Live from Transforming Transportation: Making sustainable urban mobility a policy reality
On the second day of Transforming Transportation, panelists discussed the challenges and opportunities for implementing sustainable mobility plans. Photo by marcusrg/Flickr.

On the second day of Transforming Transportation, panelists discussed the challenges and opportunities for implementing sustainable mobility plans. Photo by marcusrg/Flickr.

Transforming Transportation (#TTDC15) is the annual conference co-organized by EMBARQ, the sustainable urban transport arm of the World Resources Institute’s (WRIWRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, and the World Bank. This year’s conference focuses on Smart Cities for Shared Prosperity, and takes place on January 15 and 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. Join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #TTDC15, by following @EMBARQNetwork and @WBG_Transport on Twitter, and tune in to for video streaming of select sessions.

“Radical change is needed for us to address the challenges of urbanization.” This call to action came from Sherielysse R. Bonifacio, assistant secretary for the Philippines Department of Transportation and Communications, during the second day of the Transforming Transportation conference in Washington, DC. Bonifacio outlined how Manila’s car-oriented policies have had disastrous impacts on quality of life in the city. According to her, there are 6.1 million trips by private vehicles in Metro Manila every day. Manila is not alone in its history of car-oriented development. To ensure that cities are livable, sustainable, and equitable, speakers at Transforming Transportation have advocated for a new growth model that prioritizes non-motorized and public transport.

So how do cities get there?

A panel of experts at Transforming Transportation discussed the process for creating sustainable urban mobility policies in Brazil, India, the Philippines, Mexico City, and Copenhagen. Recent mobility law’s in Mexico City and Brazil show how prioritizing sustainable transport can transform cities. However, the panel described how identifying the right policy intervention can be the easiest part of the process. Beyond this, successful sustainable mobility policy changes involve a holistic, integrated approach to mobility, institutional strength with clearly deviated responsibilities, and public engagement to generate widespread support.

An integrated approach to mobility services

According to Rosário Macario, professor at Lisbon Technical University, “The focus of a mobility law should not be mobility but accessibility.” Accessibility is not only a consequence of transport infrastructure, it is also the result of land-use planning. Wagner Colombini, consultant at Logit, described that Brazil’s 2012 mobility law encourages cities to integrate land-use and mobility planning to improve accessibility.

For cities to be accessible, their transport systems must also be connected with each other. Gisela Méndez, capacity building and networks manager for EMBARQ Mexico, described that Mexico City has implemented a number of transport improvements in recent years, from bus rapid transit (BRT), to bike-sharing, to metro rail, and more. Still, she argues that these systems need to be better integrated – a priority of Mexico City’s new mobility law.

Photo by Zhou Jia.

Photo by Zhou Jia/WRI.

Implementing mobility policies require strong institutions

Sherielysse Bonifacio and Nupur Gupta, senior transport specialist of the South Asia Energy and Infrastructure Unit at the World Bank, described how weak institutional structures have constrained progress on mobility policies. In Manila, Bonifacio argued that private bus operators have too much control over the city’s transport department, which is not proactive enough in developing a rational mass transport system. “We currently have 300 bus operators [running] on one corridor. You can’t integrate and manage this system.”

In India, Gupta argued that the biggest challenge to sustainable mobility policies are the fragmentation of institutional power. India’s constitution gives states control over urban development. “The elephant in the room is the institutional side… We have a situation where there is huge fragmentation of responsibilities…[and] there is no entity at the local level responsible for urban transport.” This results in constant delays to transport projects, and a lack of integration between city infrastructure.

Involving the public for people-oriented mobility policies

Creating effective mobility policies requires a deep understanding of citizens’ needs. In Copenhagen, Niels Tørsløv, deputy director “City in Use” at City of Copenhagen, explained how the city is using technology to monitor cycling use after sporting events in order to better plan biking infrastructure.

Generating the political will to advance sustainable mobility often requires strong public support. Macario described how Brazil’s mobility law – which prioritizes pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport – was shaped by bringing together diverse stakeholders. It then underwent five years of in-depth discussion among the public. During this period, she described that “the discussion of mobility in Brazil changed completely. People started thinking about mobility differently. That was the cornerstone of the policy.” By “embedding society in the change process,” public support helped push the policy through and is helping create more sustainable cities across Brazil.

Stay tuned for continued coverage of Transforming Transportation later today on TheCityFix! In the meantime, join the conversation online using hashtag #TTDC15 and by following @EMBARQNetwork and @WBG_Transport on Twitter.

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