As Beijing is issuing its first-ever red alert due to record levels of air pollution, it is time for us to reflect on how we can propose cleaner urban transport solutions to large cities in the developing world.
The transport sector accounts for 23 percent of energy-related global CO2 emissions, second behind electricity and heat generation. Moreover, transport-related emissions are set to rise from 23 percent to up to 33 percent by 2050.
In Beijing, banning half of the car off the streets (except electric and hybrid vehicles) is one of the most radical measures that the authorities have taken to fight what some observers have called airpocalypse. To compensate, 200 additional buses have been added to the cities’ public transport system. Schools have also been closed and outdoor construction works have been forced to stop. The social and economic costs of airpocalypse are enormous. With particulates levels more than 10 times the recommended levels, there are serious health consequences for Beijing’s 20 million inhabitants.
As urbanization continues all over the world, many mega-cities are desperately looking for credible solutions to improve urban transport systems and reduce traffic congestion. Sophisticated but expensive systems like underground subways are economically out-of-reach for many large cities in the developing world. The good news is that there are some excellent alternatives that the World Bank Group and other international partners have been promoting.
One of these alternatives is the so-called Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. Invented in Latin America and since then spread all over the world, BRTs have a particular relevance for fiscally-constrained, developing nations because of their relatively modest cost but also their dramatic benefits in terms of urban mobility and air pollution reduction.
If we had a magic wand to quickly ease the daily commute of millions of people from home-to-work, particularly in developing countries, we would certainly use it as much as we could. Unfortunately, we often struggle to find quick solutions and end up with big projects which take very long to come to fruition.
Although big projects are often justified for economic efficiencies and greater impact, aren’t there any solutions that might quickly make that daily commute more accessible, affordable and acceptable? Note that accessibility is just one of the factors that make travel easier to reach jobs, education, health and leisure facilities. and also frequent and acceptable in the sense of comfort and safety. This is not the case in many poor emerging countries where daily commute can be an ordeal that might affect the productivity of workers who must worry to get to their jobs and return home safely.
Supervia is one example of the World Bank’s transport operational focus: supporting sustainable solutions – universal, efficient, safe, and environmentally friendly – to connect people and businesses to jobs, social services, and markets. In fiscal year 2015 alone, we have invested $5.3 billion in sustainable transport in 34 countries, contributing to the Rio+ pledge of $175 billion in sustainable transport funding from multilateral development banks over 2012-2022.
As we head towards COP21, one may wonder: “How many Supervias will it take to reach a 2 degree scenario? And where will the financing come from?”
Transport accounts for about 60% of global oil consumption, 27% of all energy use, and 23% of world CO2 emissions. With demand for mobility increasing exponentially, especially in developing countries, transport is the fastest growing source of GHG emissions. Inevitably, actions to reduce GHG emissions and stabilize climate warming at 2 degree Celsius, as agreed by the international community in 2009, will fall short if they do not include aggressive measures in the transport sector.
Yet, transport has until now taken a back seat in the climate negotiations. Transport has not been at the heart of the negotiations, the share of transport in climate finance has been very small, and donor support to and interest in transport has been minimal.
The latest evidence from a WHO report shows that global road death estimates have plateaued since 2007, at an unacceptable level of 1.25 million deaths per year. A different and bolder approach is clearly needed.
Three major areas require special attention: Africa and low income countries more generally, large middle-income countries, and sprawling urban centers.
Africa is the region with the highest death rates: at 27 deaths per 100,000 population in 2013, it was one and a half times the global average of 18. Road traffic fatality rates have actually increased in Africa over the past few years, despite decreases in other regions. More generally, Low-income Countries, which have just 1% of cars and 12% of the global population, nonetheless suffer 16% of total deaths from road crashes.
We also need to pay greater attention to middle-income countries like Brazil, China, and India which, due to their large populations and motorization rates, together contribute over 40% of the global deaths from road crashes.
Furthermore, by 2050, the world will add 2.5 billion people to our cities, which already account for about half of road fatalities. In the cities, attention to speed management and improving facilities for pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists is very important.
France is the latest country to have announced a public awareness campaign in an effort to reduce sexual harassment in public transport. The campaign includes posters and a video with fictitious comments reflecting examples of inappropriate remarks that women hear while using today’s public transport. The public awareness campaign is part of a national plan to combat sexual harassment and echoes similar campaigns in other major cities, including New York and London. (Read story here)
Owing in part to national and global reports that have provided increasing evidence on the importance of the problem, public transport authorities and local officials are finally taking notice of sexual harassment. It is only recently that sexual harassment in public transport has risen at the forefront of policy discussions and has been exposed as a global problem. Alarming findings last year from a poll taken by the Thomson Reuters Foundation reported on the world’s most dangerous systems for women. (Click here to discover more about the poll). The poll conducted in 15 of the world's largest capitals and in New York, the most populous city in the United States, concluded that six in 10 women in major Latin American cities had been physically harassed while using transport systems, with Bogota, Colombia, found to have the most unsafe public transportation, followed by Mexico City and Lima, Peru.
Several approaches have been considered to curb sexual harassment of women in public transport, ranging from setting up CCTV on platforms and improving lighting to launching women-only initiatives. Yet, there is no silver bullet for dealing with gender-based violence in transportation and urban settings. Options such as women only forms of transport have shown that segregating by gender are neither cost effective nor do they address the fundamental issues that trigger harassment.
It is the end of another hot day in Rio de Janeiro. I’m tired and sweaty after spending the afternoon checking out the progress on some of the city’s train stations, which are being renovated for the upcoming Olympic Games. But I’m also happy, having witnessed the progress made in improving Rio’s suburban rail system, known as SuperVia, which the World Bank has been supporting for the last 20 years.
In an effort to ensure that globalization becomes a positive force for humanity, the UN General Assembly recently adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The SDGs, with 17 goals and 169 specific targets, provide a more comprehensive vision of development than their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals. The SDGs, also known as the Global Goals, embrace economic, social and environmental dimensions, as well as encourage countries to end poverty and enhance social and economic development in a sustainable manner. Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) are committed to stepping up their support to ensure the SDGs’ success; making it essential to find innovative ways to help countries meet as many targets as possible.
So who is behind this brilliant idea? Actually, it is rather something that we all take for granted in developed countries, as well as some developing countries’ expressways or highways: the rest area.
We normally associate rest areas with a quick stop for food, gas or other necessities. But what if these rest areas could add even more value to transportation, and without huge expenses? This is precisely what the South Korean government did back in 2010 when it opened the first “Regional Buses to Regional Buses Transfer Centers,” utilizing rest areas along expressways. The idea was gestated at the Korea Transport Institute (KOTI), one of the partners of the World Bank’s Transport and ICT global practice.
Since 2010, rest areas have played an effective role as “sub-hubs,” or transfer centers for regional buses, which in turn have more than doubled the number of regional routes, increasing the accessibility to smaller cities, and all this without having to go through the capital Seoul, where there is often too much traffic and congestion.
We know that bus transport is a more effective transportation mode than individual cars, particularly in terms of moving more people and reducing congestion and pollution. But in Korea, as well as other countries, there are several reasons why bus transport is less favored than cars, but one of the most important is a lack of accessibility to smaller cities. That is to say, bus transport cannot provide door-to-door service. In fact, accessibility in regional bus transport is worse than within cities mainly because regional buses tend to operate mostly non-stop services between larger cities.
Also available in: العربيةWomen’s economic equality is good for business. It is clear that women play a fundamental role in building and sustaining the world economy.
They offer a powerful source of economic growth and opportunity. Women contribute not only to the formal economy, but also through the valuable and generally unpaid tasks of caregiving and homemaking. It has been proven that better opportunities in education, health, employment, and policies lead to better well being for women, their communities and — in turn — the economic and social well-being of a country.
However, only recently has the relationship of gender and infrastructure — more specifically, transport — and the role it plays in a country’s social and economic well-being been addressed.
Transport networks are one of the most important elements of a country’s infrastructure, and they are key to reducing poverty and promoting equality. A country’s transport infrastructure generally centers on enabling the supply of goods, connecting and providing access to people, services and trade, with the objective of bringing economic prosperity to a nation. However, it has been only in the past five to ten years that infrastructure projects have started to include gender awareness as part of their investment decisions.
As women become even more central to a country’s economy, addressing their transportation needs takes on an essential role in promoting economic growth and prosperity.
Vietnam’s economic emergence is perhaps best experienced along its rural roads: more than 175,000 kilometers of pavement, rubble and dirt track extend to two-thirds of the country’s population, including nearly all of the poorest people, who live among its productive farms, lush forests and meandering river valleys.
In recent years, road investments in Vietnam’s rural areas have improved socioeconomic development and promoted gender equity, social participation, improved school attendance, and more inclusive health services to impoverished regions. However, all but a few hundred communes remain off-grid, and infrastructural roadblocks and bureaucratic potholes have delayed the goal of a fully integrated road system.
The World Bank’s Third Rural Transport Project (RTP3) supported a win-win solution: employing ethnic minority women to sustainably manage road maintenance through an innovative participatory approach to local development. This blog entry describes the experience of improving the roads — and women’s lives — in rural Vietnam. Here are some of the lessons we’ve learned along the way:
Lesson 1: Solutions can come from unexpected sources.
The RTP3 task team’s investigation showed that up to a third of the population in Vietnam’s Northern Uplands provinces would be expected to contribute up to 10 percent of their total annual household expenditure to ensure safe passage along local roads — too much for most to afford. Furthermore, even when adequate resources are made available for maintenance, contractors have sometimes been unwilling to work in inaccessible regions for fear of mudslides during the rainy season.