Developing cities worldwide face a severe and worsening transport crisis. A new book, “The Urban Transport Crisis in Emerging Economies,” reports that urban transport problems are following a perverse pattern: While education and healthcare tend to improve as developing cities grow wealthier, transport problems worsen. The book looks at twelve of the world’s major emerging economies—Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, South Africa, Turkey and Vietnam. While far from identical, the growth of their transport problems has triggered similar challenges. Although measures to deal with the urban transport crisis are disparate, there are some shared trends. Nine commonly adopted or proposed “interventions” or “solutions” are summarized below:1. Road Infrastructure
Experiences in many countries illustrate that road construction may only reduce traffic congestion in the short term. In the long run, increased road capacity fuels additional travel demand. In light of this evidence, transport professionals need to understand that they cannot build their way out of traffic congestion, particularly when this marginalizes other modes such as cycling and walking.2. Rail-based Public Transport
Cities around the world are prioritizing the development of mass transit. Aided by a strong economy in recent decades, many Chinese cities have been developing new urban rail systems. However, in most other developing countries, urban rail is expensive to build, is not always affordable and is often poorly integrated with other transport modes. To shift current mode-based planning approaches, cities need strategic and comprehensive public transport masterplans. These masterplans need to define rail (or bus rapid transit, see below) as the backbone of the public transport network, and buses and informal vans as the feeder systems.3. Road-based Public Transport
Bus rapid transit (BRT) systems are an appealing and effective public transport option for many cities around the world, especially rapidly-growing ones. BRTs can mimic rail-based systems, or function as a simpler network of segregated bus lanes. A main attraction is their lower cost compared to rail. Curitiba’s BRT is a landmark system worldwide. Being one of the first major transport innovations to emerge from a developing country, it inspired many other cities (in both developed and developing countries) to build their own BRT systems. Recently, Guangzhou inaugurated the largest BRT system in Asia.4. Support for Non-motorized Modes
Few cities are currently investing substantial amounts in cycling and walking infrastructure. These investments often target small pockets or disconnected urban corridors. In many places, cycling is still seen as a leisure activity rather than a form of everyday transport. Bogotá, however, is a rare exception in terms of investments in cycling infrastructure. Here, cycling rates have grown from around half a percent in 1996 to approximately six percent in 2014. With 392 km (244 miles) of segregated bicycle lanes, it has the largest network in Latin America. In Brazil, support for cycling is increasing, and a large cycling network has been developed in São Paulo. For instance, the city’s Minhocão elevated highway is closed to all vehicular traffic on weekday nights and all day on Sundays, allowing dedicated use by pedestrians and cyclists. In China, bicycle-sharing programs are being introduced to revive the cycling tradition, but there are mixed results.5. Awareness-raising Campaigns
Raising awareness among citizens on the harmful effects of car dependence and on the benefits of safer, more equitable, livable designs for streets is crucial. Campaigns are taking place in many countries, but their success in reversing travel habits has been minimal. To induce reform, attention needs to shift to professional training and education. To tackle these issues, the Indian government has created financial assistance for professional training, sponsoring Centers of Excellence in Urban Transport.6. Pricing Mechanisms
Central to improving urban transport is evaluating the full social and environmental costs of different transport modes. In many countries, however, there is great political reluctance to introduce any measures that curtail the use of private cars because drivers are usually among the powerful local elites. Some pricing and taxation schemes are counterproductive. For example, in India, due to institutional inefficiencies, buses are taxed more than personal vehicles. Road pricing or parking schemes have been implemented in just a handful of countries. One example is Tehran, which has had a limited traffic zone (essentially a large charging zone around its downtown) for several decades. Better enforcement in recent years has reportedly led to some improvements in air quality and traffic flow.7. Vehicle Access Restrictions
There has been some experimentation with vehicle access restrictions, with limited success so far. Mexico City has prohibited all cars from circulating one day a week, and vehicles are required to stay off the road one Saturday a month. In addition, cities in China, including Shanghai and Beijing, have introduced restrictions on private vehicle ownership by limiting the issuance of license plates.8. Control of Land Use
Cities are slowly recognizing the need to adopt land-use policies that encourage using public transit. This requires that development be concentrated along urban corridors and, especially, at rail and BRT stations, according to the principles of Transit-oriented Development (TOD). While the application of TOD is context-dependent, uncontrolled, low-density sprawl is rarely appropriate.9. Technological Solutions
Some developing countries, particularly in Asia, are harnessing and employing technological improvements. Inexpensive smartphone-based taxi or ridesharing services and on-demand parking payments are becoming increasingly popular, especially with younger travelers. In Indonesia, apps such as GrabTaxi and Go-Jek (the local equivalent of Uber) are becoming widespread. There is also growing interest in Intelligent Transport Systems. India has launched the Smart Cities Mission, an urban renewal and retrofitting program targeting 100 cities, which enlists technology.
To provide more equitable, accessible and sustainable city transport, a radical overhaul of urban mobility policies and practices is necessary. Measures discussed above cannot yield satisfactory results if employed in isolation. Implementing packages of measures is necessary, leading to impacts greater than the sum of their individual parts.
By 2050, nearly 70 percent of the world’s population will reside in cities, increasing the size of the world’s urban population by more than two-thirds. Cities will need to focus on building the right things to ensure this growth happens sustainably—so how can they pay for it?
Recognizing that finance is a core issue of sustainable urban development and one of cities’ biggest challenges, the International Development Finance Club (IDFC) hosted a side event on this topic at Habitat III in Quito.
The discussion, which featured leaders from CAF-Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), Agence Française de Développement (AFD), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the National Planning Department of Colombia (DNP) highlighted four key insights about financing sustainable cities. In short, development finance institutions can play a big role in bridging the funding gap, but only with the right partners and policies in place:
1. Growing cities should seek better outcomes, not just more finance.
A long-term plan for a city with at least a 10-15-year horizon sets the stage for how it develops and what projects will ultimately need financing. Ultimately, it’s not just about the money, but what cities build with it. The New Urban Agenda adopted in Quito provides cities with standards for sustainable urban development that they can incorporate into these plans, and the Sustainable Development Goals and countries’ national climate plans (NDCs) provide still more important considerations. One critical characteristic of these plans, as noted by Simón Gaviria, chief director of the DNP, is that they should serve citizens’ rather than the government’s needs.
Development finance institutions (DFIs) can help cities develop strong and effective plans. For instance, Koki Hirota, JICA’s chief economist, shared how JICA has supported hundreds of master plans for cities undergoing rapid urbanization in an effort to support development while preventing future inefficiencies in delivering services to city populations.
2. Development finance institutions are ready to unstick cities struggling with project preparation.
Once plans are in place, cities often need help with feasibility studies and preparation to get projects like bus-rapid transit systems or building efficiency retrofits to a stage where they are “bankable,” or financially viable and able to secure financing from third-party sources. However, city governments, which can be good at designing broader city plans, often hit a wall when it comes to creating a pipeline of bankable projects. DFIs are helping to address this challenge. As Rémy Rioux, AFD’s CEO, explained, AFD launched its 100 cities/100 Climate Projectsinitiative last year at COP21, which provides grants to cover project preparation costs and then lends to projects once they are developed.
3. Scaling can happen only if local financial institutions and agencies play a prominent role.
Local institutions like local commercial banks and mayor’s offices understand the local financial system, players, challenges and opportunities. So it’s important that national and international institutions work with the local players. In light of this, the DNP is making an effort to collect data to better understand Colombia’s cities. DFIs can collaborate with local government and financial institutions to provide additional funds and knowledge. One approach is to provide a loan to a local financial institution for “on-lending,” where the local financial institution uses the borrowed money to provide loans to its clients, which in this case, are cities.
4. The best outcomes come from partnerships and coordination with a range of actors.
The involvement of mayors, national planning agencies, private sector developers and investors, and civil society groups are all needed to develop and finance sustainable cities. DFIs can bring financing to the table, and they can also help enhance coordination between these different actors. For example, in CAF’s Cities with a Future project in Guayaquil, Ecuador, CAF’s financing for housing, transport, water and sanitation programs helped transform the city and improve quality of life of its citizens. The program involved strong coordination with multiple actors, including the mayor, city planners, community organizations, local agencies, private sector operators and utility companies.A Need for Further Innovation
While DFIs are already doing much to support sustainable urban development, there’s room for more innovation. Part of this involves further exploration of instruments and models that would support investments in sustainable urban services, like guarantees to de-risk projects, bonds to raise debt financing from pension funds, or public-private partnerships to capture land value. Another area involves direct engagement with cities. DFIs often ask cities to provide a guarantee from the national government (ensuring that payment obligations will be met) before providing them with finance; this can cause delays or limit cities’ options if the national government refuses. IDFC members like AFD do not have this requirement. Changing internal policies to allow DFIs to channel funds directly to city governments would open new doors for collaboration.
As underscored by Enrique García, CEO of CAF, during the discussion, DFIs are looking to play a catalytic role in creating sustainable cities. The hope is that with these innovations and the continued support of DFIs, cities in developing countries can grow and thrive for generations to come.
Urban leaders from around the world are meeting in Quito, Ecuador, October 17-20, 2016, to set the global agenda for the future of cities at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, known as Habitat III. Through the World Resources Report (WRR) on sustainable cities, WRI offers real-world research that aims to convert plans into implementation to create cities that live, move and thrive. One section of the WRR is on sustainable mobility enabling better, safer, cleaner and affordable access for all, and will be presented at the WRR launch event in Quito October 16.
Emmanuel, a 40-year-old tailor in Awoshie, a suburb of Accra, Ghana, is a good example of challenges that face commuters in cities around the world. He lives just 11 kilometers (about 7 miles) from his job in the central business district, but spends 15 percent of his household income getting there, mostly on trotro, a small van providing informal public transport service, similar to the magic in India, the daladala in Tanzania or the combi in Peru. Congestion in the city center makes bus drivers avoid it by taking circuitous, time-consuming routes that can more than an hour to commute, and more direct travel options are often prohibitively expensive. The solution Emmanuel sees for his commuting difficulties would only make traffic congestion worse: he hopes to get his own car.
Making transport sustainable for all city residents is a prominent part of the New Urban Agenda, the outcome document of Habitat III. This demonstrates the international development community’s recognition of how important mobility is for prosperity, social inclusion and environmental sustainability. Making that vision a reality presents challenges to city leaders as they who struggle to address the immediate need to move people from homes to jobs with limited resources. In many cases, cities continue with old, unsustainable models that rely too heavily on cars and roads. And the problems of traditional transport – including traffic fatalities and the health effects of air pollution — will continue to be felt primarily by society’s most vulnerable.
Between 2000 and 2015 the use of motor vehicles worldwide jumped 67 percent to 24 trillion vehicle kilometers (15 trillion miles) from 14 trillion (8.7 trillion miles). During that period, the total number of vehicles on the road surged 49 percent to 992 million from 664 million, reflecting the growing urban middle class in developing countries. Electric vehicle stock grew dramatically, but still accounted for just 1 million in 2015, up from fewer than 20,000 vehicles in 2010. While new technologies such as e-hailing apps provide flexibility and convenience, these ad hoc private services further increase the focus on cars for mobility, rather than inclusion in a comprehensive transit plan that fosters the use of clean modes like walking and cycling.Putting Cities in the Driver’s Seat
Addressing these challenges will be essential if cities are to achieve the New Urban Agenda’s sustainable transport goals. WRI’s World Resources Report: Towards a More Equal City will examine this issue in a working paper that looks at the possible policies city governments can use to propel their communities towards sustainable urban mobility.
There are plenty of good examples on how to do this. 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. Walking and biking also are gaining momentum. In U.S. cities, for example, commuting by bicycle increased 62 percent between 2000 and 2013. And some cities, like London, Shanghai and Bogotá, discourage excessive car use with congestion pricing, vehicle quotas or license plate restrictions as they work to tackle congestion, air pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
WRR examines policies that have the potential to capitalize on that momentum. Noting that the most sustainable cities have high proportions of residents who walk, bicycle and use public transport, we look at policies that increase this behavior. These can include changes in land use, with a mix of residential and commercial use; dedicated pedestrian zones and bicycle lanes; and better planning and coordination of transit policies across metropolitan areas to ensure service covers all areas of the city.
Another challenge is the traditional focus of public finance on building highways rather than on more sustainable transportation options, as well as the lack of comprehensive mobility plans, especially in metropolitan areas where different municipal governments are not adequately coordinated.
New mobility solutions like e-hailing and car sharing can be a welcome part of the transport mix, but as a complement to a coordinated system. Cities need to be more in the driver’s seat instead of the passenger’s seat.
WRI’s World Resources Report will focus on challenges and solutions over the next year aimed at creating more equal cities. Future research papers will look at practical solutions to core services like housing, energy, and transportation as well as provide insights into the broader process of urban transformation. The WRI will launch the report Oct. 16 in Quito.
The WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities’ Sustainable and Livable Cities Initiative supports key leaders in China, India and Brazil in improving urban quality of life and environmental sustainability. WRI’s blog series on the Initiative will highlight some of the projects that are working to create better cities.
Without dramatic change in cities, the world will hold more than 2 billion cars by 2050, putting human health and the planet at risk. Belo Horizonte, Brazil is finding that changing the world’s car-centric culture starts in the workplace.
Local governments throughout Brazil have long-struggled with how to solve the problems caused by rising car ownership, such as air pollution, traffic congestion and auto crashes. Cities like Porto Alegre and São Paulo have experimented with Traffic Demand Management (TDM) policies like license plate restrictions, increased parking prices and more, but they’ve met with mixed results. Many Brazilian cities simply lack the necessary public transport infrastructure, economic stability and political will to make city-wide TDM policies feasible.Changing Travel Habits in the Workplace
A project in Belo Horizonte offers a solution.
WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities partnered with the state government of Minas Gerais to encourage more sustainable transportation habits by the workers of the Cidade Administrativa de Minas Gerais (CAMG, Administrative City of Minas Gerais). The state government headquarters employs about 17,000 people, many of whom spend more than two hours per day commuting by private car or motorcycle.
WRI researchers and staff from CAMG started with a step-by-step guide on how to develop a corporate mobility plan, researching employees’ commuting habits and workplace infrastructure and transportation-related costs to develop a Corporate Mobility Diagnosis Report. From there, the two organizations identified potential opportunities for decreasing employees’ vehicle use while improving their commutes and overall quality of life.
When WRI and CAMG asked workers driving cars and motorcycles every day about what would make them change their habits, 84 percent said a high-quality public transport system. Forty-nine percent said they would use the city’s Bus Rapid Transit system, MOVE, if lines connected to stations close to CAMG.
So now CAMG is working with Belo Horizonte’s Transit Agency (BHTRANS) to replace two bus lines with faster, cheaper and more reliable MOVE lines. The new lines will also connect important bus terminals not served by previous bus routes, giving more CAMG workers access to public transit. These new services will start operating in late 2016.
CAMG is also installing bike parking and showers for employees, and a new bike lane will connect the office to the nearest public transit terminal. CAMG is also considering implementing carpool policies and parking fees to further discourage private vehicle use and incentivize more sustainable commuting options.A Good Policy for Employees and for Companies
If done correctly, CAMG’s plan will save employees money and commuting time while also reducing car use.
There are benefits for CAMG and other companies that implement TDM policies, too. Policies that improve quality of life and value employees’ time have the power to attract and retain talent. According to Fortune Business Magazine, 90 of the 100 Best Places to Work in 2014 had corporate mobility plans in place.Scaling Up Success
The Belo Horizonte project was not only an opportunity for CAMG, but for city officials to experience the process and benefits of a workplace TDM plan. Now, Belo Horizonte is planning to launch the first corporate mobility public policy in Latin America. The city-wide policy will require large companies to implement a corporate mobility plan in order to offset the impact of thousands of employees’ daily commutes. This pioneering policy will become an example for other Brazilian cities to follow, as well as cities around the world.
The Sustainable and Livable Cities Initiative was made possible through the generous support of the Caterpillar Foundation.
The Olympics have given us the opportunity to meet the wonderful city of Rio de Janeiro. The landscape of Guanabara Bay, the famous beaches, Sugarloaf Mountain, Lagoa and the tropical forest are so beautiful, it feels natural that the Portuguese selected this place as the capital of their empire, while Napoleon’s Army occupied the Iberian Peninsula. Rio de Janeiro remained the capital of Brazil after its independence, until the foundation of Brasilia in 1960. Today, it remains the symbol of the whole country.
Rio, like many host cities before, has tried to harness the Olympic experience to showcase the friendly face of Brazil and leave a legacy. This friendly face is evident in the beautiful opening ceremony, the incredible sports arenas and fair treatment of the entire Olympic family. Rio was a great Olympic host amid a political crisis, an economic recession and great social disparity. Given the economic and social state of Brazil, however, is legacy worth the Olympic cost?
Rio’s reported Olympic budget is 37.6 billion reais ($11.9 billion), of which 24.1 billion reais ($7.6 billion) are for city infrastructure and 7 billion reais ($2.2 billion) are for the Olympic committee. Like Olympic Games before, the final costs are higher than initial projections. All the Olympic Games between 1960 (Rome) and 2012 (London) had cost overruns of 179 percent, and London was the most expensive in history ($14.8 billion), with cost overruns of 101 percent. Rio is not far behind, already reporting cost overruns of 51 percent.
The Olympics are not the only event Brazil has organized in recent years. It hosted the FIFA World Cup, the World Youth Congress and Pope Francis, Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development and the World Games of the Armed Forces. In order to prepare for these events, Rio had to advance its mobility infrastructure, particularly its mass-transit. While it has been costly, the city created necessary infrastructure that otherwise would not have been built or would have taken decades. Large city projects include a metro extension, the construction of a downtown light rail, a large-scale renewal in the old urban port area (now Porto Maravilha), the construction of several BRT lines (Transoeste, Transcarioca and Transolímpica), bicycle path advancement and public space and sports venue improvement.
The metro extension of 16 kilometers (10 miles) opened on June 30, just days before the Games, to Olympic families and attendees of ticketed events. It connects the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana to the suburb of Barra de Tijuca, the Olympic park. During construction, the cost of the project doubled from about 5 billion reais ($1.4 billion) to 9.7 billion reais ($2.8 billion, $175 million per kilometer).
The light rail (VLT Carioca), a 28 kilometer (17 mile), single line, came into service on June 5, two weeks after the announced date. It has an estimated cost of 1.2 billion reais ($370 million, $13 million per kilometer).
The new BRT lines in Rio have been launched gradually, expanding with each major event. Transoeste, a 56 kilometer (34.7 mile) line from Barra de Tijuca to Santa Cruz, opened in 2012 for Rio+20. It services 250,000 passengers per day and cost $343 million ($6 million per kilometer). Transcarioca, a 39 kilometer (24.2 mile) line opened for the FIFA World Cup Football in 2014. The line connects the international airport to Barra de Tijuca, carrying 450,000 passengers daily and had a cost of $758 million ($19 million per kilometer). Transolímpica, a 26 kilometer (16 mile) line, was put into partial operation on July 10 of this year, for the Olympics. So far, the line has cost $400 million ($15 million per kilometer). In total, Rio constructed 121 kilometers (75 miles) of BRT in just seven years. This accomplishment stands out when compared with Mexico City, which completed 125 kilometers (77.6 miles) in 11 years and Bogotá, which completed 113 kilometers (70.2 miles) in 18 years.
Perhaps the most impressive Olympic project is the renewal of the urban port, Porto Maravilha, encompassing five million square meters (1.93 square miles) in the old industrial harbor area. The project includes the demolition of an elevated highway, construction of a road tunnel, enabling of public spaces and construction of the Museum of Art and the Museum of Tomorrow. The total cost of the project was $2.2 billion financed through real estate development in city.
Mayor of Rio Eduardo Paes is very happy with the city’s infrastructural improvements. Changing the city is impressive. International events are able to create this transformation by drawing on federal support and private participation. We all enjoy the Olympics, but the inhabitants of Rio will continue to enjoy a different city at the end of the Games.
The Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the first South American city to host the modern games, famously faced challenges in the run-up to the event – from construction delays to a polluted venue to worries about the Zika virus and urban crime – many of which have been overcome. But there’s a question that always comes up for Olympic cities after the torch is extinguished: was it worth for its residents? In Rio’s case, as for previous Olympic host cities, the long-term benefit may be in doubt, but is definitely yes when it comes to public transport.
In advance of the games, the length of mass transit systems in Rio, mostly Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) were more than double what had been promised for the Olympics, from 76 to 156 kilometers (47 to 97 miles). The downtown Light Rail System (LRT) was not part of the Olympic transit promise, while metro extension increased from 4 to 16 km (2.5 to 10 miles).
These improvements set the groundwork for a world-class mass transit system for Rio, but it depends on strong follow-up. The next city administration, which takes office in January 2017, needs to secure financing to finish the TransBrasil BRT corridor. If service reserved for Olympic ticket holders is transferred to city residents after the games, as expected, and the TransBrasil line is completed, the number of daily mass transit trips will increase substantially. According to city forecasts, the share of daily trips made by mass transit – BRT, metro, train — is likely to increase from 18 percent to 63 percent of all daily trips. How did that happen?
Rio has learned from experience. Before being selected to host the 2016 Olympics, Rio de Janeiro failed in two previous attempts, in 2004 and 2012. Both times, transport plans relied heavily on implementing metro rail lines and motorways. The history of difficulties in financing rail construction cast doubt on whether transport would be in place on time.
Hosting mega-events has been part of the Rio’s strategy since the 1992 Earth Summit. For the 2007 Pan American Games, two new metro lines and a light rail transit system connecting the international and domestic airports to the west zone of the city were promised, but never implemented.
In its third, successful attempt to host the Olympic Games, Rio knew the city needed a realistic and coherent proposal. The focus of its transit strategy changed from rail to bus, featuring innovative BRT corridors. The backbone of the transport plan included a high-performance bus based transit network integrated with existing boat and rail systems. And beyond getting cars off the road and moving visitors, athletes and locals where they need to go, the new BRT system would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using a more fuel-efficient fleet.
When evaluating Rio’s proposal, the International Olympic Committee requested extensive studies to estimate the capability of TransCarioca BRT to handle the extra demand. WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities proved that BRT would not only suffice but also provide better value. Relatively minor changes in station layout and mix of services made it possible to achieve significant gains in system capacity and performance.
There is already evidence that BRT has had a positive impact in Rio. Rider surveys have shown encouraging results: nine of every 10 respondents said the cost of travel had decreased or stayed the same with BRT compared to other means of transport, while two-thirds had a favorable impression of the connected bus network. The survey showed that for the regular commuters who are the system’s primary users, travel time has been cut by about 35 percent. This type of feedback will continue to inform recommendations to improve the BRT network.
There are pending challenges for when the Games are over, like fully integrating all public transport modes and finishing the implementation of the BRT network. But the Olympics offered Rio the possibility of having a public transport network that is capable of shaping its future urban development, making it a more compact, connected and coordinated city. Rio has the potential to become a flagship for reliable and sustainable mobility, inspiring other cities in Latin America. That would truly be an Olympic legacy.
Washington, D.C., one of the most powerful cities on Earth, has been thrown off-stride by a transit crisis. Starting March 16, the U.S. capital’s Metro system, which serves more than 710,000 passengers daily, closed down for 29 hours for emergency power cable inspections, two days after cable fires caused significant delays on three of Metro’s six lines. Weary customers found alternatives, but this is another transit disappointment in a metropolitan area that has dealt with old railcars, late trains and a lack of accurate schedules. Trust in Metro is at a low point. But, the shutdown isn’t just bad for the Metro; it has broader impacts for the whole of the city.
Public transit is essential to an environmentally sustainable urban future. But it requires public confidence in the transit system. To get people out of their personal cars, there needs to be an attractive alternative. The benefits for the entire city are clear: less traffic congestion, more productive time for commuters, reduced pollution, and better public health and safety. Without trust in the system’s reliability, though, it will be an uphill battle.
When people lose confidence due to unexpected closures and a lack of service predictability, they are more likely to turn to cars as a dependable and convenient way to travel. This may already be happening in Washington, where the Metro system has seen 40,000 fewer riders between 2010 and 2014 and a well-documented decrease in user satisfaction. Residents who live close to stations in transit-oriented developments are taking the metro less. Getting these people back to the metro will require offering them high quality, dependable service–but winning people back can take years of reliable service. This week’s system-wide closure may further erode rider confidence in Metro’s reliability.
Finding out what users of systems like Metro need and perceive can help. In Curitiba, Brazil, the QualiÔnibus satisfaction survey, supported by WRI, aimed to measure the strengths and pitfalls of the local bus rapid transit (BRT) system. By learning how users saw the system, the survey allowed planners to make meaningful changes, including improved security systems, better lighting, and improved infrastructure in stations and pathways. In Rio de Janeiro, similar surveys were conducted for the TransCarioca BRT system, ending in targeted improvements that raised user satisfaction from 1.7 to 5.8 on a 10-point scale. By using direct feedback from users, the city was able to make the changes customers wanted, ensuring continued success and safety.
The Washington, D.C. mass transit system would do well to increase responsiveness to specific rider complaints and safety concerns. Acknowledging the perception and satisfaction of transit riders is important, as we take on current challenges to safety and quality of service. Perhaps this week’s shutdown will provide the opportunity for implementation of such changes, as safety inspectors take stock of the condition of the Metro.
When the image of Washington’s Metro is one of broken elevators, delayed trains and electrical fires, it is hard for riders to trust the system. Acting on providing reliable, safe service would be a step toward turning drivers into transit customers, improving sustainability in this iconic city of monuments and cherry blossoms.
Public transport is essential for a city to function. However, cities in the Global South often encounter financial and planning challenges when developing public transport systems due to the cost and complexity of design and implementation. For example, bus rapid transit (BRT) systems often provide good connectivity at accessible prices. Yet, when implementing BRT networks, city leaders tend to overlook the importance of properly integrating the new model with existing private operators, such as private bus companies. This situation has often led to higher costs for the urban poor, poor connectivity and reduced efficiency of the entire system. Caracas, Bogotá, Jakarta and Lagos are four cities experimenting with strategies to improve the way that BRT networks integrate with other modes of transport.
Bogotá’s BRT system,Transmilenio, is often considered a successful example of public transport. Still, the BRT was implemented without a specific plan to integrate its lines with the dozens of companies that operated traditional bus lines. In 2009, a formal plan called Sistema Integrado de Transporte (SITP) was adopted to create a system that would integrate all modes of transport in Bogotá. Implemented only in 2012, SITP specifies that buses can only pick up and drop off passengers at designated bus stops and that the only payment accepted is the Transmilenio card. Older buses were scrapped and newer ones were retrofitted with larger doors. Currently, there are still about 5,000 traditional buses in Bogotá, but as of 1 June 2015 they are all operated directly by SITP, and must therefore follow its rules. The process of creating the SITP has been complex and costly but it has ensured a coherent and more efficient transport system.
In Caracas, public transport was described as uncomfortable, inadequate and disorganized. Local authorities decided to implement a national transportation plan with a BRT system, which opened in 2012. However, the lack of integration with traditional means including Jeeps, combis, minibuses and standard buses, made it less attractive the urban poor. To improve the situation, three political and administrative subdivisions brought together stakeholders to develop a framework agreement. This agreement included the creation of a transportation trust; the local government provided an initial amount to help private actors in modernizing their service. This approach enabled substantial changes in the three districts, with more than 25 transport cooperatives moving 120,000 users daily in an up-to-date, comfortable and organized public transportation system.
In Jakarta, the BRT system, TransJakarta, seems to have fallen short on its goal of improving mobility for the city’s poor. The reasons for this include poorly designed lanes, expensive tickets, inadequate connectivity, and limited accessibility. To address this situation, the local government set up feeder buses for areas without BRT access and worked to improve pedestrian options. To improve the affordability of tickets for the urban poor, the government began subsidizing fares for buses traveling to Jakarta’s business centers. The authorities also allocated Rp 18.75 billion to build new pedestrian-only paths and repair and expand existing paths. These policies have significantly improved mobility in Jakarta thanks to a holistic approach involving different modes of transport.
Before the advent of the Lagos BRT system, commercial buses popularly known as “danfos” and “molues” operated in the city. The bus transport system was fragmented, inadequately regulated, and lacking organization. Upgrades to the current danfo system included better management and regulation of operators, with a special focus on improving safety. For instance, a rule was created preventing buses to operate with the doors open. Danfo drivers and conductors were also required to register with a regulating body and wear identifiable uniforms and badges. Finally, a policy prohibits commercial bus companies from operating vehicles more than eight hours in a row. While more danfos now shut their doors when driving, the other new requirements have still not been fully implemented.
Today marked the second and final day of the Cities & International Congress in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where more than 1,000 participants and 130 speakers gathered to share their experiences and ideas on how to forge sustainable cities. The main stage featured talks on the New Climate Economy, the challenges and demands facing public transport, and how the media plays a role in creating sustainable cities.Creating the Cities We Want with the New Climate Economy
“Marta [Ramirez] lives in Mexico City, she travels every morning for 2.5 hours to work…40 percent of her salary goes toward transit. Five years of her life will be lost in transit…and there are hundreds and millions of people like Marta in the world, and I can guarantee that all of you know at least one Marta,” opened Ani Dasgupta, Global Director of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. As Marta’s story makes clear, poor public transport coupled with widespread congestion is not only an inconvenience, but also an impact on people’s economic well-being in deep and profound ways. Considering how widespread an issue this is, it becomes clear that our continued reliance on personal vehicles is costing cities billions in productivity–and even more in health risks.
However, governments are often reluctant to make the move to more sustainable practices because they fear that these investments will stifle economic growth. Indeed, many people mistakenly believe that climate action and economic development are opposing forces. Instead of seeing the two as mutually exclusive goals, Dasgupta urged cities to use the framework of the New Climate Economy (NCE), developed by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, to achieve both simultaneously. This vision, backed strong research, outlines how cities can boost their economies by moving toward a low-carbon future. “A one billion [dollar] public investment can unleash fifteen to twenty billion in private investment,” Dasgupta said.
Taking this low-carbon approach is perhaps most important for developing cities, which are often still constructing basic infrastructure. These cities in particular should avoiding locking into a high-carbon growth path centered on personal car use and sprawl; instead, they should look to invest in building efficiency, public transport, and better waste management, which could generate a net savings of $17 trillion by 2050. Best practices for accomplishing this include pedestrianizing streets, implementing bus rapid transit (BRT) systems–similar to those in Johannesburg and Rio de Janeiro–and creating public bike share programs. With cities producing 70 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases and accounting for 85 percent of the global GDP, urban areas can no longer afford to rely on dirty, unsafe transport and infrastructure. Rather, investing in long-term, healthier practices will not only help combat climate change, but also boost productivity, create jobs, reduce health costs, and combat poverty.Smart Urban Planning Can Help Ensure Basic Services and Improve Road Safety
City leaders unanimously agreed that improving public transport is an effective means of combating congestion, decreasing emissions and improving health–but some speakers warned that building a dense urban core has caused overcrowding in transport systems and inequitable access to basic public services on the periphery. To help alleviate these problems, Brazil passed the Statute of Metropolis in 2015, which forced metropolitan municipalities to collaborate with city governments on issues of mobility. The law created opportunities to solve some of the problems that have accompanied suburban sprawl, such as the “imbalance of services such as health, employment, [and] education” said Riley Rodrigues, Senior Specialist of Industrial Competitiveness and System Investments at FIRJAN.
The statute may serve as a good model for other countries to follow when thinking about suburban sprawl, but representatives urged that the statute isn’t enough. After transport services are expanded between metropolitan areas and city centers, citizens need to have access to information in order to improve commute times and avoid congestion. “90 percent of public transport users have communication devices, such as cell phones. If [a user] has access to information, [he/she] will choose the best routes and avoid [congested areas]” said Severiano Macedo, Business Development Manager at Cisco. In a session on technology and urban planning, experts noted that “data is the new oil,” and urged city leaders to take advantage of innovative software to improve urban mobility.
Finally, when considering changes to public transport and road regulations, experts emphasized that road safety should come first. According to the World Health Organization, 3,400 people die on the world’s roads every day; moreover, “3 million [people die] from pollution each year,” said Claudia Adriazola, Health and Road Safety Director at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. As more of the world’s population accumulates in urban areas, cities have the obligation to ensure that streets are safe for all citizens–especially pedestrians and cyclists, the two most vulnerable groups–and that they should monitor the impact of pollution from vehicles on local health. “You should not fund a transportation project that isn’t safe” summed up Hilda María Gomez, Road Safety Senior Specialist at CAF.
Last week, bus rapid transit (BRT) reached a global milestone, as the number of mapped BRT corridors and systems in BRTData.org’s database broke 400. As an online resource, BRTData compiles and tracks the development and progress of BRT projects globally. Additionally, the tool allows users to access data on infrastructure, performance, fleets, and road safety—equipping decision makers with the information they need to support local mobility solutions.
BRTData’s most recent update shows that there are now 402 mapped BRT corridors and bus lanes, stretching over 5229 kilometers worldwide. The significance of this figure is twofold: first, it shows that many cities worldwide are becoming increasingly interested in sustainable modes of transport; secondly, the figure is a reflection of the vast amount of free and accessible data that exists online to support the case for BRT.BRT’s Recent Accelerated Growth
Every day, in 195 cities across the globe, nearly 33 million people use bus rapid transit.
Despite BRT’s international success and rapid growth rate, its origins are humble, and date back to 1974. Beginning in Curitiba, Brazil, BRT started as a small, local project designed by Mayor Jaime Lerner as an alternative to expensive mass transport projects. At its core, BRT was a push to make bus systems more effective and user-friendly.
As more cities continued to implement BRT systems, decision makers and residents alike began to realize the full range of benefits that BRT offers, fueling the transport mode’s expansion. Indeed, from 2004 to 2014, BRT nearly quadrupled in size, growing particularly fast in rapidly urbanizing countries such as China, Brazil, and Indonesia. However, even more promising is BRT’s future: 48 cities are currently expanding their BRT systems, while 141 more are constructing or planning new BRT projects. Overall, this success demonstrates cities’ dedication to sustainable transport and a growing shift away from personal vehicles. Moreover, this new data paves the way for better and more efficient BRT systems.
Like any mass transport system, BRT isn’t perfect—but for some urban areas, BRT is decreasing congestion, improving air quality, and moving people through cities faster than ever. Consider, for example, Rio de Janeiro’s BRT system. Rio’s bus rapid transit system is particularly effective, serving 9 million people and saving 7.7 million hours every month. Each of the bus’s corridors—TransOeste (56 km) and TransCarioca (39 km)—replaces 126 cars on average, and consequently reduces CO2 emissions by 38 percent along these routes.
BRT has had similarly positive impacts in other cities. Research by WRI found that “In Istanbul, the average passenger on Metrobüs saved 28 workdays per year in reduced travel times.” Likewise, Bogotá, Colombia will save an estimated $288 million in avoided traffic injuries and fatalities due to its new BRT system, from 1998 to 2017. With the proper implementation and in the right environment, BRT is well positioned to transform and integrate public transport in efficient and cost-effective ways.
BRTData’s new landmark points to exciting new growth in BRT—but it’s the data behind this achievement that will effect the most change in urban transport. Indeed, one of the largest barriers BRT has had to overcome is the uncertainty cities face when attempting to implement it. Given how young this new form of transport is, adapting BRT to a city’s local context can be messy. In Delhi, India, for example, BRT has encountered unique challenges, such as major resistance from car owners, fierce competition with metro systems for funding, and lackluster public relations exacerbated by local media.
However, these difficulties are being recorded in online databases and BRT’s triumphs are being shared. The lack of data on BRT in diverse environments is being filled and made accessible thanks to tools like BRTData, and a record number of journals are publishing reports on bus rapid transit. Indeed, since Delhi’s rocky start, India has pushed ahead with BRT, learning from past challenges and implementing best practices going forward.
With 141 cities currently planning or constructing new BRT systems, online data is key for ensuring that this new transport mode sees even greater success in the future.
Created in 2012, BRTData is an online tool produced by the BRT Center of Excellence – Across Latitudes and Cultures (ALC-BRT CoE) and EMBARQ, sustainable urban mobility by WRI, in collaboration with the Latin American Association of Integrated Systems and BRT (SIBRT) and the International Agency for Energy (IEA).
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