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Nigeria

​Lagos’ Bus Rapid Transit System: Decongesting and Depolluting Mega-Cities

Nicolas Peltier-Thiberge's picture
Photo:  Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA)

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. 

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.