The World Bank is supporting the Government of Sri Lanka’s efforts to create a roadmap for the modernization of urban bus services in the capital, Colombo. We have discussed ways in how cities with high-quality public bus networks have approached the issue: the public sector is responsible for infrastructure development, network and service planning, and regulating and monitoring of operations, while efficiency-oriented bus companies operate the services according to well-defined contracts.
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.
The discussion on climate change often tends to ignore one critical factor: people’s own habits and preferences. In urban transport, the issue of behavior change is particularly important, as the transition to low-carbon mobility relies in large part on commuters’ willingness to leave their cars at home and turn to greener modes such as public transit, cycling, or walking.
Getting people to make the switch is easier said than done: decades of car-centric development, combined with the persistence of the private car as a status symbol, have made it hard for policymakers to take residents out of their vehicles.
Against this backdrop, I was inspired to learn about the example of Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, a city of 1.2 million some 45km south of Seoul I visited on my last trip to the Republic of Korea.
Officials in Suwon have realized that, although awareness of climate change is becoming widespread, behavioral engagement hasn’t quite caught up. To overcome this challenge, the city decided to make sure residents could be directly involved in the design and implementation of its urban transport strategy.
The World Bank Group (WBG) is currently implementing a new approach to development finance that will help better support our poverty reduction and shared prosperity goals. This crucial effort, dubbed Maximizing Finance for Development (MFD), seeks to leverage the private sector and optimize the use of scarce public resources to finance development projects in a way that is fiscally, environmentally, and socially sustainable.
There are several reasons why cities and transport planners should pay close attention to the MFD approach. First, while the need for sustainable urban mobility is greater than ever before, the available financing is nowhere near sufficient—and the financing gap only grows wider when you consider the need for climate change adaptation and mitigation. At the same time, worldwide investment commitments in transport projects with private participation have fallen in the last three years and currently stand near a 10-year low. When private investment does go to transport, it tends to be largely concentrated in higher income countries and specific subsectors like ports, airports, and roads. Finally, there is a lot of private money earning low yields and waiting to be invested in good projects. The aspiration is to try to get some of that money invested in sustainable urban mobility.
While bus services are often planned and coordinated by public authorities, many cities delegate day-to-day operations to private companies under a concession contract. Local government agencies usually set fares and routes; private operators, on the other hand, are responsible for hiring drivers, running services, maintaining the bus fleet, etc. Within this general framework, the specific terms and scope of the contract vary widely depending on the local context.
Bus concessions are multimillion-dollar contracts that directly affect the lives of countless passengers every day. When done right, they can foster vigorous competition between bidders, improve services, lower costs, and generate a consistent cash flow. However, too often the concessions do not deliver on their promise and there is a perception across much of Latin America that authorities have been unable to manage these processes to maximize public benefits.
As several Latin American cities are getting ready to renew their bus concessions—including major urban centers like Bogotá, Santiago de Chile, and São Paulo—now is a good time to look back on what has worked, what has not, and think about ways to improve these arrangements going forward.
How can we harness the digital economy to make mobility more sustainable? This question was the main focus of this year’s Transforming Transportation conference, which brought together some of most creative and innovative thinkers in the world of mobility. One of them was Davis Wang, CEO of Mobike, a Chinese startup that pioneered the development of dockless bike-sharing and is now present in more than 200 cities across 12 countries. In his remarks, Wang raised a number of interesting points and inspired me to continue the conversation on the future of dockless bike-share systems and their potential as a new form of urban transport.
What exactly is dockless bike-sharing (DBS)?
Introduced in Beijing just under two years ago, dockless bike-share has been spreading rapidly across the world, with Mobike and three other companies entering the Washington, D.C. market in September 2017.
As their name indicates, the main feature that distinguishes “dockless” or “free-floating” systems from traditional bike-share is that riders can pick up and drop off the bicycles anywhere on the street rather than at a fixed station.
This is made possible by a small connected device fitted on each bike that allows users to locate and unlock the nearest bike with their smartphone in a matter of seconds—yet another new derivative of the “internet of things” revolution!
Invented over a century ago for exploring mountainous regions, aerial cable cars have recently made an appearance in several big cities, where they are being used as an alternative to conventional urban transport modes. This technology uses electrically-propelled steel cables to move suspended cars (or cabins) between terminals at different elevation points.
The tipping point. The emergence of cable cars in urban transport is fairly new. Medellín, Colombia pioneered the use of cable cars for urban transport when it opened its first “Metrocable” line in 2004. Since then, urban cable cars have grown in popularity around the world, with recent projects in Latin America (Rio de Janeiro, Caracas, Guayaquil, Santo Domingo, La Paz, and Medellín), Asia (Yeosu, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong), Africa (Lagos, Constantine), and Europe (London, Koblenz, Bolzano). Cable cars can be an attractive urban transport solution to connect communities together when geographical barriers such as hills and rivers make other modes infeasible.
The concentration of population in cities and their exposure to seismic hazards constitute one of the greatest disaster risks facing Peru and Ecuador. In 2007, a magnitude 8.0 earthquake along the southern coast of Peru claimed the lives of 520 people and destroyed countless buildings. The most recent earthquake in Ecuador, in 2016, left more than 200 dead and many others injured.
Of course, these risks are not exclusive to Latin America. Considered one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world, Japan has developed unparalleled experience in seismic resilience. The transport sector has been an integral part of the way the country manages earthquake risk— which makes perfect sense when you consider the potential consequences of a seismic event on transport infrastructure, operations, and passenger safety.
Back in 2012, a storm surge triggered by Super Storm Sandy caused extensive damage across the New York City (NYC)-New Jersey (NJ) Metropolitan Area, and wreaked havoc on the city’s urban rail system.
As reported by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the subway suffered at least $5 billion worth of damage to stations, tunnels and electrical/signaling systems. The Port Authority Trans-Hudson network (PATH) connecting NYC to NJ was also severely affected, with losses valued at approximately $871 million, including 85 rail cars damaged.
In the face of adversity, various public institutions in charge of urban rail operations are leading the way to repair damaged infrastructure (“fix”), protect assets from future similar disasters (“fortify”), restore services to millions of commuters and rethink the standards for future investments.
NYC and NJ believe that disasters will only become more frequent and intense. Their experience provides some valuable lessons for cities around the world on how to respond to disasters and prepare urban rail systems to cope with a changing climate.
With a metropolitan population approaching 23 million, Lagos is the economic engine of Nigeria and one of the largest cities on the African continent. Rapid growth, unfortunately, has come with a myriad of urban transport challenges. To get around, most residents rely on the thousands of yellow mini-buses that ply the streets—the infamous "Danfos"—and on a growing supply of three-wheelers. These limited options, combined with endemic congestion, make commuting in Lagos a slow, unreliable, and expensive endeavor.
But this entrepreneurial city cannot afford to be stuck in traffic. Things started moving in 2008, when Lagos introduced Africa's first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor with technical support from the World Bank under the Lagos Urban Transport Project. The corridor was referred to as BRT-lite, a local adaptation that did not apply all the "classical" features of a BRT (level loading, fancy stations) but was well integrated with the local environment and became immediately successful. In fact, the operator was able to recoup its capital investment in the bus fleet in 18 months even without banning competitor services. The BRT services demonstrated that improving the erstwhile chaotic system was indeed possible.
Building on this success, Lagos has taken steps to improve and expand the reach of the BRT. The Second Lagos Urban Transport Project (LUTP2), supported jointly by the World Bank and the French Development Agency, provided about $325 million in 2009 toward building a 13-km extension of the BRT corridor between Mile 12 and the satellite town of Ikorodu. In addition to the BRT infrastructure, the project financed the rehabilitation and widening of the road from four to six lanes, the construction of pedestrian overpasses, a bus depot, terminals, a road bridge, measures to enhance flood resilience, as well as improved interchange and transfer facilities.