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The World Region

SDGs, Climate Agreement and Transport: From global commitments to accountability

Nancy Vandycke's picture
In September last year, the world community came together in New York and called for bold, ambitious action to save the planet and its people. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the North and South alike acknowledge the key role of transport in building a sustainable future. In November, the high-level Ministerial Conference in Brasília called for accelerated action on road safety.  And in December, the Twenty-First Conference of the Parties (COP21) laid the ground for an unprecedented climate agreement, with ambitious targets to stabilize global warming at less than 2 degrees Celsius.   

Taken together, these global commitments—all relevant to transport—set a high bar for success in transforming the world’s mobility in the next 10 to 15 years; they are also diverse and complex.  For example, nine targets in the SDG framework relate directly to transport.  Some targets are straightforward—for instance, the SDG target 3.6 sets a goal of halving global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents by 2020.  Others are less—including the SDG target 9.1 of “developing quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including regional and trans-border infrastructure, to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all” which does not specify a clear quantitative target to be achieved by 2030.

Sustainable Mobility, the new imperative

Pierre Guislain's picture
Sao Paulo Metro, financed by the World Bank Group
Photo: Andsystem

Mobility is at the heart of everything we do – education, jobs, health, trade, social and cultural engagements. But mobility is facing critical challenges that need to be confronted urgently if we are to tackle climate change: over one billion more people on our planet by 2030, with greater needs for mobility; the expected doubling of the number of vehicles on the road by 2050; greenhouse gas emissions that represent almost a quarter of total energy-related emissions, and rising under a business as usual scenario; and the additional challenge of connecting one billion people who still lack access to all-weather roads and efficient transport services.

It is clear that countries’ mobility choices today will either lock us into unsustainable scenarios or will open the way for new possibilities.

On April 22 2016, 175 government leaders signed the historic Paris climate agreement, calling for ambitious and urgent action to implement  global climate change commitments. On May 5-6 in Washington DC, representatives from government, private sector, civil society, academia and multilateral development banks will gather for the Climate Action 2016 Summit. With more than 70% of countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) mentioning transport, the sector is one of the focus area of this summit.
A framework for Sustainable Mobility
As coordinator of the summit’s transport track, the World Bank is organizing on May 4th a pre-Summit Transport day in collaboration with the World Resource Institute, the Paris Process on Mobility and Climate (PPMC) and the Michelin Bibendum Challenge. The pre-Summit event will focus on the bold actions that are needed not only to decarbonize transport, but also to make it accessible to all, to improve its efficiency, and to ensure its safety.

Transforming Transportation: From Global Targets to Local Action

Pierre Guislain's picture
Photo by Mariana Gil/ WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities

Last year saw major international commitments on critical topics like climate change, sustainable development and road safety. From the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to the Brasilia Declaration on Road Safety and the climate agreement reached at COP21,  these commitments—including the World Bank’s own pledge to increase its climate-related financing by one-third by 2020—provide clear international targets for the next 15 years.

Translating these global targets into effective action and tangible benefits for people across the world will be a huge challenge, however. It will require the alignment of various processes and initiatives at the global, regional, national and local levels, as well as significant support to the national and local authorities responsible for implementation.

Transport as a Solution

Transport is at the heart of these commitments – not only because transport is part of the climate and development challenge, but also because it is a big part of the solution.

​Smart measures in transport: Moving beyond women’s-only buses

Bianca Bianchi Alves's picture
Civil society has been dealing with the problem of sexual harassment in public spaces in innovative ways. Creative marketing campaigns are popping all over the world, including Take Back the Metro in Paris, Chega de Fiu Fiu in Brazil, and Hollaback in 84 cities around the world.
The problem seems to stem from strong, ingrained cultural beliefs. Unfortunately, the problem might be getting stronger as formal barriers to the participation of women decline, as suggests Marty Langelan, a World Bank consultant, professor of American University.

Bus operators receive harassement
response training.
Specialists know that the complexity of the problem requires changes in social norms, and that this can only come from comprehensive approaches and time. Some governments may acknowledge the same; however, they still have to deal with the pressing urgency of the theme, and therefore adopt quick, pragmatic solutions.

Currently, countries like Mexico, Brazil, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, and Nepal all have some form of women-only cars in public transportation.

While there are strong arguments that these women-only cars are effective temporary solutions, in the long-term they could reinforce the stereotypes of uncontrollable men and victimized women. They also remind us of the United States Supreme Court decision Plessy vs. Ferguson, which considered constitutional segregated black and white populations in public facilities under the idea of “separate but equal.”

Transforming Transportation 2015: Turning momentum into action

Jose Luis Irigoyen's picture
What will the city of the future look like? How can we unlock the potential of urbanization to create safe, accessible and prosperous societies? At Transforming Transportation 2015 – the annual conference co-organized by the World Resources Institute and the World Bank– we learned about the role of urban mobility in creating smart, sustainable cities and boosting shared prosperity.
Felipe Calderón addresses the 
audience at
Transforming Transportation 2015

With 75 percent of the infrastructure that will exist in 2050 yet to be built, actions taken right now will shape urbanization patterns and quality of life for decades. It is urgent that global leaders concentrate now on ensuring that cities are sustainable, inclusive and prosperous.  
The year 2015 provides three big opportunities to build global momentum around the course for change. These are the potential for a binding international climate agreement coming out of COP21, a new development agenda set forth by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and a platform for prioritizing safe, equitable cities through the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety. The coming year raises the stakes, with the 2016 Habitat III conference expected to be one of the most influential gatherings in history focusing on making cities more livable and sustainable.

Want Healthy, Thriving Cities? Tackle Traffic Safety First

Jose Luis Irigoyen's picture

Every year, more than 1.2 million people die in traffic crashes worldwide, equivalent to nearly eight Boeing 747 plane crashes every day. As developing economies grow and private car ownership becomes more mainstream, the number of associated crashes and fatalities will continue to rise.
The challenge of traffic safety often flies under the radar in cities, where the social and economic challenges of accommodating growing populations take precedent. Without meaningful change, however, the World Health Organization (WHO) projects that traffic crashes could become the fifth leading cause of premature death worldwide by 2030. This takes a particular toll on cities, which are already home nearly half of global traffic fatalities. City leaders must prioritize traffic safety measures to ensure that their citizens have safe, healthy and economically prosperous cities to call home.
With Urban Growth Comes Traffic Safety Challenges
While there are a number of factors that contribute to traffic crashes, two of the primary challenges are rising motorization trends in cities worldwide and the issue of road equity: the most vulnerable road users, including pedestrians and cyclists, are most impacted by traffic crashes. On top of that, these users, typically lower-income, don’t always have the power or capacity to create the necessary changes.
The number of privately owned cars on the road hit the one billion mark for the first time in 2010. If we continue business-as-usual, that number will reach an estimated 2.5 billion cars by 2050. All of these new cars will lead to an increase in traffic congestion in cities worldwide, increasing the probability of traffic crashes and resulting fatalities.

How does this investment help accessibility for this metropolitan area’s poorest 40 percent?

Shomik Mehndiratta's picture
Accessibility analysis is an essential element of understanding cities and public service delivery. Activity‐based accessibility measures relate to the distribution of activities (for example, jobs or schools) in a given space, and the ease of reaching these activities. This type of measure directly relates to the qualities of a multi-modal transport system (e.g. transport network, speeds and costs), but also includes the qualities of the land‐use system (e.g. distribution of land uses, and thus activities), and allows for a spatial temporal multi-modal analysis based on changing land uses.

Accessibility offers a powerful lens to assess how a mobility system is serving an urban area. For example, road congestion is a more severe constraint in a dispersed setting with few transit, walking and cycling options (such as the Atlanta metropolitan area), compared to traditional mixed-use downtowns (such as New York City), where residents can access jobs and other opportunities walking, cycling and using mass transit. 
Block-level measure of job access within 60 minutes by public transport

Accessibility indicators are not just conceptually powerful – they are also easy to operationalize: the number of jobs accessible within a 60-minute timeframe is a popular and powerful indicator to evaluate how well the mobility system is serving a particular spatial area, or group of people (such as the most vulnerable).

Big Data comes to transport planning: how your mobile phone helps plan that rail line

Shomik Mehndiratta's picture
Understanding peoples’ travel activity patterns, and ideally understanding the motivations and choices underlying them, are at the heart of what transport planners do. 
An understanding of trip origins and destinations – and how trip-makers select routes, modes and destinations – are required to plan extensions or changes to a road or public transport network; to assess the viability of a new investment; and to assess how well the existing transport system is serving the population and businesses in a specific area.

​Indeed, in our roles as transport specialists in the World Bank, much of our job is about supporting clients’ ability to develop this understanding and to use the results to evaluate and appraise investments.
At the core of this process is an Origin-Destination (OD) survey: essentially a matrix of trips between different zones of a region (referred to as an OD matrix).  Traditionally, getting this information in the context of an urban area has been a difficult, expensive and time-consuming process. We are often talking about millions of dollars for trip activity surveys of thousands of households, complemented by extensive analysis of socio-economic data. We also count data at strategic points on major roadways and transit routes to calibrate the results. 
This process can take up to a year, and many stages need very specific technical skills and a lot of quality control.  Survey design, sample design, training the surveyors, ensuring they are accurate (not making up data, not entering data erroneously), and subsequent stages of analysis all require significant technical capacity to implement, as well as an almost equal level of technical skill to supervise the work. 
All of us who do this have horror stories from processes on which we have worked. The result is that the basic information needed to test alternatives and make decisions about transport investments is collected too rarely – at best no more than once every decade – and even the results of existing surveys have suspect deficiencies.

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.

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.