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Latin America & Caribbean

Want successful urban transport mega-projects? Here are seven things you should keep in mind

Bianca Bianchi Alves's picture


In 2002, Sao Paulo’s embarked in one of the most transformative transport projects of the decade: the construction of Metro Line 4. The new line had big ambitions: it was meant to significantly improve the commuting experience, better connect the south and western regions of the Sao Paulo Metropolitan Region (SPMR) to the center, change the metro system from a radial to a flexible network, and interconnect all transport modes, including buses, suburban trains (CPTM), bicycles, as well as existing and future metro lines.

Line 4 was also the first metro project in Brazil to be designed as a Public-Private Partnership, whereby operation and maintenance (O&M) was concessioned to a private company for 30 years. The project was segmented into 2 construction phases, both of which were technically and financially supported by the World Bank from 2002.

When finished, Metro Line 4 will feature a total of 11 stations along a 14.4-km alignment, 29 trains in operation, four integrated bus terminals, and one dedicated train yard. It will carry nearly 1 million passengers per day. Since the opening of the first segment in 2010, the line has experienced high passenger traffic and allowed for a significant reduction in journey times. In 2012, Line 4 even featured among the 100 most innovative infrastructure projects in the world.

A new station was inaugurated just a few weeks ago, and the line is now just one station away from completion. Once the whole project is operational by 2020, aha resident of Vila Sonia in the western part of the city will need only 20 minutes to reach Luz station at the opposite side of the city, compared to one hour in 2002.Today they can already reach it in 32 minutes!

Now that the Line 4 odyssey has almost concluded, it can teach us a number of valuable lessons about what it takes to implement such complex infrastructure projects in a dense urban area like Sao Paulo.

How can shared and on-demand mobility complement public transit?

Nathalie Picarelli's picture
Photo: Diego Torres Sivlestre/Flickr
São Paulo is home to 20.7 million residents, making it the biggest city in the Southern Hemisphere. Commuting in this bustling Brazilian city is a serious affair: the region sees a whopping 44 million trips every day, with public transit, motorized and non-motorized modes each accounting for about 1/3 of the total. The average public transit commute clocks in at 67 minutes. However, commuting times can be much longer for those in the periphery, where lower-income households tend to live. This penalizes the mobility of the poor. For instance, wealthier residents take almost twice as many trips as poorer residents.
 
While public transit has a relatively high reach across the metropolitan region, it falls short of the growing demand, and historical underinvestment has led to growing motorization. Congestion in Sao Paulo is among the worst in Latin America. In 2013, the productivity losses and pollution associated with congestion costed the metropolitan area close to 8% of its GDP, or over 1% of Brazil’s total GDP.
 
In the last decades, the World Bank Group has been working closely with São Paulo to boost public transport infrastructure and policies, which has helped the city expand mass transit coverage and develop a more comprehensive approach to urban transport.
 
The latest wave of disruptive technologies that is reshaping the transport sector –including shared mobility platforms, electric vehicles, and automation— are now providing exciting new ways to build on these gains. If properly integrated into broader public transport policies, these innovations have the potential to reduce the use of single-occupancy vehicles, decrease pollution and carbon emissions, improve traffic flow, and save energy.
 
Among all these new technologies, let’s take a closer look at shared mobility and on-demand mobility solutions like ride-hailing apps or bikeshare systems, which have been growing rapidly around the world.

Transport and climate change: Putting Argentina’s resilience to the test

Verónica Raffo's picture
Also available in: Spanish


Would you imagine having to evacuate your village by boat because the only road that takes you to your school and brings the goods is flooded?

In February 2018, the fiction became reality for some residents in the province of Salta, northern Argentina, after heavy rains caused the Bermejo and Pilcomayo river to overflow. The flooding resulted in one fatality, required the evacuation of hundreds of residents, and washed a segment of Provincial Route 54, leaving the village of Santa Victoria del Este completely stranded.

Similarly, a segment of National Route 5 in one of the main corridors of Mercosur has been impassable for more than a year because the level of the Picassa lagoon keeps rising due to extreme rainfall and lack of coordination among provinces on how to deal with excess water flows. The expansion of the lagoon is forcing 4,000 vehicles a day to make a 165-km detour, and adds one transit day for the 1,560 freight trains running every year between Buenos Aires and Mendoza. The flooding is dragging the economy behind and inflating already high logistics costs.

As a matter of fact, a recent World Bank study put the cost of damages and disruptions like these at an estimated 0.34% of GDP a year for riverine flooding, plus 0.32% of the GDP for urban flooding.

To address these risks, Argentina’s Ministry of Transport started a dialogue with the World Bank to explore ways of reducing the vulnerability of the network.

Some solutions for improving pedestrian safety

Irene Portabales González's picture
Also available in: Spanish
Road with independent space for pedestrians, cyclists and cars in San Isidro. Photo: World Bank
We all have an intuitive sense that pedestrians are particularly vulnerable to road traffic crashes. After all, there is only so much the human body can take. At 30 km per hour, a pedestrian has a 90% chance to survive an impact. But if a vehicle hits you at 50 km/h while you’re walking down the street, that collision will have the same impact a falling from the fourth floor of a building.

Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) confirms that road crashes do indeed take a serious toll on pedestrians. In 2013, more than 270,000 pedestrians lost their lives globally, representing almost 1/5 of the total number of deaths.

In the United States, numbers from Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reveal a 46% increase in the number of pedestrians dying on the road, largely due to the expansion of rapid arterial roads in urban and suburban areas.

In Peru, where we’re based traffic crashes data pertaining to pedestrians are just as startling. According to the Ministry of Health, almost half of pedestrians involved in a collision sustain multiple injuries, and 22% of them suffer from trauma to the head. The chances of a fatal outcome or other serious consequences are very high.

Engaging citizens in local development: The story of the Tocantins Road Project in Brazil

Satoshi Ogita's picture
Also available in: Português
 

Miranorte is a small town in the State of Tocantins, northern Brazil, well-known for its pineapple production. During the rainy season, the production cannot reach the markets due to the obstruction of the roads with the water flow. In many places, the roads lack bridges and culverts, jeopardizing both safety and accessibility.

In order to address these challenges, the World Bank’s Multisector Project in Tocantins (2012-2019), which  includes a rural road component, decided to hear firsthand from the community about their priorities for development and inputs in the selection of roads that needed improvement. Aside from a practical and transparent approach, the consultations compensated for the lack of information required for conventional planning.

Tocantins, as many places in the world, doesn’t have any traffic data, information on road conditions, or even maps of the rural road network available. Although IT technologies are emerging and the importance of these data for management of road assets is evident, it is often time-consuming and costly to survey all the rural road network, especially in a state like Tocantins, which is larger than the United Kingdom.

Data analytics for transport planning: five lessons from the field

Tatiana Peralta Quiros's picture
Photo: Justin De La Ornellas/Flickr
When we think about what transport will look like in the future, one of the key things we know is that it will be filled and underpinned by data.

We constantly hear about the unlimited opportunities coming from the use of data. However, a looming question is yet to be answered: How do we sustainably go from data to planning? The goal of governments should not be to amass the largest amount of data, but rather “to turn data into information, and information into insight.” Those insights will help drive better planning and policy making.

Last year, as part of the Word Bank’s longstanding engagement on urban transport in Argentina, we started working with the Ministry of Transport’s Planning Department to tap the potential of data analytics for transport planning. The goal was to create a set of tools that could be deployed to collect and use data for improved transport planning.

In that context, we lead the development of a tool that derives origin-destination matrices from public transport smartcards, giving us new insight into the mobility patterns of Buenos Aires residents. The project also supported the creation of a smartphone application that collects high-resolution mobility data and can be used for citizen engagement through dynamic mobility surveys. This has helped to update the transport model in Buenos Aires city metropolitan area (AMBA).

Here are some of the lessons we learnt from that experience.

Mobility constraints undermine the potential of Haitian cities

Roger Gorham's picture
Photo: UNDP/Flickr
At about 3:30am most weekday mornings, Lovelie is by the roadside near her home in Kenscoff, Haiti, waiting for a vehicle with her produce of carrots and broccoli. With luck, a ‘camion’ with sufficient room for her and her bundles will come by soon, to take her for the 22-kilometer trip to the Croix-de-Bossales market in the center of Port-au-Prince, where she has a stall. If not, she will have to take a ‘tap-tap’, informal urban public transport similar to that found in many cities of the developing world, operated by small-scale entrepreneurs using second-hand vehicles – in Haiti’s case, imported pick-up trucks from the United States, modified to seat 14 on the flat bed, with standing room for a few more.

Lovelie prefers to pay more for a camion than take a tap-tap, because the former will take her directly to the market in 55 minutes. Tap-tap operators, to maximize revenues, limit the distance they operate to no more than 5 kilometers, so she would have to change three or four times, which is not easy with her bundles of goods. But she may not have a choice, if the camions are full by the time they get to her, as they often are.

Understanding the realities of urban transport as experienced by people like Lovelie was key for the forthcoming Haitian Urban Mobility Study and the Haiti Urbanization Review, two distinct but interdependent studies developed by the World Bank’s transport and urban development teams.

Thank goodness, we had an extra bridge in stock!

Malaika Becoulet's picture
Credit: Joshua Stevens/NASA Earth Observatory
On October 4, 2016, category 4 Hurricane Matthew struck the southern part of Haiti. Strong winds and rain triggered heavy flooding and landslides that resulted in 500 fatalities, along with widespread infrastructure damage and economic loss. The hurricane caused the collapse of the Ladigue Bridge, a vital asset connecting the southern peninsula of Haiti to the capital city and the rest of the country. The collapse left 1.4 million people completely isolated, making it extremely hard to deliver the aid and humanitarian assistance they needed. Overall damage and losses were equivalent to 32% of GDP, with transport accounting for almost a fifth of the total.
 
Haiti is among the countries that are most vulnerable to natural disasters including hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes—the result of a combination of factors that include high exposure to natural hazards, vulnerable infrastructure, environmental degradation, institutional fragility, and a lack of adequate investment in resilience. In Haiti, 80% of people and goods are transported by road. First aid and humanitarian resources, often concentrated in Port-au-Prince, need to transit through congested and sometimes inaccessible roads to reach affected areas. In that context, strengthening and building resilient infrastructure is key.
 
Since 2008, the World Bank has supported the reconstruction of 15 major bridges and stabilized 300 kilometers of roads to enhance the resilience of Haiti’s transport network. One of the most significant innovations that came out of this effort was the adoption of standardized emergency bridges that can be assembled within 2- 3 months from pre-designed and interchangeable components.

The transition to low-carbon buses in Mexico: It’s not (only) about the money

Alejandro Hoyos Guerrero's picture
Credit: Taís Policanti/WRI
Transitioning from diesel buses to cleaner technologies can significantly contribute to tackling air pollution in cities and reducing the carbon footprint of urban transport. As alternatives to diesel are getting more and more viable, many governments and development partners are encouraging bus operators to make the switch, mostly by offering financial incentives such as example 1 or example 2.

However, after promoting cleaner buses in Mexico for five years, we have seen firsthand that financial incentives alone are not enough. Specifically, there are three main obstacles that impede the expansion of cleaner bus fleets, and should be addressed appropriately.

New technologies and risk aversion

In general, private bus operators tend to be very risk averse when it comes to experimenting with new vehicle technologies. This is not exactly surprising: according to our own calculations from different projects in Latin America, variables related to vehicle performance—like fuel and maintenance—make up over 2/3 of costs over the life cycle of a conventional diesel bus. In that context, operators who are not familiar with the performance of new vehicle technologies can understandably perceive the transition to a cleaner fleet as a huge financial gamble.

Getting to zero traffic fatalities: What will it take?

Irene Portabales González's picture
Also available in: Español
Photo: Geraint Rowland
We must stop deaths on the roads. No one would argue with that, of course. But for us who live in Peru and many other developing countries, the importance of making road safety a global development priority really hits home—especially after a string of dramatic crashes that have made headlines across the country.

Last February, a bus fell to the bottom of a 200-metre ravine and left 45 dead in Arequipa, including several children. A month before, the country witnessed its deadliest traffic crash on record when a bus plunged down a cliff in Pasamayo, just north of Lima, killing some 52 people.

According to government data, 89,304 traffic crashes were reported on the Peruvian road network in 2016, with a total of 2,696 fatalities. However, the latter figure only includes deaths occurring within 24 hours of a crash, and does not account for victims who may die from their injuries later on.

The global statistics are equally concerning. The World Health Organization (WHO) shows in its Global status report on road safety 2015 that traffic crashes represent one of the main causes of death globally, and is actually the leading cause for people aged 15 to 29.

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