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.
Urbanization and rising incomes have been driving rapid motorization across Asia, Africa, and Latin America. While cities are currently home to 50% of the global population, that proportion is expected to increase to 70% by 2050. At the same time, business-as-usual trends suggest we could see an additional 1 billon cars by 2050, most of which will have to squeeze into the already crowded streets of Indian, Chinese, and African cities.
If no action is taken, these cars threaten literally to choke tomorrow’s cities, bringing with them a host of negative consequences that would seriously undermine the overall benefits of urbanization: lowered productivity from constant congestion; local pollution and rising carbon emissions; road traffic deaths and injuries; rising inequity and social division.
However, after a century of relatively small incremental progress, disruptive changes in the world of automotive technology could have fundamental implications for sustainability.
What are these megatrends, and how can they reshape the future of urban mobility?