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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.

Can we accelerate energy efficiency by using less fuel?

Marc Juhel's picture
Many of us drive cars on a regular basis, particularly in developed countries, but perhaps rarely think about how we could reduce the impact of our driving on the environment.  In other words, what are some of the policies and specific actions that could facilitate greater improvements in energy efficiency in the vehicles sector?

Questions like these were at the center of discussions at the Fuel Economy Accelerator Symposium held in Paris last week. The event, organized by the Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GFEI), was hosted by the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy.  I represented the World Bank at this event, which took place on the heels of the UN Secretary General’s upcoming Climate Conference in New York, scheduled for late September. As a result, the topic of the fuel economy and energy efficiency is especially timely and relevant.

Doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030 is one of the three major objectives of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL), an initiative led by the UN Secretary-General and the President of the World Bank Group. The other two goals by 2030 are to provide universal access to electricity and modern cooking solutions, and to double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. 

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.

What can we learn from public-private partnerships in the transport sector in Europe and Central Asia?

Vickram Cuttaree's picture
Private sector investment in Europe and Central Asia (ECA) is quite small, even accounting for the size of the individual countries’ economies. Despite integration within the European Union (EU), ECA countries have not attracted much private sector investment in the transport sector compared to other regions, such as Latin America or South Asia (four times more during 2009-13).
Mid-day traffic in Istanbul, Turkey
Mid-day traffic in Istanbul, Turkey

While public-private partnership (PPP) transport investment has been initially driven by countries (such as Poland, Croatia and Hungary) that implemented reforms to join the EU, most of them have not been able to close on transport PPP transactions in the past five years. Now Russia and Turkey are the leaders in the region, as explained below.

What can explain this situation?
A focus on off-balance sheet accounting of PPP projects has dominated transport PPP in EU-member ECA countries in recent years. Off-balance sheet accounting means PPP projects are structured in a way that only annual government payments are accounted for, instead of the total commitment (the assets and liabilities associated with the project). This means that PPP projects end up being large and greenfield (multi-billion dollar investment, typically in new highways), and tend to follow a separate path than for budget-financed projects, based on the assumption that the associated liabilities won’t be accounted for.

Risk allocation between the public and private sectors is driven by accounting treatment. This also results in limited support from governments and very rigid negotiations. It also means that projects are often not able to close or, as a former Minister of Transport said, “We do PPP to build off-balance sheet assets but, in order to reach financial close, assets has to be on our books.”

Porque somos más los que queremos que esto pare… Nuestra experiencia enfrentando la violencia de género en el transporte público

Shomik Mehndiratta's picture
Also available in: English
Siga a los autores en Twitter: @shomik_raj and @aldotudela7
El cuarto estaba en silencio. El grupo se encontraba sentado, pensante, con cada uno de los participantes pensando cómo resolver un problema complicado, callados. De repente, un hombre se levantó y habló en voz alta, “Tenemos que dejar algo claro, somos más los que queremos que esto pare”. Este sentimiento, expresado durante un taller realizado en la Ciudad de México, se convirtió en un poderoso punto de partida para la iniciativa en marcha que actualmente estamos realizando para entender y atacar la violencia de género en el transporte público.

La seguridad personal dentro y alrededor del sistema de transporte público [de la Ciudad de México] es un problema serio que caracteriza la experiencia de muchos en el transporte público, particularmente de las mujeres. Un estudio reciente del Instituto de las Mujeres del Distrito Federal reveló que alrededor del 65% de las mujeres usuarias del sistema de transporte público han sido víctimas de alguna modalidad de violencia de género dentro del sistema o entrando a él. Sin embargo, se sabe que solo una fracción de estos eventos se reporta… lo cual nos hace pensar que el porcentaje real puede ser mucho mayor.

Because there are more of us who want this to stop… Our experience taking on gender-based violence in public transport

Shomik Mehndiratta's picture
Also available in: Español
Follow the authors on Twitter: @shomik_raj and @aldotudela7
The room was quiet. The group sat, thoughtful, each one of the participants with their heads around a complicated issue, silent. Suddenly, one man stood up and spoke out, “We have to set something straight, there are more of us who want this to stop”. This sentiment, expressed during a focus group in Mexico City, has become a powerful anchor for an ongoing initiative we are undertaking to understand and address gender-based violence in public transport.

Personal security on and around Mexico City’s public transport system is a serious problem that frames the travel experience for many, particularly for women. A recent report by the Mexico City Women’s Institute showed that 65% of women using the system have suffered some form of sexual assault while on the system or when accessing it. However, there is little argument that only a fraction of these events are reported… which leads us to believe that the actual percentage could be much higher.

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:

Ahorro Pensional para Proyectos: ¿Un nuevo significado para las APP en América Latina?

Daniel Pulido's picture
Also available in: English
Siga al autor en Twitter: @danpulido
Los proyectos de infraestructura implementados a través de asociaciones público-privadas (APP) han sido tradicionalmente financiados por los bancos. Sin embargo, en la medida en que el dinero a largo plazo de estas instituciones financieras se ha vuelto más difícil de conseguir y más costoso y los activos de los fondos de pensiones y otros inversionistas institucionales han seguido aumentando, el interés por atraer el gran acervo de capital que estos últimos manejan ha crecido rápidamente. En un contexto de bajos rendimientos para los bonos, los fondos de pensiones están buscando oportunidades atractivas de inversión a largo plazo para diversificar sus tenencias y cumplir con sus obligaciones de pago de largo plazo. Tras darse cuenta de la oportunidad que existe para acercar la oferta y la demanda de financiación, los Gobiernos y los inversionistas en los países desarrollados y en desarrollo han dirigido su atención hacia los “bonos de proyectos”, instrumentos de deuda emitidos por empresas en los mercados de capitales como una manera de financiar inversiones en infraestructura.

Estos “bonos de proyectos” están principalmente dirigidos a inversionistas institucionales —incluidos fondos de pensiones— y han generado un gran interés entre banqueros de inversión, firmas de abogados e inversionistas. Todo este bombo plantea una serie de preguntas: ¿Están los "bonos de proyectos" realmente a la altura de las expectativas? ¿Pueden los Gobiernos depender de los ahorros pensionales para financiar proyectos (¡un nuevo significado para la sigla APP!)? ¿Qué necesitamos hacer para convertir a los fondos de pensiones en una fuente de financiamiento significativa y así terminar con el déficit de inversión en el sector de infraestructura?

Pensioners Paying for Projects: A new meaning for PPP in Latin America?

Daniel Pulido's picture
Also available in: Español
Follow the author on Twitter: @danpulido
Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects in infrastructure have traditionally been financed by banks. However, interest in new funding sources is increasing as long-term money from banks has become more difficult and expensive to get, while the assets held by pension funds and other institutional investors have continued to soar. In a context of low bond yields, pension funds are looking for attractive long-term investment opportunities to diversify their holdings and meet their long-term payment obligations. Realizing an opportunity to match supply and demand, governments and investors in the developed and developing world have turned their attention to Project Bonds, debt instruments issued by PPP project companies in the capital markets as a way to fund infrastructure investments.

These “Project Bonds” mostly target institutional investors - including pension funds, and have generated a great deal of interest among investment bankers, lawyers and investors. All this hype raises a number of questions: Are these “Project Bonds” really living up to expectations? Can governments really rely on Pensioners Paying for Projects (a newfound meaning for PPPs!)? What do we need to do to turn these instruments into a significant source of financing and close the infrastructure investment gap?