, water and waste management and others. Many of the winning cities are tier 2 cities—cities with populations between 1 and 10 million. In 2017, we will see several of these proposals starting to get implemented into projects that have the potential to improve lives. Ahmedabad’s transit-oriented zone project in Wadaj, a fully automated public bicycling system in Bhopal and Kochi’s redevelopment of its heritage district are some excellent examples.

What Do Indian Cities Need to Succeed in 2017?

So, what do cities need to do in order to leverage investment and ensure change on the ground in the coming year in a way that is equitable and sustainable? One, there needs to be a focus on capacity building; two, governments should leverage private sector investment and innovation; and three, cities need platforms to share learnings from pilot projects and ensure a transfer of knowledge.

Greater Capacity Building

There is a growing need for capacity building across several layers, including the political classes, bureaucrats, practitioners and implementation bodies. The entire process of public service delivery, including planning, financing, tendering, implementation and gaining public support requires specific intervention and capacity at different stages. It is important that Indian governments have a current, common understanding of how things have evolved in this space around the world, and how Indian cities can localize and adopt global best practices.

Improving Private Sector Involvement

Secondly, the private sector needs to be more effectively engaged. Although private sector involvement in public services has been growing over the last five years or so, there have been several challenges. Most importantly, the private players haven’t been able to fully meet the requirements that cities need. Indian decision makers need to actively think of ways in which the public sector and the private sector are not competing but complementing each other, and that risks taken on either side are safeguarded. On the other hand, it is important for these private sector leaders to adequately equip themselves to participate in discussions with civil society and government leaders. This participatory approach will allow cities to grow with a focus on catering to the needs of all groups of people.

After all, India has witnessed private sector-supported innovations at various levels and the development of alternative service delivery models to better meet people’s needs. For instance, through public-private partnerships, in Indore, the bus rapid transit (BRT) system has changed the way people commute. In Surat, renewable energy production and distribution has been transformed, and in Pune, the city has successfully piloted a waste-to-energy project. These projects have tremendous potential. Regulatory and legislative changes will be required, and new models of financing are needed, which will afford an enabling environment for the scaling-up of these projects.

Shared Learning

Cities need to learn from one another. Through national-level convenings and platforms that allow for the exchange of best practices, the successes and lessons learned from innovative projects, like effective public transport operations, urban governance structures, building efficiency, waste management and the development of safe public spaces, can be shared. Since 2012, WRI India’s Bus Karo initiative has brought together representatives from public bus operators from around the country, resulting in the transfer of best practices across cities. For instance, an event in Visakapatnam in 2012, which showcased the city agency’s work around driver training and fuel efficiency, resulted in this training being transferred to 14 other cities over the next two years. Cities would benefit from similar platforms in other sectors, such as water and waste management, urban infrastructure, electricity planning and distribution and other areas of public service delivery.

The Year Ahead

While the cities of 2016 have witnessed the start of positive changes, in the form of the Smart Cities Mission and greater public voice in matters concerning urban planning and development, 2017 will be the year when cities will take concrete steps towards realizing those changes. Growth and expansion are inevitable, and it is now time for local governments, the private sector and citizens to make deliberate and concerted efforts towards sustainable and equitable growth.

Green Transit as a Tool for Social Equity

Fri, 2016-12-23 20:55

Addis Ababa Light Rail Train. Photo by Ben Welle / Flickr

Bike-sharing services, electric bus fleets, restored sidewalks. There are plenty of examples of how cities around the world can use improved transportation and mobility infrastructure to address climate change. But according to the new report, Cities100, released by sustainability think tank and consultancy Sustainia, cities are increasingly harnessing these same types of green transportation initiatives and using them as tools to alleviate and mitigate ingrained social inequalities.

Socioeconomic inequality takes very real and physical shapes in cities around the world. Poor and minority communities tend to be more physically cut-off from economic hubs, educational institutions and healthcare, making access to these opportunities and services more time consuming, expensive and all around more challenging. This trend only threatens to worsen in coming years, as cities will hold more than two-thirds of the world’s population by 2050, putting more pressure on housing and transportation infrastructure. But if distance is part of the equity issue, then innovative approaches to transportation can be the solution.

One city featured in this year’s Cities100 that is acutely aware of the devastating consequences of segregation is Cape Town. In an effort to alleviate the lingering physical and social effects of Apartheid, Cape Town’s Transit Oriented Development Strategic Framework seeks to make transit-oriented development (TOD) the centerpiece of future land-use management and growth. TOD ensures that residential and commercial development take place alongside transit systems in a strategic effort to build compact and walkable cities and promote affordable access to public transport. The city hopes this strategy will lead to a 23 percent reduction in passenger kilometers traveled by 2032, as well as decreased transport costs, particularly benefiting low-income groups who currently spend 43 percent of their income on transport.

Another city using transport overhauls as a tool in catalyzing upward mobility is Mexico City. The Comprehensive Mobility Program represents a paradigm shift in the city’s approach to urban planning, prioritizing pedestrians, cyclists and public transit-users. One of the program’s key goals is to reduce traffic congestion. Cutting gridlock via greener and better connected transportation networks, including the construction of 110 km (68 miles) of bike lanes, will have a particularly profound impact on the city’s low-income and peripheral residents, who can spend as much as three hours commuting – each direction. For many, this adds up to a full 26 days a year spent travelling to and from work. As studies in the U.S. have illustrated, commuting time is the single strongest factor in the odds of escaping poverty. Therefore, by shrinking commuting times for low-income earners, Mexico City aims to not only tackle CO2 emissions, but also boost social and economic prospects for vulnerable citizens.

In another corner of the world, the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa is just starting out on its path toward sustainable and equitable transportation. In 2015, the city inaugurated Sub-Saharan Africa’s first light-rail train (LRT) network, covering 34 km (21 miles) and carrying 15,000 people each hour. With fares as low as $0.30 per trip, the LRT is designed to cater to middle- and low-income commuters who would otherwise take minibuses on congested roadways or walk long distances to reach their destinations. This low cost is crucially important for the city’s job seekers, as new research shows that access to cheaper transport in Addis Ababa helps unemployed residents search more intensely for new jobs and increases their probabilities of finding stable employment. On top of offering low-cost, high-quality transit, the LRT is laying groundwork that can sustainably and equitably accommodate the city’s growing population, by providing major transit corridors, which can foster future transit-oriented development.

These cases demonstrate how connected and cohesive urban transportation is not only a critical element for cutting CO2 emissions, but also a necessary tool in mitigating socioeconomic disparities in cities around the world. By taking a holistic approach to urban planning, and viewing transportation infrastructure as an avenue toward equitable growth and development, more cities will be able to reconnect and revitalize poor communities and give access to the kinds of economic opportunities that can lead to social change on a larger scale.

Explore more sustainable urban solutions that tackle social inequality in the new Cities100: http://solutions.sustainia.me/cities/

As Mexico City Writes Its Constitution, Why Should the City Embrace Land Value Capture?

Fri, 2016-12-23 19:34

As a result of pedestrianization, Madero Street in the Historic Center of Mexico City, increased its land value significantly. Photo by Reskiebak / Flickr

In 2017, Mexico City will have its own constitution for the first time—the next step in a process that will make the city more autonomous and function like a federal state of Mexico. Beyond highlighting residents’ cherished rights and freedoms, the new constitution will touch on the importance of land value capture.  As a result, land value capture has entered the public sphere, even mass media—a very uncommon place for urban development discussions. Unfortunately, many large, misinformed arguments, such as “the end of private property” or “the first step toward becoming Cuba or USSR during the peak days of communism,” have overwhelmed the conversation.

Contrary to popular belief, land value capture does not seek to eliminate private property, impose a new tax or steal anybody’s property; It seeks to recover, and give back to the city, part of the revenue from public investment in urban services and equipment, which is currently retained by private individuals. Mexico City’s Draft Constitution discusses land value capture from “urban infrastructure, public space, changes in land use and building intensity,” understanding that the increase in land values of housing and commerce, due to public investment, would have to be part of the wealth of the city.

Land value capture represents an unbeatable opportunity to move toward compliance with an elementary principle of social justice in cities: the equitable distribution of burdens and benefits among all residents. Land value change is not something that is simply generated by the individual actions of property owners, but by the whole society. Land values primarily change from two state actions:

1. Changes in regulations that modify land-use or increase permitted building intensity

2. Investment in public infrastructure or improvement of the public realm

These actions have a direct impact on the market value of real estate not because of private intervention, but because of actions taken by public actors who represent the whole of society.

How Does Land Value Increase?

Imagine a neighborhood in the city where the government invests—with public money—in the construction of neighborhood infrastructure, equipment or public space. This could take form in constructing a new Metrobus or Metro line, rehabilitating the neighborhood market or creating a new public square. Imagine, on the other hand, that a plot of land is modified from residential housing to commercial space, or it is authorized to have a greater construction potential. The homes, businesses or offices benefiting from these actions will increase their market values from public expenditure, without their owners having made any investment. Of course, at the same time, the owner can make improvements to the property to increase its market value. These actions, however, cannot be attributed to the whole of society, but merely to the effort of the individual, therefore the profits cannot be subject to any recovery process.

In Mexico City, however, large real estate speculators “capture” the land value. They typically buy cheap land and wait, or push, for a regulation change or for the development of public infrastructure in order to build their houses, offices or commercial spaces and sell the property for a much higher price. They do all of this without paying the city back for the extra value derived from these changes.

In this case, why does the benefit of something built with public taxes get to be enjoyed by only a few property developers? The land value add would solely impact the wealthy, real estate spectators; The low-income and middle-class owners and tenants, who are the great majority, would not benefit from this value add.

Land value capture usually applies only in two instances: when there is a purchase and when the owner  takes advantage of a land-use change or the increased building intensity. As long as this does not happen, land value capture will not affect city residents. Therefore, recovering the land value generated for society as a whole is an important mechanism toward creating more equitable cities. If we promote land value capture—which, ultimately, is a partial recovery of what we all contribute—it would be possible to invest in additional projects, financing neighborhood infrastructure, quality public spaces and urban services—a virtuous circle that would benefit all.

Colombia, Brazil, England, the U.S. and France all use land value capture in some way. It is even being contemplated in the legislatures of seven Mexican states and mentioned in the new Mexican General Law of Human Settlements, Territorial Ordering and Urban Development. Furthermore, land value is also one of the principles that the Mexican government pledged to support as part of the New Urban Agenda, which came out of Habitat III.

Land value capture presents an opportunity to limit real estate speculation without affecting housing production or the construction association, promotes affordable housing for the entire population, consolidates the built environment and reduces incentives for uncontrolled expansion. It is an opportunity to create an efficient and equitable urban development model: the opportunity to recover the city for all.

Originally published in Spanish on TheCityFix Mexico

7 Women Voice the Need for a Gendered Perspective in Urban Planning

Sat, 2016-12-17 00:01

Woman Biking in Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil. Photo by: Benoit Colin / EMBARQ / Flickr

While women represent more than half of the Brazilian population, they occupy only 10.7 percent of the seats in Congress and only 5 percent of CEO positions in the country’s companies. The general absence of women’s voices in the processes that define a large part of their daily lives contributes to cities becoming hostile and unfriendly environments. Without a gendered perspective in urban planning, women often feel afraid to walk around their cities because their unique needs are left out of the conversation.

On the other hand, initiatives and projects that empower women and transform the urban reality, are on the rise. For example, on December 5, WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities joined partner organizations—Cidade AtivaCorrida AmigaSampaPéthe Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), Pé de Igualdade and the National Association of Public Transport (ANTP)—to discuss urban mobility from a gender perspective. The event’s women-led discussions were attended by at least 18 panelists, experts from the mobility and planning sectors, women active in contemporary debates on the urban environment and an audience of about 100 people.

WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities sat down with seven of these women to discuss two key points that took center stage during the event: 1.) Why increasing female representation in decision-making is fundamental to building more humane cities 2.) And the nature of a woman’s relationship with her ideal city.

Meli Malatesta, from the blog Pé de Igualdade

Diversity of thinking is essential when it comes to planning the city’s public spaces. In comparison to men, women tend to behave in a more cautious and anticipatory manner, which can contribute significantly to urban planning processes. In the ideal city, we would have the effective participation of women in decision making. I would love to see women occupying more senior positions— as mayors and mobility secretaries. I’m sure that positive effects would be felt in practice, with more well-planned environments.

Marina Rara, Journalist

Having a voice in decision making is a matter of securing our rights. It is necessary for women to occupy these spaces, so that we can help make important decisions that directly affect us. Violence, disrespect, abuse—none of this can be fought from only a man’s perspective. Lack of security, sexual violence, difficult access, all this limits the autonomy of women. We need to fight against what limits us.

The balance is not in ensuring a one-to-one gender ratio— the balance is thinking from the point of view of the other; to think about the distance each person has to travel from his/her starting point to the finish line. In an ideal society, everyone would be able to reach this finish line together. Not only in terms of living conditions but also regarding our rights.

Kamila Gomes, from the Participative Council

We are the majority in almost all spaces, so it is not fair that we do not have a voice in the decisions about them. When we are not part of decision making, these decisions, that greatly impact us, are solely made by men. In public hearings, councils, different types of meetings, we need to make our voice heard to secure our rights.

In an ideal scenario, women would be in all different governance structures. What we usually see is that a man holds the position of power, and the woman is his assistant—the one on the side, who takes notes and does not speak. Occupying representation and decision making spaces is to have a voice.

Jamile Santana, from the bike-café La Frida

Equity—this is the word that sums it up. Gender equity, social equity, racial equity. By achieving fairness, we can reach the main goal in all discussions. If we talk, for example, about feminism or racism—if we talk about urban mobility and create an event to discuss it from the perspective of women— this happens because there is a need to talk about this subject because there is an inequality of rights in our society. There is a very significant drop in women’s rights in urban mobility, and we need to change that. It is an ongoing process of struggle and resistance: in mobility, in gender discussions, in access to the city, in equal rights, in health and in education. Including gender in discussions about urban mobility is not just important; it is essential. This holds true for mobility and all other social spheres.

Ana Carolina Nunes, from SampaPé

It is not possible for the city to represent its residents when the actors involved in all decision making processes are always the same. There are problems that only we—women—go through and from which, consequently, we have our own understanding. Solutions have to be built together, considering the perspective of women. Specifically in cases of violence and sexual harassment; we are the main victims; we live this experience. Therefore, in order to reach a truly effective solution, we must have a voice in this process.

In my ideal city, leaving the house should not be a question for women. It should not be something that requires special care. A city where both my husband and I—my father, my grandfather, my son (if I ever have one)—we could think in the same way about our commuting. This is my ideal city: where we are not afraid. And that includes fear of everything—sexual harassment, assault, being run over. A city where we can choose the time and the route of our commuting.

Gabriela Vuolo, from the City of Dreams project

As long as we do not effectively participate in decisions about how the city is planned, designed and built, it will not be a city that meets the needs of women.

In an ideal world, we should feel safe and welcomed, enjoy the spaces we walk through, and our commutes should be carefree. When I think of an ideal city, I think of a city where I can move without having to worry—where I can leave my house and walk in my city without being at risk.

Mila Guedes, from the Milalá blog

Without women, the city does not exist. We need to participate, so our city can be more humane and safer. Our relationship with the city can and must be more active and stronger. We need to have a voice and occupy both the urban and the decision-making spaces.

Between moments of reflection and smiles, resistance and positivity, the messages of these women are an example for all of us: together we are stronger. “We are many, we are strong, we have the right and the power to fight so that urban mobility and cities as a whole are designed to guarantee our safety and dignity,” said WRI Brasil Communications Analyst and author of this blog, Priscila Pacheco.

Originally Published in Portuguese on TheCityFix Brasil

Combatting Traffic Congestion with Transport Demand Management in China

Thu, 2016-12-15 01:42

Infrastructure Incentivizes Use of Non-motorized Transport in Beijing. Photo by Benoit Colin / EMBARQ / Flickr

China has experienced unprecedented urbanization over the past 30 years, leading to rapid mobilization and a seven fold increase in the nation’s urban area. According to the Ministry of Housing’s China Urban Construction Statistical Yearbook, China’s built urban area grew from 7,438 square kilometers (2,872 square miles) in 1987 to 49,773 square kilometers (19,217 square miles) by 2014, a 570 percent increase. With the vast expansion of urban areas, the average travel distance for city residents rose significantly, triggering a higher demand for vehicle use. As a result, private car registration soared, reaching an annual growth rate over 20 percent, from 2004 to 2014 (see Figure 1). In 2015, private vehicle ownership reached an all-time high, with 124 million cars in China and 5.6 million in Beijing alone.

Figure 1: Private Vehicle Ownership. Graphic by: China Academy of Transport Science

The increasing rate of cars on the road has contributed to worsening traffic congestion, which has been a big challenge for local governments. To mitigate congestion, the government turned to creating new roads, incentive programs and car-sharing. They soon learned, however, that the pace of constructing new infrastructure never catches up with vehicle growth—newly developed roadways induce more vehicle travel demand. Additionally, although vehicle registration lottery policies and license plate auction schemes aim to limit the growth of vehicle ownership, they stimulate existing owners’ aspiration to use their vehicles more frequently. Furthermore, internet-hired taxi companies, like Uber and Didi, which provide subsidies and discounts for drivers and passengers, respectively, bring more spare and un-used cars on the road. To find a new solution to China’s persistent congestion challenges, the government is starting to prioritize moving people, instead of moving individual vehicles.

Transport Demand Management Takes Center Stage at World Forum

In order to lessen dependence on private vehicles, address the needs of the people and create a more efficient mobility system, Chinese transport experts, innovators and governmental officials are turning to transport demand management (TDM). TDM focuses on reducing travel demand by changing people’s travel behavior, encouraging a modal shift away from personal motorized transport and unlocking additional capacity from the existing networks.

Due to TMD’s importance for the future of sustainable mobility, it was one of the focal points at the third World Metropolitan Transport Development Forum (WMTD). On October 24 – 25, over 500 participants gathered in Beijing to discuss challenges and solutions for sustainable transport development. Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport (BMCT), Beijing Transport Institute (BTI) and WRI China co-organized the forum, striving to encourage city leaders and transport professionals to address challenges in urban mobility.

WRI side meeting with Vice Mayor of Beijing Jiandong Zhang at the WMTD Forum. From left to right: Sam Adams, Jiandong Zhang and Holger Dalkmann. Photo by Ying Wang / WRI China Sustainable Cities

During the forum, Vice Mayor of Beijing Jiandong Zhang noted that congestion is always ranked the number one transport issue on the government’s agenda. In response, decision makers and professionals from around the world highlighted TDM as one of the most efficient solutions to mitigate traffic congestion. Jorge Macias, Director of Urban Development at WRI Mexico, explained that TDM is not intended to limit mobility, and that TDM policies without mobility is similar to exercising without a diet. TDM cannot only reduce the need for motorized transport, especially in urban areas, but it can also create better use of existing transport facilities. The incentive of TDM measures provides a sustainable solution for urban planners to rejuvenate existing public spaces for more efficient mobility use.

Putting TDM Measures on the Agenda

Upon acknowledging that expanding the road network is not the best method to decrease congestion, the Chinese government set new goals to 1) adjust the structure of transport and travel mode share by prioritizing public transport development and non-motorized transport systems; 2) enhance more economic incentives to manage travel demand and limit the use of private vehicles.

WRI China is working with Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport and Ministry of Transport to promote a package of preferred TDM measures, with congestion charge as a core policy, to alleviate traffic congestion and promote low-carbon and sustainable mobility. The Ministry of Transport‘s (MOT) 13th Five Year Plan for Urban Public Transport Development is the first time that congestion charge is identified as a key measure to ease urban traffic congestion. Managing traffic congestion is a systematic project that depends on integrated measures and coordinated government frameworks. The government’s TDM goals aim to enhance urban transport systems with less congestion and more efficient mobility. As the long-term benefits of policies, like a vehicle registration lottery, are called into question, the Beijing government is considering the introduction of more market-based mechanisms, like congestion charge and differential parking fees for administrate vehicles, to help meet the government’s goals.

Urban Freeways: Putting Out Fire with Gasoline?

Wed, 2016-12-07 21:48

Traffic Lines the Highway in Bogotá, Colombia. This Roadway Shares Space with Bus Rapid Transit System, TransMilenio. Photo by EMBARQ / Flickr

The construction of urban highways continues in many places. In Latin America, we see ongoing projects in Santiago (Américo Vespucio Oriente), Lima (Línea Amarilla), Quito (Solución Vial Guayasamín), São Paulo (Rodoanel Mário Covas) and Mexico City (Segundo Piso a Cuernavaca), to name a few.

In Colombia, the National Government just announced a new program for improving access to urban areas during the Thirteenth Congress of the Colombian Infrastructure Chamber. In the words of the Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos, “our purpose is also transforming access to cities. It is not useful to save time in intercity trips if it is lost in urban areas.” With this, President Santos alludes to the great challenge of urban congestion. Constructing impressive highway systems doesn’t lead to more efficient and better transport infrastructure if, within urban areas, traffic prevents the easy navigation of city streets.

Colombia has a large road construction program, which aims to complete 5,803 km (3,414 miles), investing close to 40 trillion Colombian pesos (USD$13 billion). This not only impacts the economy and employment in the short term, but it helps in catching-up with a decades-long backlog in national connectivity. The last link, urban access, complements this effort, particularly in the country’s capital, Bogotá.

Urban access is helpful in improving national logistics and trips between cities, but it may result in induced demand for automobiles and negative effects that should be mitigated: congestion, urban sprawl, traffic incidents, air pollution and social exclusion.

Increased Congestion

Since the 1950s, experts have recognized the negative effects of increasing urban road capacity. The explanation is rather simple: reducing automobile travel time with freeways is equivalent to reducing cost. Similar to any good or service, cost reduction results in increased demand, and, in this case, increased trips. As Lewis Mumfurd, a technology philosopher, said in1955: “Building more roads to prevent congestion is like a fat man loosening his belt to prevent obesity.” Induced demand, or rebound effect, has been well-documented; new trips absorb between 50 and 100 percent of new road capacity in just three years (see also The Life and Death of Urban Highways).

According to Anthony Downs, from Brookings Institution, “traffic congestion is here to stay… and will get worse.” He suggests mitigating congestion with dynamic tolls: higher cost in peak hours and lower costs off-peak. He also recommends complementing toll roads with high-quality, frequent and reliable public transport. By utilizing tolls and devoting space to public transit, highways can be a good use of scarce space; one lane for light rail or buses, for instance, can carry up to 15,000 passengers per hour, while the same lane for cars can carry up to 7,200 people (with four occupants per vehicle), but typically, on average, cars only carry 1.1 people per car—1,980 per hour.

Urban Sprawl

Probably the most direct impact of freeways is urban sprawl, and this has been known for a long time. In 1974, Yacob Zahavi, a researcher from the U.S. Department of Transport, found that commute times were very consistent across urban areas (around one hour per day). The anthropologist C. Marchetti, qualified this average value as a “basic instinct” of human nature. This means that if travel time is reduced (for instance with the construction of an expressway), people would tend to live farther away, keeping their “travel budget” fairly constant. The good thing about houses in the periphery is that they usually have outdoor green space. The bad thing is that the resulting low-density development occupies agricultural or protected land. Low density also makes public transport, walking or bicycling infeasible, making residents car dependent, even for the simplest errands.

One way to mitigate sprawl is through urban planning: managing urban expansion with compact and mixed-use development, with good quality access to public transport. This is exactly the opposite of what is happening in Latin American cities, where low-density, gated communities proliferate at the urban periphery.

Managing urban planning is outside the mandate of road construction agencies, and in many cases, it is not a concern for city mayors. Municipalities around large cities prefer high-income residential dwellings in their territory, as this brings additional tax base. As a result, national planning authorities and metropolitan coordination may be required to help mitigate sprawl.

Traffic Safety, Air Pollution and Social Exclusion

Another impact of urban freeways may be an increase in traffic deaths and injuries (see Why Reducing Speeds Is Key to Improving Traffic Safety). A few ways to improve road safety are to separate road users, control road-access and keep pedestrians and bicyclists outside high-speed lanes. It is a matter of design.

There are also impacts on air pollution, resulting from increased vehicle-km (mileage). An economist’s approach to this would be to charge for these externalities; not only have congestion tolls but also emission charges. While this is politically difficult, it is progressive, as revenues can be used to improve the quality of public transport, which is used by the majority of people in Latin American cities.

Last, to make urban freeways inclusive, it is necessary to prioritize pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure and public transport. Road infrastructure is not only about making fast lanes for cars, but it is about complete avenues, with wide sidewalks and safe bicycle and transit lanes.

Opportunities for Change

There are good opportunities in the announcements by the Colombian Government to invest in urban access, but there are also challenges. National and local governments can confront these challenges by considering road-use planning, dynamic tolls, controlling access to fast lanes and providing for all road users, particularly the most vulnerable. Otherwise we will be putting out fire with gasoline.

This article was originally published in Spanish on El Tiempo

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