It is not often that I get to connect Youtube videos, tabloid headlines, and a study tour to the Republic of Korea to a project I am working on, especially when it involves improving connectivity for the poorest minorities in the furthest parts of Vietnam, such as the Mekong delta.
Vietnam’s temporary monkey bridges are not your ‘normal’ problem. Made of locally available materials such as bamboo, rope, and wood, have long been the mainstay for rural communities – often ethnic minorities – living in the remote sections of the Mekong Delta. Though sometimes tourists romanticize them – as this Youtube video shows – even in the best of times they add considerably to the hardships of life in the delta. Moreover, they do not offer even this minimal level of service year round. As this article and video illustrates – when the river is in spate – more dramatic solutions are often necessary. You’ll see this family crossing the river where the father puts the kids in a plastic bag and carries them across the river so they can go to school.
Transport history was in the making a few days ago when a Bangladeshi ship carried a consignment of
1,000 tons of steel and iron sheets from the Port of Kolkata in West Bengal to India’s northeastern states, through Bangladesh. This first-ever transshipment of transit goods marked the formal launch of transit trade and transport between India and Bangladesh using a combination of river and land routes.
Senior government officials and top diplomats from both countries, including the Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka, the Bangladesh Minister and Secretary of Shipping, the Senior Secretary of Commerce, and officials of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority, attended an inaugural ceremony to observe the unloading of goods at Ashuganj Port on the bank of the Meghna River, according to media reports. The general cargo terminal at Ashuganj Port will be rehabilitated and modernized under the newly approved regional IDA project to support Bangladesh’s waterways to handle the loading and unloading of large volumes of cargo.
When we evaluate the benefits of public transport projects, we often focus on travel time (in terms of distance covered), vehicle cost savings, accident reductions and environmental impacts (air emissions and greenhouse gas reductions), which are all important dimensions of a project, but not the only ones. The reliability of transport services and information delivery regarding routes, frequencies and arrival time at each station, is not frequently included in the benefits of transport projects because it is difficult to gauge the significance and value of even a 5-10 minute difference in waiting time.
In light of this challenge, we began to explore the following question: what are the real implications of waiting time, frequency and reliability of transport systems in terms of improving access to urban opportunities such as education and health services?
In a series of blogs, we introduced a new tool that helps us quantify urban accessibility to such services. This tool allows us to calculate how many opportunities -be it jobs, schools, hospitals- become more accessible using public transport. The tool is also useful for comparing various transportation scenarios, modes of transport, service and infrastructure plans, as well as for better understanding land use and spatial patterns.
Mobility is at the heart of everything we do – education, jobs, health, trade, social and cultural engagements. But mobility is facing critical challenges that need to be confronted urgently if we are to tackle climate change: over one billion more people on our planet by 2030, with greater needs for mobility; the expected doubling of the number of vehicles on the road by 2050; greenhouse gas emissions that represent almost a quarter of total energy-related emissions, and rising under a business as usual scenario; and the additional challenge of connecting one billion people who still lack access to all-weather roads and efficient transport services.
It is clear that countries’ mobility choices today will either lock us into unsustainable scenarios or will open the way for new possibilities.
On April 22 2016, 175 government leaders signed the historic Paris climate agreement, calling for ambitious and urgent action to implement global climate change commitments. On May 5-6 in Washington DC, representatives from government, private sector, civil society, academia and multilateral development banks will gather for the Climate Action 2016 Summit. With more than 70% of countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) mentioning transport, the sector is one of the focus area of this summit.
A framework for Sustainable Mobility
As coordinator of the summit’s transport track, the World Bank is organizing on May 4th a pre-Summit Transport day in collaboration with the World Resource Institute, the Paris Process on Mobility and Climate (PPMC) and the Michelin Bibendum Challenge. The pre-Summit event will focus on the bold actions that are needed not only to decarbonize transport, but also to make it accessible to all, to improve its efficiency, and to ensure its safety.
“As a young woman, I feel powerless and exposed when a man harasses me in the bus. One feels more vulnerable because people don’t react to the situation. No one helps… NADIE ME HACE EL PARO.”
The above-mentioned quote comes from a sixteen-year-old girl who participated in one of the focus groups organized by the World Bank for a pilot project to prevent violence against women and girls (VAWG) in Mexico City’s public transport. What she and other women described about their experience was clear: when we are harassed no one does anything. The name of this pilot project reflects that: “Hazme el Paro” which is a colloquial expression in Mexico to say “have my back.”
The focus group discussion, part of an exercise to design a communication campaign, allowed us to discover that bystanders refrain from intervening not because of lack of will, but because they do not know what to do without putting themselves at risk. That’s when the project team saw a unique opportunity to try to give public transport users tools to enable them to become active interveners without violent confrontation.
Rail and waterways are the most environmentally friendly modes of transport. They also provide the backbone for accelerated economic growth since they are able to carry huge amounts of freight over longer distances and in an economically efficient manner.
The main handicap for rail and waterways, however, is that these modes of transport must be linked to roads to provide final connectivity to ports, industries or ultimate customers. Therefore in order to leverage large infrastructure investments, it is necessary to have strategically placed transshipment hubs or multimodal stations that allow for multimodal logistics – combining rail, water and road.
Such facilities concentrate critical logistics operations, such as transfer of cargo between modes of transportation, preliminary processing and packaging, consolidation of cargo, and freight storage, all in a single location, thereby taking advantage of economies of scale. However, how are we to efficiently determine the strategic location of these exchanges?
These locations are often chosen based on availability of land or at locations that may be advantageous for a particular mode. In reality, the ideal solution requires optimization of multiple criteria. And here, big data can become a great ally in tackling this challenge.
In our latest post we explained why mobility on foot and urban logistics are closely related. There are several challenges of delivering large quantities of goods to concentrated urban areas, particularly in cities with limited infrastructure, as is the case of most cities in our client countries.
Despite the challenges, however, there are also some important opportunities to improve urban logistics and deliver goods more effectively. First, the level of consumption in these cities is still low when compared to higher-income cities, although inequalities may result in large variations within the cities’ landscape. Second, some of the solutions, such as bicycle or on foot deliveries and pick-up points (the latter a common solution for slum areas), seem to be efficient alternatives for dense neighborhoods, and because of their lower costs are also attractive for lower-income cities. These solutions can be bundled with investments for non-motorized transport, such as improvements on sidewalks and bikeways facilities.
In Sao Paulo, Brazil, for example, recent investments in 400km of bikeways have boosted the growth of deliveries on bikes. (Read more about the study) The numbers are still small, with some 500 bike couriers compared to 200,000 motorcycle couriers. But bike deliveries are cheaper for trips under 10km, generate around 10 times less CO2 than motorized trips, even taking into account the additional dietary intake of a cyclist compared with that of a motorized user, and promote health benefits.
The Bank is currently working on initiatives to support urban logistics in middle and low-income countries, and because of the general data scarcity, has been working to lay down the basics first. At least two projects stand out: one in Casablanca, Morocco, and the other in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Casablanca is a city with traditional retail channels, where 80% are small or nano-stores. This project is a comprehensive initiative that developed a methodology and support tool to measure the effects of policies with limited data, and was undertaken by a group of World Bank colleagues in the Trade and Competitiveness group, the University of Eindhoven, and the Agence Marocaine de Développement de la Logistique (AMDL).
Walking is the cheapest, most non-polluting, and possibly healthiest mode of transport. And dense cities seem to be a pre-existing condition for enabling us to meet our daily walking needs, along with diversified land uses, typically called “mixed-use development”. Densification and “mixed-use development” are currently seen as a strategy for designing sustainable cities, and many high-quality mobility plans, which consider the interactions between land use and transport, also pursue this type of urban development.
But densification and “mixed-use development” present (at least) two challenges. The first is how to provide quality pedestrian infrastructure that encourages non-motorized mode choices. The second is how to efficiently deliver the large quantities of goods required in these dense cities. These were the themes of successful seminars recently held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, thanks to a World Bank’s Global Environmental Facility grant.
The “mobility by foot” seminar was a four-day learning event on pedestrian mobility organized by Brazil’s Associação Nacional de Transportes Públicos. In Brazil, as in most cities in Latin America, around 35% of people’s daily trips are on foot, and there is evidence that this number is underestimated given the limitations of current data collection methods. Given the priority in reducing the impact of our carbon “footprint” (or “carprint”), governments need more evidence and incentives to move the sustainability agenda forward.
Public transport is an important mode of transport, especially for low-income populations. Cities, however, struggle to provide public transport services for fares that are both affordable and financially sustainable. Since meeting both goals is quite difficult, transport systems either end up relying on high levels of subsidies or charging transit fares that are too expensive for the city’s poor.
To tackle this challenge, the World Bank in 2013 supported the city authorities of Bogotá, Colombia, in designing a pro-poor transport subsidy scheme that would help low-income populations have access to more affordable public transport. In Bogotá fares for its new public transit system are set higher -closer to cost-recovery levels-, than in other cities that provide greater public subsidies to their operators. Despite having more sustainable fares, Bogotá risks excluding people from its transport services—in fact, households in the poorest areas of the city spend a greater percentage of their income on transport, between 16% to 27%, compared to a maximum of 4% in areas that are relatively richer.
How to regulate and manage the emerging services of shared and on-demand mobility? This was a topic of much debate during the most recent Transforming Transportation event, a major global conference of transport professionals organized by the World Bank and the World Resources Institute in Washington DC in January 2016.
One recent development from Sao Paulo stands out as a worthwhile effort to balance the objectives of promoting innovation by Transportation Network Companies (TNCs, such as Uber, Lyft, EasyTaxi, 99Taxi, and others) and ridesharing services (such as BlablaCar, Caronetas, Tripda and others) with the interests of the city and its residents.
The Municipal Government of Sao Paulo has published for public comments until January 27, 2016 a draft decree to charge TNCs an upfront fee based on an estimate of vehicle-kilometers, also referred to as “credits”, to be used by its fleet of passenger cars in a two month period, plus a surcharge if credits are exceeded. The idea is that any registered TNC could bid in an online public auction to purchase credits periodically and with certain limitations to ensure competition. This approach would create a market for these credits and be aligned with the principle commonly known in the vehicle insurance industry as “pay-as-you-drive”, and would allow the city to receive a fee from TNCs for the commercial use of its public road infrastructure, which can then be used to better manage and maintain it. The decree would exempt free ridesharing services which the city believes would help reduce the total number of vehicle-kilometers on its congested road network.