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Urban Development

Who needs cars? Smart mobility can make cities sustainable

Pierre Guislain's picture
 

Last year marked an important tipping point: for the first time, half of the global population lives in cities. Cities currently add 1.4 million people each week and this population growth comes with new buildings, roads and transport systems.

In fact, 75 percent of the infrastructure that will be in place by 2050 does not exist today. With cities poised to invest now in infrastructure that will last for decades, huge opportunities lie ahead. But without major shifts now in how we manage established as well as rapidly growing cities, we risk losing out on the potential of urbanization to create more inclusive and prosperous societies.

2015 offers a big chance for the international community to help put cities on a more sustainable path. We at the World Bank and the World Resources Institute (WRI) believe that we must seize this opportunity, because cities and urban mobility are key to a sustainable future.

Business-as-usual urbanization patterns come at a hefty price. Cities already produce 70 percent of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions and traffic crashes claim 1.2 million lives per year, with developing cities carrying the greatest burden.

Traffic congestion cost Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo a combined $43 billion in 2013 alone, equivalent to 8 percent of each city’s GDP. In Beijing, the costs of congestion and air pollution are estimated at 7-15 percent of GDP. Urban sprawl costs the United States alone $400 billion per year.

This is not the future we want for our cities.

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.

“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.

A major African step to make sustainable transport a reality

Roger Gorham's picture
Promoting Sustainable Transport Across Africa

The term “sustainable transport” evokes a wide range of images and perceptions among transport professionals and lay people alike. For some, it means a range of technology solutions – from diesel particulate filters to ebikes, Copenhagen wheels, or buses running on compressed natural gas.  For others, the term can refer to changes in behavior, like improving the way vehicles are maintained or driven, or efforts to carpool.  For yet others, the term implies even more radical changes, like wholesale shifts in the way cities are designed, and/or smart city approaches that use ICT technologies to fundamentally change the way people interact with their surroundings. “Sustainable Transport” can mean any or all these things, including expanding access to transport services in rural areas. 
 
But however the term is interpreted, it is not normally associated with Africa.  Indeed, in many respects, common images of African transport are synonymous with unsustainability – high rates of traffic growth and congestion (even in cities with comparatively low motorization rates), high traffic injury and fatality rates from substandard road safety practices, highly polluting vehicles, minimal formal public transport services, poor enforcement of road worthiness and vehicle overloading– and the list could go on.  
 
It is then very telling that the inaugural conference of the Africa Sustainable Transport Forum took place in Nairobi, Kenya in late October, with not only a great deal of interest but also high-level participation (with delegates from 42 African countries, including 25 Ministers). The conference was hosted by the Kenyan government, with support from the World Bank-led Africa Transport Policy Program (SSATP) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The Ministerial portion of the conference was opened by both President Kenyatta and Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. 
 
Over three days, technical experts and ministers discussed what transport sustainability means for the continent, resulting in the first ever Sustainable Transport Action Framework for Africa. There were a number of other “firsts” associated with the conference: the first time African transport and environment ministers gathered together to discuss transport issues; the first time that “sustainability”, as a key objective of transport policy in Africa, was the focus of the agenda; and the first time that a Secretary General of the United Nations had ever opened an international conference focused on transport.

Próxima Parada: El Centro Comercial

Daniel Pulido's picture
Also available in: English
Sigue a los autores en Twitter: @danpulido y @IrenePortabales
 

Estación de Metro de Madrid esponsorizada
Muchos de los sistemas de metro del mundo no consiguen cubrir sus costos de operación con los ingresos tarifarios, mucho menos sus costos de capital. Una comparativa internacional llevada a cabo por las asociaciones de metros CoMET y Nova indica que, en promedio, los ingresos tarifarios de un sistema de metro cubren el 75% de sus costes de operación, mientras que los ingresos comerciales cubren aproximadamente un 15%, lo que supone un déficit del 10%. De igual modo, hemos hecho un cálculo de “números gordos” basado en los estados financieros de diversas empresas de metro de América Latina, corroborando que en promedio éstas presentaron un déficit en operación del 10% en el 2012, el cual asciende al 30% si se incluyen los costes de capital. Por supuesto existen ejemplos de metros que sí cubren sus gastos operacionales como son Santiago de Chile o Hong-Kong, pero otros como México DF necesitan subvención de la mitad de sus gastos de operación. Esta brecha de fondeo es un gran impedimento para mantener la calidad de los servicios y para ampliarlos para poder responder adecuadamente a las crecientes necesidades de desplazamiento.

Lamentablemente, el desfinanciamiento de los sistemas de transporte urbano es un problema generalizado, difícil de remediar con presupuestos públicos sobrecargados y/o soluciones inmediatas que aunque efectivas en teoría son difíciles de implementar en la práctica: el aumento de tarifas, por ejemplo, es una medida políticamente difícil y además genera mayor presión sobre los pobres, quienes más usan el transporte público; cobrar una tarifa que realmente cubra los costes socioeconómicos del uso del vehículo particular (tales como cargos por congestión) como instrumento de financiación del transporte público es también una medida impopular y difícil de implementar.

Dada esta situación, los operadores de transporte están continuamente buscando nuevas formas de recaudar fuentes adicionales de ingresos y así disminuir el déficit de financiación,  en muchos casos a través de asociaciones con el sector privado. A pesar de que muchos de los ejemplos se concentran en países desarrollados, algunos metros en América Latina y en otras regiones en vías de desarrollo están buscando aumentar sus ingresos no tarifarios:

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:

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.

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.

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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