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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.

What can we learn from public-private partnerships in the transport sector in Europe and Central Asia?

Vickram Cuttaree's picture
Private sector investment in Europe and Central Asia (ECA) is quite small, even accounting for the size of the individual countries’ economies. Despite integration within the European Union (EU), ECA countries have not attracted much private sector investment in the transport sector compared to other regions, such as Latin America or South Asia (four times more during 2009-13).
 
Mid-day traffic in Istanbul, Turkey
Mid-day traffic in Istanbul, Turkey

While public-private partnership (PPP) transport investment has been initially driven by countries (such as Poland, Croatia and Hungary) that implemented reforms to join the EU, most of them have not been able to close on transport PPP transactions in the past five years. Now Russia and Turkey are the leaders in the region, as explained below.

What can explain this situation?
A focus on off-balance sheet accounting of PPP projects has dominated transport PPP in EU-member ECA countries in recent years. Off-balance sheet accounting means PPP projects are structured in a way that only annual government payments are accounted for, instead of the total commitment (the assets and liabilities associated with the project). This means that PPP projects end up being large and greenfield (multi-billion dollar investment, typically in new highways), and tend to follow a separate path than for budget-financed projects, based on the assumption that the associated liabilities won’t be accounted for.

Risk allocation between the public and private sectors is driven by accounting treatment. This also results in limited support from governments and very rigid negotiations. It also means that projects are often not able to close or, as a former Minister of Transport said, “We do PPP to build off-balance sheet assets but, in order to reach financial close, assets has to be on our books.”

Because there are more of us who want this to stop… Our experience taking on gender-based violence in public transport

Shomik Mehndiratta's picture
Also available in: Español
Follow the authors on Twitter: @shomik_raj and @aldotudela7
 
The room was quiet. The group sat, thoughtful, each one of the participants with their heads around a complicated issue, silent. Suddenly, one man stood up and spoke out, “We have to set something straight, there are more of us who want this to stop”. This sentiment, expressed during a focus group in Mexico City, has become a powerful anchor for an ongoing initiative we are undertaking to understand and address gender-based violence in public transport.

Personal security on and around Mexico City’s public transport system is a serious problem that frames the travel experience for many, particularly for women. A recent report by the Mexico City Women’s Institute showed that 65% of women using the system have suffered some form of sexual assault while on the system or when accessing it. However, there is little argument that only a fraction of these events are reported… which leads us to believe that the actual percentage could be much higher.

“Smart Mobility” for Developing Cities

Ke Fang's picture
Follow the author on Twitter: @KeFang2002
 
In many developing cities, transport infrastructure – whether it be roads, metro systems or BRT - is not growing fast enough, and cannot keep up with the ever-increasing demand for urban mobility. Indeed, constructing urban transport infrastructure is both expensive and challenging. First, many cities do not yet have the capacity to mobilize the large amount of funds needed to finance infrastructure projects. Second, planning and implementing urban transport infrastructure projects is tough, especially in dense urban areas where land acquisition and resettlement issues can be extremely complex. As a result, delays in project implementation are the norm in many places.

Therefore, solving urgent urban transport problems in these cities requires us to think outside the box. Fortunately, the rapid development of ICT-enabled approaches provides a great opportunity to optimize and enhance the efficiency of existing and new urban transport systems, at a cost much lower than building new infrastructure from the ground up.

The need to improve transport impact evaluations to better target the Bottom 40%

Julie Babinard's picture
In line with the World Bank’s overarching new goals to decrease extreme poverty to 3 % of the world's population by 2030 and to raise the income of the bottom 40% in every country, what can the transport sector do to provide development opportunities such as access to employment and services to the poorest?

Estimating the direct and indirect benefits of transport projects remains difficult. Only a handful of rigorous impact evaluations have been done as the methodologies are technically and financially demanding. There are also differences between the impact of rural and urban projects that need to be carefully anticipated and evaluated.

Can we simplify the methodologies?

Despite the Bank’s rich experience with transport development projects, it remains quite difficult to fully capture the direct and indirect effects of improved transport connectivity and mobility on poverty outcomes. There are many statistical problems that come with impact evaluation. Chief among them, surveys must be carefully designed to avoid some of the pitfalls that usually hinder the evaluation of transport projects (sample bias, timeline, direct vs. indirect effects, issues with control group selection, etc.).

Impact evaluation typically requires comparing groups that have similar characteristics but one is located in the area of a project (treatment group), therefore it is likely to be affected by the project implementation, while the other group is not (control group). Ideally, both groups must be randomly selected and sufficiently large to minimize sample bias. In the majority of road transport projects, the reality is that it is difficult to identify control groups to properly evaluate the direct and indirect impact of road transport improvements. Also, road projects take a long time to be implemented and it is difficult to monitor the effects for the duration of a project on both control and treatment groups. Statistical and econometric tools can be used to compensate for methodological shortcomings but they still require the use of significant resources and knowhow to be done in a systematic and successful manner.

Why we were happy when our bosses raised employee parking rates... Or how parking requirements drive modal choice

Shomik Mehndiratta's picture
Follow the authors on Twitter: @shomik_raj and @canaless
 
Recently, as part of a broader cost cutting initiative, World Bank management decided to do away with a long standing policy of subsidizing parking for its employees. Those of us who work on the Bank’s transport projects and help cities develop more sustainable mobility systems saw this is as a welcome development… losing some friends in the process. 
 
This personal example, along with a recently completed pilot we conducted on corporate mobility programs, inspired us to share some insights on the dramatic role parking-related regulations and incentives can play in influencing the decisions made by all stakeholders with regard to modal choice –whether it be private developers, property managers, employers or employees:

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