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A major African step to make sustainable transport a reality

Roger Gorham's picture
Promoting Sustainable Transport Across Africa

The term “sustainable transport” evokes a wide range of images and perceptions among transport professionals and lay people alike. For some, it means a range of technology solutions – from diesel particulate filters to ebikes, Copenhagen wheels, or buses running on compressed natural gas.  For others, the term can refer to changes in behavior, like improving the way vehicles are maintained or driven, or efforts to carpool.  For yet others, the term implies even more radical changes, like wholesale shifts in the way cities are designed, and/or smart city approaches that use ICT technologies to fundamentally change the way people interact with their surroundings. “Sustainable Transport” can mean any or all these things, including expanding access to transport services in rural areas. 
 
But however the term is interpreted, it is not normally associated with Africa.  Indeed, in many respects, common images of African transport are synonymous with unsustainability – high rates of traffic growth and congestion (even in cities with comparatively low motorization rates), high traffic injury and fatality rates from substandard road safety practices, highly polluting vehicles, minimal formal public transport services, poor enforcement of road worthiness and vehicle overloading– and the list could go on.  
 
It is then very telling that the inaugural conference of the Africa Sustainable Transport Forum took place in Nairobi, Kenya in late October, with not only a great deal of interest but also high-level participation (with delegates from 42 African countries, including 25 Ministers). The conference was hosted by the Kenyan government, with support from the World Bank-led Africa Transport Policy Program (SSATP) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The Ministerial portion of the conference was opened by both President Kenyatta and Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. 
 
Over three days, technical experts and ministers discussed what transport sustainability means for the continent, resulting in the first ever Sustainable Transport Action Framework for Africa. There were a number of other “firsts” associated with the conference: the first time African transport and environment ministers gathered together to discuss transport issues; the first time that “sustainability”, as a key objective of transport policy in Africa, was the focus of the agenda; and the first time that a Secretary General of the United Nations had ever opened an international conference focused on transport.

Latin America and India share cross-regional knowledge on waterborne transport

Catalina Crespo-Sancho's picture
Follow the author on Twitter: @CatalinaCRE and @arnabbandyo



The World Bank encourages knowledge exchange as a powerful tool to share, replicate, and scale up ideas and practices in development work. The exchange of ideas strengthens the capacity to interpret the experiences and knowledge of others within the context of their own local circumstances, and to draw and adapt those lessons that are locally relevant. One example is a recent water transport knowledge sharing session that included representatives from the World Bank’s transport sectors in South Asia and Latin America, which included participation from the Government of India.

Water transport in India

India has an extensive coastline of 5,400 km and navigable inland waterways of 4,320 km. However, only about 7 percent of domestic cargo movement is conducted through these two modes, of which just 0.5 percent is for inland waterways. In comparison, Japan and some European countries transport approximately 40 percent of their domestic cargo on water.

Although water transport modes are more environmentally friendly, energy efficient and economical than most other modes of transport, not enough has been done to develop them in India. India’s low utilization of water transport modes has contributed to heavily congested roads and railways, which results in disproportionately high logistic costs relative to overall GDP (15 percent). If India’s objective is to revive its trajectory of economic growth and to achieve the new government’s “Make in India” dream, it will be necessary to actively promote coastal shipping and inland water transport.

India’s new government has focused its attention on water transport, and is currently in the process of finalizing a vision and strategy for higher utilization of inland water transport, coastal shipping and ports. Backed by tangible commitments in the current federal budget, numerous schemes are being finalized, including enhanced navigability of National Waterways, creation of a National Waterway Grid, developing the interconnectivity of major ports, and establishing port-centric economic zones through a scheme called SAGARMALA (‘string of pearls’). The World Bank has been approached to provide technical assistance and limited investment support in this National Waterway augmentation initiative. 

In Argentina, a road that connects the present and the past of indigenous women

Verónica Raffo's picture
Also available in: Español
 

 
If someone asked you what can boost gender equality in rural and indigenous communities in Latin America, a road would probably not be your first answer.

Well, think again!

During a recent trip to northern Argentina, we visited one of the main attractions in the area: the Qom Culture Route (QCR), a corridor of seven cultural centers led by artisan Qom women - 10% of the indigenous population in the country belongs to this ethnic group - spread along the recently paved Route 3 in the province of Chaco, as part of the Ministry of Federal Planning, Infrastructure and Services’ Norte Grande Road Infrastructure Project, with support from The World Bank. The project has helped build these women’s community centers and trained them in entrepreneurial, associative and commercial skills.

A Major Shift to Save India’s Precious Lives

Karla Gonzalez Carvajal's picture
Follow the author on Twitter: @KGonzalezCar
 
Traffic fatalities are one of the world’s leading causes of preventable deaths. If the numbers stay at current growth rates, traffic fatalities will become the world’s fifth-leading cause of death by 2030. Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN) have recognized road traffic injuries as a major global public health problem, with economic consequences that could affect the sustainable development of countries and hinder progress towards reducing extreme poverty and boosting prosperity.
 
In India, for example, almost 400 people are killed on roads every day. This is the equivalent of a jumbo jet plane crash but, unfortunately, road deaths don’t make headlines quite the same way. And there is no shortage of alarming examples regarding India’s road safety challenges, including:
 
  • India’s national highways are especially dangerous, accounting for only two percent of the country’s total road network, but more than 30 percent of road-related deaths and injuries.
  • Pedestrian fatalities are a large proportion of accidents. In New Delhi, for example, pedestrian fatalities account for 45-51 percent of all road traffic deaths.
  • Road traffic crashes in India cost the country an estimated annual GDP loss of three percent. (WHO estimates)
The good news is that India has taken the issue of road safety as a priority, thus shifting and adding resources to their national road safety agenda.

Próxima Parada: El Centro Comercial

Daniel Pulido's picture
Also available in: English
Sigue a los autores en Twitter: @danpulido y @IrenePortabales
 

Estación de Metro de Madrid esponsorizada
Muchos de los sistemas de metro del mundo no consiguen cubrir sus costos de operación con los ingresos tarifarios, mucho menos sus costos de capital. Una comparativa internacional llevada a cabo por las asociaciones de metros CoMET y Nova indica que, en promedio, los ingresos tarifarios de un sistema de metro cubren el 75% de sus costes de operación, mientras que los ingresos comerciales cubren aproximadamente un 15%, lo que supone un déficit del 10%. De igual modo, hemos hecho un cálculo de “números gordos” basado en los estados financieros de diversas empresas de metro de América Latina, corroborando que en promedio éstas presentaron un déficit en operación del 10% en el 2012, el cual asciende al 30% si se incluyen los costes de capital. Por supuesto existen ejemplos de metros que sí cubren sus gastos operacionales como son Santiago de Chile o Hong-Kong, pero otros como México DF necesitan subvención de la mitad de sus gastos de operación. Esta brecha de fondeo es un gran impedimento para mantener la calidad de los servicios y para ampliarlos para poder responder adecuadamente a las crecientes necesidades de desplazamiento.

Lamentablemente, el desfinanciamiento de los sistemas de transporte urbano es un problema generalizado, difícil de remediar con presupuestos públicos sobrecargados y/o soluciones inmediatas que aunque efectivas en teoría son difíciles de implementar en la práctica: el aumento de tarifas, por ejemplo, es una medida políticamente difícil y además genera mayor presión sobre los pobres, quienes más usan el transporte público; cobrar una tarifa que realmente cubra los costes socioeconómicos del uso del vehículo particular (tales como cargos por congestión) como instrumento de financiación del transporte público es también una medida impopular y difícil de implementar.

Dada esta situación, los operadores de transporte están continuamente buscando nuevas formas de recaudar fuentes adicionales de ingresos y así disminuir el déficit de financiación,  en muchos casos a través de asociaciones con el sector privado. A pesar de que muchos de los ejemplos se concentran en países desarrollados, algunos metros en América Latina y en otras regiones en vías de desarrollo están buscando aumentar sus ingresos no tarifarios:

Mind the (funding) gap, next stop: Making some extra money

Daniel Pulido's picture
Also available in: Español
Follow the authors on Twitter: @danpulido and @IrenePortabales
 

A branded metro station in Madrid
Most metro systems around the world are unable to cover their operating costs with fare box revenues, let alone fund capital expenditures. According to data from international benchmarking programs CoMET and Nova, tariff revenues cover an average 75% of operating costs, while other commercial revenues provide about 15%, resulting in an operating deficit of 10%. Similarly, a back of the envelope exercise that we conducted for Latin American metro companies showed that these had an average operating deficit of 10% in 2012. When including capital expenditures, this deficit grew to 30%. There are of course examples of metro systems that do recoup their operating costs, such as Santiago de Chile and Hong Kong, but others like the Mexico City Metro only cover half of their operating expenses with fare revenues. We should all mind this funding gap as it is a significant impediment to maintaining service quality and addressing growing urban mobility needs.

Unfortunately, the underfunding of transit systems can become chronic as public budgets are under growing pressure and the most direct solutions for increasing revenues are hard to implement: increasing fares, for instance, has proved to be politically difficult and disproportionately affects the poor, who use public transport the most; and charging a price that fully covers the social cost of private vehicle usage (i.e., congestion charges) as a way to fund transit is also politically sensitive.

In that context, transit operators are increasingly looking at new ways to tap additional sources of commercial revenue and make up for funding shortfalls, often through agreements with the private sector. Although most examples are concentrated in developed countries, some metro systems in Latin America and the developing world are looking at ways to increase non-tariff revenues:

To feed the future, let’s make logistics and transport sustainable

Jose Luis Irigoyen's picture
How serious are we about addressing the challenge of food security in the face of climate change?  This is one of the topics to be discussed at Food for the Future, one of the events at the IMF-World Bank Group Annual Meetings this year.

If we are dead serious about this challenge, then we really need to pay greater attention to the role of transportation and logistics, both crucial in increasing food security, so we can feed 9 billion people by 2050, and mitigating impact on climate change. Just consider these facts:

  • Up to 50% of harvest is wasted between farm and fork, the moment we actually consume food.
  • Transport-related emissions account for about 15% of overall greenhouse gas emissions. And 60% of those emissions are coming from road transport.
  • And logistics costs affect small farmers disproportionally (up to 23% of their total costs).
Thus logistics – the services, knowledge, and infrastructure that allow for the free movement of goods and people – is now recognized as a key element in achieving sustainable food security, and thus a driver of competitiveness and economic development. The development of agro-logistics, for example, has helped address the food security challenge more holistically: from “farm to fork” and all stages in between.

Bogota: TransMilenio’s overcrowding problem and a professor's solution

Jean Paul Vélez's picture
Also available in: Español
 
Follow the authors on Twitter: @jpvelez78@canonleonardo and @ScorciaH
 
Why TransMilenio isn't working (Spanish)

A few weeks ago, a video entitled “Why doesn’t TransMilenio work?” created a huge buzz among the residents of Bogota. The graphically impeccable video, produced by local Colombian firm Magic Markers, proposes solutions for addressing the systematic overcrowding problem faced by the city’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system known as ‘TransMilenio’. It is based on research conducted in 2012 by a university professor, Guillermo Ramirez, and his students. The video has been watched on YouTube over 700,000 times and has been discussed by important national media outlets. 

As urban transport experts and Bogotanos interested to see TransMilenio improved, we wrote a blog post in Spanish breaking down the video between the points with which we agree and the points with which we disagree, and circulated it in social media to further promote the debate. We are now sharing that blog post in English as we believe it offers some interesting discussion points about the challenges of high capacity BRT operations that are relevant in a broader context.

Can we accelerate energy efficiency by using less fuel?

Marc Juhel's picture
Many of us drive cars on a regular basis, particularly in developed countries, but perhaps rarely think about how we could reduce the impact of our driving on the environment.  In other words, what are some of the policies and specific actions that could facilitate greater improvements in energy efficiency in the vehicles sector?

Questions like these were at the center of discussions at the Fuel Economy Accelerator Symposium held in Paris last week. The event, organized by the Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GFEI), was hosted by the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy.  I represented the World Bank at this event, which took place on the heels of the UN Secretary General’s upcoming Climate Conference in New York, scheduled for late September. As a result, the topic of the fuel economy and energy efficiency is especially timely and relevant.

Doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030 is one of the three major objectives of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL), an initiative led by the UN Secretary-General and the President of the World Bank Group. The other two goals by 2030 are to provide universal access to electricity and modern cooking solutions, and to double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. 

Seize the space! Reclaiming streets for people

Verónica Raffo's picture

Increasing numbers of citizens all over the world are demanding that urban planners and political authorities in their cities “get it right” when designing public urban spaces. People living in cities, both in developed and developing countries are reclaiming streets as public spaces, demanding urban planners to re-design streets to ensure a more equitable distribution of these public spaces, and prioritizing the allocation of streets for people to walk, cycle and socialize. This was the central topic discussed last week at the “Future of Places” conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
 
How do we contribute to a more equitable society by building more equitable cities?  In an increasingly urbanized world, urban mobility is central to citizens’ social and economic wellbeing. However, current urban transportation systems – based primarily on the movement of private motorized vehicles – have prioritized road space and operational design of streets for automobiles over other modes of transport, which has caused many social, environmental and economic consequences, therefore reducing urban livability and equitable access.
 
The values of urbanity and mobility are being rethought all over the world, and Latin American cities are no exception to this questioning of how cities are to be developed today. One of the answers to sustainability issues lies in the concept of proximity, which combines different dimensions of the urban proposals that the 21st century requires. These dimensions include public health – particularly the fight against sedentary habits – as well as density, compactness, closeness, resilience, and livability of the public space. These all point to a new urban paradigm that all creative cities wish to adopt in order to attract the knowledge economy and guarantee social cohesion.

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