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Transforming Transportation

Five Opportunities for 21st-Century Transport

Jose Luis Irigoyen's picture
The world is in the midst of unprecedented urbanization, with cities expected to hold 5.2 billion residents by 2050. One of the major challenges of the 21st century, therefore, is achieving a sustainable future for our cities. And transport – which connects people to economic opportunities, education, health services, and more – can make or break “The Future We Want.”

Decisions made at international summits this year and next will establish the framework for global action for decades to come. The transport sector’s future impact on mobility, congestion, economic opportunity, human health, and climate change will be determined by the choices we make today. To ensure transport contributes to poverty reduction and shared prosperity, a shift is needed in the way urban mobility systems are planned and designed. Building a sustainable transport future will require an integrated approach with the cooperation of multiple stakeholders: transport and city leaders, as well as the development and business communities.

In this spirit, the team of co-organizers and partner organizations behind Transforming Transportation – a two-day conference beginning today that convenes business leaders, policymakers, and city and transport officials – has identified five opportunities to move human society toward transport of the 21st century. These areas for action include: road safety, mid-sized cities, regional and local governments, finance, and data and technology.

Transforming Transportation for More Inclusive, Prosperous Cities

Jose Luis Irigoyen's picture
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 UNFCCC/FlickrLeaders in the transport, development, and for the first time, business sectors will convene for Transforming Transportation this week in Washington, DC.

Cities are the world’s engines of economic growth. Yet many have a long way to go when it comes to ensuring safe and affordable access to jobs, education, and healthcare for its citizens—in part because their transport systems are inadequate and unsustainable. This weakness is visible in packed slums and painful commutes in cities that fail to provide affordable transport options.

Inadequate transport comes with other costs related to air quality and safety. Beijing, China, battles dangerous levels of air pollution due in large part to motor vehicle emissions. Major Indian metropolises like Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai are growing out instead of up, contributing to increased travel distances and an estimated 550 deaths every day from traffic accidents. And across the globe, cities are the locus of up to 70 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions driving climate change.

Poor transport systems not only hinder the public health and economic growth of cities, they can spur civil unrest. More than 100,000 protestors, for example, gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on one night in June 2013 to express a wide range of grievances, including transportation fare hikes, poor public services despite a high tax burden, and other urban issues.

But in these challenges lie significant opportunities – particularly for the business and transport sectors at the city level.