Institute for Transportation and Development Policy | Transport Matters Blog
The Institute for Transportation & Development Policy, works with cities worldwide to bring about sustainable transport solutions that improve urban life. ITDP promotes transport solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, while improving urban livability and economic opportunity. Their projects inspire cities towards more environmentally and people-friendly transportation.
What does the average American pay to get around every day? What portion of their income is devoted to transportation and is that cost typical across developed countries? The answer is no. The portion of household expenditure spent on transportation in United States is often a larger portion than that spent by many throughout the world. This difference is even more stark among low income earners, despite US government subsidies in transportation.
How much do Americans actually pay for transportation?
On average, Americans own 2.28 cars, meaning that many households in the United States have three or more vehicles. In fact, 35% of American households own three or more cars. Personal vehicles accounted for the largest amount of transportation expenditures in 2017 – a total of $1.1 trillion, almost 90% of total transportation expenditures. In 2017, transportation costs made up the fourth largest expenditure among American households which spent an average of $9,737 each on transportation costs. The bulk of this cost is vehicle purchasing ($4,001) followed by other vehicle expenditures ($3,603) which can include insurance and repairs. Perhaps not surprisingly, fuel and motor oil made up the smallest expenditure in the personal vehicle category at $1,968 annually. These numbers indicate that in the United States, vehicle ownership is an expensive endeavor. Americans spent significantly less on any other travel than on vehicle ownership and maintenance. Under 5% of all transportation spending was spent on local, ground, or public transportation. It is worth noting that vehicles are depreciating assets, so their value is almost never regained upon resale.
Who pays what?
Proportion of expenditure on transportation is inversely correlated with income in the United States.
While the average American spends roughly 13% of household expenditure on transportation, this cost is not similar across incomes. Lower income households generally pay a larger portion of their expenditure on transportation and as people move up in income brackets, they pay a smaller portion on transportation. The lowest income is burdened with a largest portion of expenditure.
In 2016, in the US, the lowest earning 20% of the population earned an average of $11,933, and spent an average of $3497 (29%) on transportation costs. The poorest get hit the hardest by the (lack of) transport system. For those making roughly $30,000 a year, their transportation expenditure was about 22%, then 17% for the next quintile. As Americans move from lower to higher income, the portion of their expenditure going towards transportation decreases. This makes sense. Personal vehicles are not cheap, and are not subsidized. Because American cities fail to provide people with alternative transportation options, people are forced to travel by personal vehicles. This leaves people with low incomes left with few options. While criticisms of lack of public transportation focus on the toll to the environment, they should also consider the issue of equity. Lack of public transportation is a financial burden – by not having good options, people are forced to make burdensome financial decisions and are left in a cycle of poverty that becomes harder to escape. ITDP’s Joe Chestnut, who wrote the report, Indicators for Sustainable Mobility concluded,
“In the US, there is a narrative that if people work hard, then they can get out of poverty, but we’ve built cities that make this narrative impossible. For households making less than $20,000 per year, reliable cars are a pipe dream: a huge expense that they can’t afford. Without adequate transit, they will remain stuck in place.”
Additionally, due to the lack of density in various metro areas, the distance between affordable housing and jobs has increased, making people more reliant on their personal vehicles to go longer distances. Even if housing in certain areas might be affordable, the cost of transportation may negate the savings made through housing. As places are built without transit-oriented planning and as housing costs rise, traveling long distances and living in car reliant areas becomes more and more common. An unfortunate trend both for Americans, and the environment.
Long distance travel is made easy and comfortable in Europe with well equipped trains running on regular and frequent schedules. (Pictured: Thalys Train)
Does it have to be this way?
No. Compared to the United States, people in European countries spend a smaller portion of the income on transportation. This difference is most pronounced at lower income brackets, but remains consistent across incomes. For the lowest quintile in European countries the spending on transportation is less. For example, among the poorest 20% of people in the European Union, they paid roughly 7.5% of their expenditure on transportation.
What is interesting in this comparison is that throughout Europe, policies exist making driving an expensive endeavor. Petrol is taxed, parking is expensive, and toll roads are abundant. However, these costs do not contribute to an overall annual cost of transportation to the individual. In fact, in Europe, people still pay less for transportation than Americans.
When looking at the pricing structure for European transportation, the fees and taxes associated with driving all provide an important source of regular income to the governing bodies. This allows for more money to go towards sustainable transportation. While political will remains a huge reason for the functional public transportation systems, so too does funding. With funding available broadly, not only are people deterred from taking private vehicles – they often can save both time and money by taking public transportation.
This graph shows how the portion of expenditure on transportation is directly correlated to income.
Subsidizing a common good on the backs of individuals is antithetical to most Americans, but this argument is framed incorrectly. When many Americans think of public transportation they think of something that they will never use, they see it as a service that they would be paying into without any personal benefit. On the other hand, in Europe the evidence is clear – when costs associated with driving are levied and applied to public transportation infrastructure, it becomes better and more efficient. With common sense pricing policies, the revenue brought in creates necessary funding that can improve, expand, and increase public transportation.
How to fix it?
Should Americans move to live closer to work? In a perfect world, yes but unfortunately, that option is not very easy. How space is designed in the United States is a major contributor to this problem. Single zoning laws force residential neighborhoods to be separated from commercial districts. Roads and suburbs are designed to be car dependent limiting options for public transit. Over 75% of commuting car trips in the United States are made by one person in one vehicle – a reality that is inefficient in both time and space. Additionally, most car trips in the United States are relatively short, between 1 – 8 kilometers, a distance that could arguably be made through other means if the option existed. By focusing on Transit Oriented Development, cities can create spaces that support use of public transportation.
As seen in the Indicators for Sustainable Mobility, very few Americans take public transit, walk, or cycle to work and that’s not for lack of interest – it’s for lack of options. The design of American cities and regions forces millions of Americans to pay for something that perhaps they wouldn’t choose to if they actually had an option. This lack of option is why Americans are shelling out more and more money for a depreciating asset.
Public Transportation is not a lost cause in the United States. Looking towards other countries, Americans can learn how to create and support spaces that are less car reliant. Not only will this create better cities for the environment and the consumer, but this will greatly reduce the financial burden inflicted on America’s poorest. By helping those with the fewest resources, America can create public transit that benefits all.
Fortaleza, Brazil transformed its urban mobility during a time of economic recession through the implementation of low cost and high impact projects. The transition from a car- to people-centric paradigm is based on three key factors: strong political support, highly qualified technical staff and data-based policies towards the promotion of public transport, cycling, and walking. This webinar will present a broader context of Fortaleza and sustainable transport projects that resulted in a safer and people-friendly city, and conclude with lessons learned and transferable policies.
Fortaleza is the winner of the 2019 Sustainable Transport Award and will host MOBILIZE this June. MOBILIZE will showcase best practices and lessons in sustainable mobility to an international group of city practitioners and researchers, engaging Fortaleza as a learning laboratory.
Luiz Alberto Saboia | Executive Secretary of the Office of Public Services, Fortaleza, Brazil
Luiz Alberto Aragão Saboia is the current Executive Secretary of the Office of Public Services of Fortaleza, Brazil. Since 2013, he has been working to develop and implement projects related to Sustainable Urban Mobility and Road Safety Public Policies. He is the President of Fortaleza Road Safety Committee and Fortaleza’s Representative of the Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety and the Safer City Streets. He has a Master’s in Public Policies Planning and Evaluation and a Bachelor’s in Business Administration. Furthermore, he teaches at the University of Fortaleza (Center of Science, Management and Communication) and coordinates the Road Safety Observatory.
General Admission is now open for MOBILIZE 2019! The theme this year is Reclaiming Streets for Access and Mobility, and the summit will be held 24-26 June 2019 at the Grand Mareiro Hotel in Fortaleza, Brazil. You can register for MOBILIZE by clicking the button below.
Fortaleza, a tropical city with over 2.5 million inhabitants, is the capital of the state of Ceará in Northeastern Brazil. An ancient city, dating back to Spanish and later Dutch and Portuguese colonists, Fortaleza is the fifth most populous city in Brazil. in 2019 Fortaleza won the Sustainable Transport Award for its implementation of good practices on their streets since 2014, including complete streets, or equitable division of road space; reducing CO2, and increasing road safety by prioritizing public transport, cycling, and walking. In 2018, Fortaleza reached a goal of 108 km of dedicated bus lanes, which include refurbished bus terminals and a fare-integrated transport system. In addition, they have delivered a whopping 225 km of cycling infrastructure, and integrated bike share systems with public transport. Road safety elements implemented include a reduced speed limit, narrowing roads for cars, raised pedestrian crossings, and redesigns of intersections. As a result, deaths from traffic collisions were reduced from 14.66 (per 100,000) in 2014, to 9.71 in 2017.
We are proud to announce the appointments of former Santiago mayor Carolina Tohà and transport and social justice champion Rehana Moosajee to the ITDP board of directors, as well as the election of longtime sustainable transport advocate Paul Steely White as chair.
Carolina Tohà served as Mayor of Santiago, Chile from 2012-2016, and is currently the head of the civil society organization Fundación Instituto Ciudad. During her term as mayor, she succeeded in implementing Santiago’s Sustainable Comprehensive Mobility Policy, prioritizing public transport, improving pedestrian spaces, and creating high quality cycling infrastructure, making the historic downtown area vibrant and people-friendly. Tohá is active in the international development community, having acted as Co-Chair of the High Level Advisor Group on Sustainable Transport, convened by the ex-United Nations General Secretary, Ban Ki-moon. “The way we manage our streets says everything about what we value in society,’’ says Tohà, “I share ITDP’s commitment to sustainable transportation, and I’m delighted to join the board of directors to help further it.”
Rehana Moosajee is former Councilor for the City of Johannesburg, South Africa and the founder of The Barefoot Facilitator. She has long been a strong advocate for social justice in transport. Under her stewardship, the city of Johannesburg implemented Africa’s first bus rapid transit system, Rea Vaya. “I’m honored to join the board of this organization I’ve been working with for many years, that has been such a catalyzing force for equity and access,” said Moosajee, “I look forward to working with ITDP to make transport systems, and cities, more accessible and equitable.”
Paul Steely White, who recently became director of safety and advocacy at Bird, has been both an ITDP board member and director of Transportation Alternatives for 15 years. “Paul has a long history with, and deep understanding of ITDP, and has been at the vanguard of so many of the positive changes on New York City’s streets, from Citi Bike to car-free Central and Prospect Parks to Vision Zero,” says ITDP Board member Ellen Lou, Director of Urban Design and Planning at Skidmore, Owings & Merrell, “the board welcomes his leadership and I look forward to working with him to replicate successes in cities worldwide.”
“All three of these leaders have been at the forefront of sustainable transport transformations in their cities,” says Philipp Rode, ITDP board member and executive director of LSE Cities. “Carolina and Rehana bring incredible expertise that will help us shape ITDP’s work going forward. Their successes in getting transport projects implemented will go a long way toward furthering ITDP’s mission to replicate best practices in sustainable transport around the world.”
New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago are what many people think of as American cities, yet, most they do not represent the typical American city. Minneapolis is more similar to the average American city in terms of size, scale, and organization. A population of 400,000 in the city proper, and three million in the greater region of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis has become an American best practice in everything from bus improvement to cycling to zoning policy. During the Industrial Revolution of the late 1800s and many of its residents retreated to the suburbs in the post-World War II era. Minneapolis is also in the Midwest, a region in the middle of the country considered a foil to the coastal cities that tend to dominate culture and media.
Difference from the rest of the Midwest
Minneapolis’ capitalizes upon its flat topography by having nice outdoor dining areas and wide sidewalks for passersby
Minneapolis, Minnesota; a place known for Paul Bunyan, Prince, “Minnesota Nice”, and innovative culinary creations using tater tots can add another moniker to the list: home to great public transit. While Minneapolis resembles many Midwestern cities in its demographic population, municipal budget, tax base, density, opportunities, and drawbacks – it has distinguished itself from many of its peers in one major area. In the 21st century when so many cities in America are completely reliant on personal vehicles for transportation, Minneapolis is uniquely not fully car dependent. Throughout the US, most populations rely heavily, if not entirely, on personal vehicles to move around. Most US cities have poor or nonexistent infrastructure making it impossible to go anywhere without a vehicle. Minneapolis can serve as a case study for cities looking to implement infrastructure changes to create a welcoming environment for the many non-vehicle dependent people.
Minneapolis is the larger of the Twin Cities, the other being Saint Paul, the capital of the state of Minnesota. Minnesota is in the upper Midwest, sandwiched between North and South Dakota, Canada, Wisconsin, and Iowa. It is known for its flat prairies and called the Land of 10,000 lakes because of the many lakes throughout the region. It has famously long and brutal winters and before French fur traders and later Scandinavian settlers moved in, it was home to many Native American tribes such as the Sioux, Dakota, and Ojibwe people. Minneapolis is culturally significant in the region for having a robust arts and LGBTQIA communities and is considered a “blue dot” or politically progressive state in an otherwise conservative geographical region. The population of the greater Twin Cities area, over 3 million people, is over 60% of the state population.
A Home for Public
In ITDP’s Indicators for Sustainable Mobility, Minneapolis stood out in having a large portion, 24%, of its commuters use public transit or walk or cycle daily. It stood out for having frequent transit close to both its population and places of work. For instance, 73% of the population, 89% of all jobs, and 84% of low income households are within a 500 meter walk or a 10-minute bike ride to frequent transit. Minneapolis ranked before New York City and Washington DC in access to jobs within 30 minute using sustainable transit. These revelations probably seem obvious to the almost 400,000 people who live in Minneapolis and luckily, some ITDP staff had the opportunity to travel to Minneapolis for a communications conference. While there, we were able to use the celebrated transit. To our delight, Minneapolis proved itself impressive in scale and accessibility.
Bus stops are at ground level, allowing unencumbered access for all
One of the most striking parts of Minneapolis is how accessible it is. Each train station in the Light Rail is fully wheelchair accessible with at-street boarding for all cars. Each train car is fitted with spacious areas dedicated for wheelchairs with disabled and elderly seating clearly demarcated and accessible. The bus system in the city is wheelchair accessible and there is a program called Metro Mobility which provides scheduled rides to people with disabilities. Furthermore, in the city of Minneapolis, the sidewalks are fitted with ramped curbs allowing for wheelchair access and each crosswalk includes a wheelchair level button for crossing that also makes a loud noise when crossing, to accommodate the visually impaired. Throughout the city accommodations for people with differing levels of vision and walking are ever present. Despite inclement weather particularly during the winter, potholes are hard to spot along the wide sidewalks and flat streets.
The frequency of the Green Line trains makes them a popular option for commuters within and throughout the region
We found buying Light Rail tickets (that transferred to the bus) very easy
Minneapolis’ light rail was opened in 2004 as the Hiawatha Line, now called the Blue Line and extends over 19 kilometers from Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins baseball team, to the Mall of America, passing through Minneapolis’ International Airport. This line runs every ten minutes between 6am and 9pm during the week, and during off-peak hours it runs every half hour. The train does not run from 12:30 to 3am. A second line, called the Green Line, opened in 2014, is 18 kilometers long, and operates 24 hours a day. The Green Line connects Target Field in Minneapolis with St. Paul, the state’s capital and runs through the University of Minnesota. A trip from one city to the other takes 40 minutes.
The city is planning an expansion of the Green Line into neighboring suburbs of St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka, and Eden Prairie. The planned extension, which includes 16 new stops, has already prompted real estate development projects building homes closer to planned rapid transit.
In February 2019, it was reported that both light rail lines had their highest ever ridership in 2018, with over 80 million rides taken by a diverse group of riders. One aspect of the Light Rail that we noticed was how quiet and clean it was, compared to many major cities’ trains and rail lines, the Light Rail stood out in its modern features.
Bicycle riders as a popular sight in the Twin Cites, many people reporting that they still bike during the winter
Throughout Minneapolis bicycle paths can be seen but many are not protected. Minneapolis boasts a total of over 200 miles of bike trails, over half of which are on-street bikeways and less than half are off-street bikeways. The off-street paths are often built adjacently or close to parks and lakes, making them very scenic. Some are repurposed land. The Greenway, an almost 9 meter long bike and walking path, was inaugurated in 2000 along a former railroad corridor in the south of the city. This pathway is plowed to be accessible during the winter, is open 24 hours a day, and it lit for safe passage at night. Minneapolis is a city built around many lakes, almost all of which are connected by the Chain of Lakes, a path encircling five of the largest lakes in a 24-km route. There are East and West River Parkways, stretching along the Mississippi River (which begins in Minnesota), and along other parks within the Twin Cities. The topography of the region, mainly flat, helps in creating easy paths but the city’s dedication to maintaining these paths is impressive and explains why there is such a high cycling usage. Minneapolis also has a NiceRide, a bike sharing program with over 3,000 bikes available, and a new mobile application that just allowed for dockless bike sharing.
The Greenway extends along much of the city and is maintained year round
Bicycle racks make a trip in the neighborhood possible for bike riders
We enjoyed walking along the Greenway during our trip
The 1973 oil crisis caused gasoline prices to skyrocket and
supplies to dwindle. Gasoline rationing led to long lines at gas stations and
paralyzed car movement. Two countries—the United States and the
Netherlands—responded to the crisis in nearly opposite ways. The Netherlands
began a long-term policy shift away from the a car-based society. The US,
however, doubled down on car culture.
Multiple lane highway shows the space allocated to cars in the American south
Across the Netherlands, cities built bicycle lanes, people friendly
shopping streets, and spent large amounts of money on high-quality public
transport. US cities built new highways and expanded low-density suburbs,
car-centric shopping centers, and office parks. American public transit,
cycling, and walking infrastructure deteriorated. The share of people using
sustainable transport in the U.S. fell from 23% in 1970 to just 15% in 2016
(U.S. Census data). Today, nearly 87% of all trips take place in a private car,
and American cities are five of the top ten most congested cities in the world,
while Amsterdam does not even break the top 100.
A tram in Amsterdam shows how the city builds around public transit
Prioritized bicycle lanes and public transit make sure that
everyone, including the poor, small children, and the disabled, have access to
safe, efficient, and affordable transportation. A well-used bus is at least 14
times more space efficient than a single-occupancy car traveling the same
distance and light rail, bus rapid transit, and metro are even more efficient.
Road designs focused almost exclusively on increasing and maintaining high car
speeds, have the opposite effect. The proliferation of wide multi-lane roads
and cul-de-sac street networks has the effect of cutting off neighborhoods.
Today, in many places, few viable alternatives to driving exist. Today,
unsurprisingly, most Americans drive nearly everywhere. In the United States,
the average household has 2.3 cars and spends nearly a third of its income on
transportation. The lack of viable alternatives places a heavy burden on the
poorest members of society, who struggle to afford basic transportation. Fines
for driving without a license—because no other viable transportation options
exist—trap many people in a cycle of poverty. While the cost of car ownership
in the Netherlands is similar, people rely on high-quality transit, cycling,
and walking for half of all trips. This helps poor families access jobs and
save money, helping to improve their quality of life. Good public transit leads
to a safer, healthier society.
In the U.S., there is a 90% lower crash risk for public transit than car travel. According to the World Health Organization, U.S. residents are three times more likely to die on the streets than people in the Netherlands. And despite a more sedentary population, U.S. residents are five times more likely to be killed while walking. In addition, most public transit trips begin and end with walking or cycling, making exercise an integral part of daily life. This helps to reduce rates of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. In the Netherlands, only 18.8% of adults (over 20 years old) are obese compared to 32% of Americans. The economic benefits of a city built around public transport are manifold.
Dangerous and inhospitable bus stops make taking public transit an unsafe and unpleasant experience
Good public transit leads to a safer, healthier society. In the U.S., there is a 90% lower crash risk for public transit than car travel. According to the World Health Organization, U.S. residents are three times more likely to die on the streets than people in the Netherlands. And despite a more sedentary population, U.S. residents are five times more likely to be killed while walking. In addition, most public transit trips begin and end with walking or cycling, making exercise an integral part of daily life. This helps to reduce rates of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. In the Netherlands, only 18.8% of adults (over 20 years old) are obese compared to 32% of Americans.
The economic benefits of a city built around public
transport are manifold. Good transit boosts the economy and stimulates economic
development4 by bringing people together for jobs and opportunities. Public
transit uses space efficiently and supports dense development, which reduces
travel distances and space requirements. American cities have spent billions
creating vast networks of urban freeways, only to find this encourages more
people to drive and results in gridlock.
Tramways provide accessible transport for city dwellers and visitors in Amsterdam
When cities spend money on roads, they are also losing the
benefits of more productive land use, like public spaces and housing. Car
infrastructure is also expensive, particularly the elevated highways and
tunnels needed to move cars around urban areas. In Milwaukee, renovating an
existing freeway would have cost $80 million, but it only cost $30 million to
remove it and replace it with surface streets. In addition despite the
country’s enormous wealth, infrastructure in the U.S. is collapsing. The
Netherlands, although slightly less wealthy, is managing to maintain and expand
Cities built around public transit play an important role in
protecting the environment. By moving more people per vehicle in less space,
transit uses far less energy per kilometer of travel. Public transit cuts
pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and prevents premature deaths from
poor air quality. Through the more efficient use of space, transitoriented
cities prevent sprawl into natural areas and resources, protecting them for
future generations. The Netherlands, with its cities built around public
transit, generates 40% fewer GHG emissions per capita than the United States.
Urban populations in the United States and the Netherlands
are growing slowly—47% and 50% of people live in urban areas, respectively. In
many parts of the world, such as Kenya, urban populations are exploding. While
only 20% of residents there live in urban centers, it’s not at all clear what
shape cities will take when 40% or 50% live in those centers. Will those
countries choose the United States’ car-oriented model, with expensive
infrastructure that punishes the poor, degrades the environment, and fails to
effectively move people from one place to another? Or will they choose the
Netherlands’ transit-oriented model that boosts people out of poverty, protects
the environment, and reliably gets people where they need to go? The choices
that rapidly-growing cities make today will shape their future for generations.
This article is from the 30th edition of the Sustainable Transport magazine. Read the rest of the issue here.
Montería, Colombia built 60 km of cycling infrastructure
For 16 years, the Sustainable
Transport Award (STA) has showcased cities
that demonstrate political courage by implementing innovative sustainable
transport projects. This year is no different. The 15 nominated cities for the
STA hail from Africa, Asia, South America, and North America and feature
transportation interventions from electrified vehicles and widened walkways to
new transportation lines. This year, as in others, demonstrates that size, both
in city and project, is not the largest determining factor regarding impact. In
fact, it is often the small, on-the-ground, and low-cost interventions such as
sidewalk improvements, bus frequency, and or parking reform that make the
biggest difference in people’s lives. With the political will for improvements,
any city can make adjustments large and small that transform lives. This was
evident in the nominees where cities of all sizes presented an impressive
collection of innovations all with the same goal of improved sustainable
Amritsar, India increased its BRT ridership to 76,000 people/day
Strategies honored by the STA improve mobility for all
residents, reduce transportation, greenhouse and air pollution emissions, and
improve safety and access for cyclists and pedestrians. Cities apply under five
categories of interventions including Cycling & Walking, Public Transport,
Sustainable Urban Development, Travel Demand Management, and newly added for
2020, Urban Freight. This year the most popular interventions were Cycling
& Walking and Public Transport with 12 and 11 cities, respectively,
engaging in interventions in those arenas. Six cities engaged in Sustainable
Urban Development and only 3 cities engaged in Travel Demand Management. The
2019 winner, Fortaleza,
Brazil, implemented a complete streets plan that massively improved road
safety by prioritizing public transport, cycling, and walking. The winning city
will be announced at the MOBILIZE summit in
Fortaleza in June, and will host the MOBILIZE summit the following year.
While many of the Public Transportation interventions
included creating new or expanding current BRT lines like in Peshawar, Pakistan
or Richmond, USA. Some cities increased public transportation with other types
of interventions like a new funicular in Bogotá, Colombia. Many cities saw
ridership and participation in public transportation increase. Jakarta,
Indonesia has doubled its BRT and bus ridership through better integration of
systems and improved access to stations. Public transportation growth also came
from electrifying vehicles already in use like buses and rickshaws in Amritsar,
India; tricycles in Pasig City, Philippines, or motorcycles in Marrakech,
Richmond, USA opened a new BRT line in June 2018
Kingston, Canada’s communications campaign focusing on young people increased ridership among that demographic
When it came to Cycling and Walking, Cali, Colombia; Cuenca,
Ecuador; Montería, Colombia; and Pasig City, Philippines started or expanded
public bike share programs while San José, Costa Rica expanded its cycling
infrastructure. Many cities provided their pedestrians with enlarged sidewalks
or footpaths like in Pune, India; Montería, and Providencia, Chile. Improved
pedestrian environments are crucial to healthy and safe residents. Cities also focused
on inclusivity. In Kingston, Canada, youth were targeted to engage in public
transportation or in Montería, Pasig City, and Bogotá initiatives specifically
targeted supporting low-income communities.
San José, Costa Rica built 15,000 cycling pathways
Many of the Sustainable Urban Development projects included
transformations of waterways and historic districts into pedestrian friendly
and mixed real estate neighborhoods like in Amritsar, India; Pune, Providencia,
and Cali. Additionally, Kigali, Rwanda and Pasig City host regular car-free
days. Parking policies in Pune and congestion pricing in Cali serve to alter
their urban landscapes, promoting a high shift to public transport and active
“We are thrilled with the list this year because it
demonstrates how innovation can come from anywhere – it is not just the ‘usual
suspects’ of progressive, predominately Northern European cities that are
implementing policies to improve sustainable transport,” says STA committee
member Aimée Gauthier, “The STA demonstrates that with enough political will, any
city is fully capable of putting forth powerful solutions to enhance their
About the Sustainable
The Sustainable Transport Award is an annual award chosen by
the STA Committee given to any
city that has implemented innovative sustainable transportation projects in the
preceding year. The STA has been given every year since 2005 to cities
worldwide that have implemented innovative, important, and forward thinking
initiatives in transportation. Past winners have included cities of all sizes –
from large metropolises to medium-sized cities from North America, Europe,
South America, Africa, and Asia. The winning STA city hosts ITDP’s MOBILIZE summit the following year and like
every year, the 2020 winner will be announced at MOBILIZE in Fortaleza, Brazil,
the 2019 STA winner. The 2020 winner will be honored at a ceremony in
Washington, DC this upcoming January.
Learn even more about this work by joining our upcoming webinar on Tuesday, April 22nd at 9am EST. ::: RSVP :::
Sunter Jaya is one of over 2,500 kampungs, or urban villages, in Jakarta’s northern metropolitan area. Sunter Jaya is unique because it has developed in a way that features active pedestrian spaces and walkable streets; prime characteristics of Transit-Oriented Development (TOD). Building on the physical and community qualities of the kampung, ITDP recently spearheaded a pilot to improve accessibility and safety for pedestrians within the village. The pilot initiative received support from the local and provincial governments, and the methodology used will be a resource that can be replicated throughout 140 other kampungs in Jakarta.
Location of the Sunter Jaya community in proximity to BRT stop location. White line shows a proposed BRT stop. The total area of the kampung is 15.6 hectares.
What is a kampung?
Kampungs are organically established residential and mixed use inclusive communities that are often remnants of the original villages absorbed by the growing city. In most cases, they are considered legal settlements in local terms and provide housing for about 70-85% of Indonesia’s urban population. Kampungs are home to migrants and locals of various economic status and are economically self-sufficient thanks to their high mix of business and community-serving activities. The villages themselves are well-represented in local governance and comprise of the smallest administrative units. Urban villages boast high quality of life and diversity thanks to their good governance, civil participation, and transit-oriented neighborhood characteristics.
TOD 8 Principles: Walk, Cycle, Connect, Transit, Mix, Densify, Compact and Shift
The goal of transit-oriented development is to create an environment in which people have easy access to quality transportation within their cities and communities. This is achieved through a variety of mechanisms. First, an environment must encompass a density of both people and activities that can support transport ridership. Second, walking and cycling conditions must be safe and capable of accessing transit stops and parts of the neighborhood. These features enable environments to decrease dependency on cars and reclaim street space for pedestrian activities. ITDP’s TOD framework defines the characteristics in 8 Principles: Walk, Cycle, Connect, Transit, Mix, Densify, Compact and Shift; all principles are needed to create equitable and inclusive neighborhoods.
Sunter Jaya is a unique kampung exemplifying quality urban conditions. Located at the bank of the Sunter Barat Reservoir within 1000 meters of a high capacity transit station, Sunter Jaya is home to about 13,000 people. The kampung developed organically in a manner that supports local activity and transport ridership making it an ideal starting place to improve existing systems. The village features a tight web of pedestrian and cycle networks and equitable access to a variety of services and opportunities. Good pedestrian and biking conditions make walking and cycling the preferred modes of transport for local residents to access neighborhood activities, especially for school children and their caregivers, many of whom are women. Narrow pedestrian shortcuts in the neighborhood prioritize pedestrian and cycle connectivity, making detours easier because longer blocks are cut into shorter segments that do not exceed 120 meters. These narrow, shaded streets discourage car access while many businesses and services have active frontages, creating an enclosed sense of community. It is estimated that 50 to 80% of housing is used for productive activities, making the mix of people, local jobs, and activities balanced and trips shorter. The housing density, and density of jobs and visitors are comparable to central areas, but the tightly knit low to medium rise buildings are unique in offering a built environment that feels human and able to sustain high-capacity transport services.
Pedestrians and cyclists easily navigate Sunter Jaya’s inner narrow streets
Pedestrians and cyclists easily navigate Sunter Jaya’s inner narrow streets
Accessibility Improvement – Pilot Initiative
Building on local community strengths, ITDP recently performed an accessibility improvement pilot to raise awareness about community mobility and the value of the built environment characteristics that convey the essence of TOD.
Congestion on the main axes of Sunter Jaya obstruct pedestrian mobility
While Sunter Jaya boasts a host of transit-oriented qualities, accessibility became a clear challenge when this pilot began. Because other modes like motorcycles, personal cars, low-capacity informal transport vehicles, and trucks increasingly compete for road space, pedestrians safety is constantly endangered, particularly on the main axes where heightened activities attract more car and foot traffic. Additionally, heavy traffic and unmarked crosswalks around the nearest Transjakarta Bus Rapid Transit service stop compromise access to high capacity transit. As a result, rather than using rapid transit, many people in the community prefer to use nearby low capacity transit instead like the Metromini bus service and informal transport.
Findings from Pilot
ITDP’s accessibility pilot initiative shed light
on these issues by utilizing citizen participation and building on existing
TOD-supportive urban form to transform this kampung into a fully accessible and
safe community. Sunter Jaya’s pilot sought input from community groups,
elevating the voices of women and school children who typically use
non-motorized transport modes, on improvements in the village. The
implementation phase included tactical strategies for improved safety and
access for pedestrians, such as installing chicanes to slow traffic.
Furthermore, surface delineation and use of greeneries within parking
management were used to shift the
space from cars to pedestrians. Street frontages were improved to engage
children and people with art and games, complementing the neighborhood’s strong
character. Lastly, the local government
has committed to expanding the Transjakarta Bus Rapid Transit line to service
the kampung, enabling access to destinations across the city and reducing
traffic caused by personal vehicles and low-capacity transit modes.
The pilot’s success inspired the governor of
Special Capital Region of Jakarta (DKI Jakarta) to invite all Jakarta city
mayors to support the initiative and deploy it in over 140 other kampungs,
engaging local communities and various grassroot groups. This great opportunity
exemplifies how urban villages, and other areas alike can move towards sustainable
urban form and equitable access.
Learn more about ITDP’s pilot initiative by joining our upcoming webinar.
In Africa’s horn lies Ethiopia, the second most populous country in the continent (after Nigeria), with over 105 million people and the only African country to avoid colonization. In recent years the country has seen significant economic improvement and rapid population growth. Addis Ababa, the capital city with 3.2 million inhabitants is rapidly growing and like many growing cities, its urban environment has expanded to accommodate cars while having become increasingly hostile to pedestrians.
Children make up a large portion of the population and are at risk in traffic incidents
Fortunately, the grim quotidian reality of traffic fatalities and pollution brought about by the influx of personal cars is being addressed by the Addis Ababa Road and Transport Bureau (AARTB). With ITDP’s technical guidance and support, AARTB has unveiled an ambitious ten-year Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) Strategy to create a better urban environment for all city residents. In Addis Ababa, 85% of travel performed is by walking, cycling, and public transport, while only 15% is undertaken by private car. Despite the popularity of non-motorized travel, recent transport investments have mainly focused on the needs and rights of personal car users to the detriment of the rest.
With ITDP’s close partnership, the city is working to make its roads more hospitable to thousands of daily pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport travelers. Over the past year, the city rebuilt 28 km of walkways. “We know that continued investment in this new infrastructure will produce varied benefits in terms of public health, quality of life, and economic well-being,” explained Chris Kost, Africa Program Director at ITDP. With the NMT Strategy, AARTB hopes to support the continued economic growth of the city through common sense solutions that create a safer environment with fewer vehicle crashes.
Streets are used for transportation and other daily activities
Because so many people rely on NMT to get from place to place, improved walking and cycling infrastructure will support their movement and quality of life. NMT infrastructure will lead to lower pollution and will better connect people to educational, cultural, and economic opportunities. This NMT Strategy follows a multifaceted approach to street design and management, calling for traffic calming features, larger pedestrian walkways, crosswalks, and cycling paths. These improvements will be particularly significant for children who are currently unable to travel beyond their local neighborhoods due to the hostile road environment across Addis Ababa.
Many roads are paved but sidewalks and cycling infrastructure are left unattended and unpaved.
This strategy also focuses on improving many of the treacherous roads which have misaligned lanes and intersections and poor or missing signage – making urgent improvements that will increase safety. Having such a holistic and ambitious approach will lead to improvements across the board – safety, environment, travel will all be improved through these measures.
While roads are paved and maintained, many sidewalks are not afforded the same treatment
Ababa City Administration “commits to investing in sustainable transport
systems that help tackle climate change, facilitate trade, and improve access
to education, health, and jobs,” explains Dr Solomon Kidane Zegeye, Deputy
Mayor of Addis Ababa. Addis Ababa is leading African cities looking to create
greener, healthier environments, and also expand economic growth. The
comprehensive measures outlined in the NMT Strategy are important in
recognizing the reality of transport in Addis Ababa and the vital role that
transport plays in economic prosperity. To acknowledge competing realities and
respond to them with bold but pragmatic policies, Addis Ababa is demonstrating
the power of cities to shape the future of their countries.
Today, more than half of Brazilians are under the age of 20, and more than 10 percent are over 65. In Brazil as in much of the world, these groups are some of the most reliant on public transportation, but the least likely to have a voice in the planning process. Brazilian cities have a long history of innovation in transport, including the invention of bus rapid transit in Curitiba. Today, cities such as Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Fortaleza have robust transit systems, quality bike lanes, and inviting urban public spaces. Yet, these cities remain inaccessible for many of their residents, as public transit growth has not kept pace with city growth, and there is a lack of planning for vulnerable populations. ITDP Brazil is working to change this by engaging these groups at the early planning stages of new transport projects.
ITDP Brazil, in partnership with the São Paulo Metropolitan Transit Agency (EMTU), began this process by conducting a survey of youth and elderly participants to better understand their needs in planning a BRT corridor in their São Paulo neighborhood. While this survey sought to address significant challenges, the survey itself was easy to perform and resulted with positive engagement from the community. Not only were the survey’s conclusions insightful and possible to replicate, so too was the process of engagement with the community members.
The survey concerned a planned BRT corridor along Jacu-Pêssego Avenue, a wide, busy street known for its many traffic fatalities in a dense, low income neighborhood. The survey was taken by a group of youth and elderly who attended a Unified Educational Complex (CEU), a complex that provides community members with daily, educational programs. The interest group of youth and elderly represented the ethnic and economic diversity of the neighborhood. The participants took walks around the facility to observe the obstacles in reaching the stations and reported on their findings. Their findings are being used by the metropolitan agency to develop safer and inclusive transit access and the process has shown the value of engaging with communities in projects.
“This effort is one of the first attempts from the São Paulo metropolitan transit agency to engage vulnerable groups in the planning of BRT corridors, and while we’re yet to see what impact it will really have, the engagement was, by itself, already a big step in the right direction,” says Beatriz Rodrigues, Public Transport Coordinator of ITDP Brazil. “It was really eye-opening to see how much these two groups have in common in terms of their concerns about transport access, and it was very clear to us, and to the city, that this is a valuable exercise.”
The challenges in transit access disproportionately affect elders and children for a variety of reasons. First, elderly people are often on one side of a caretaking role – that of a caretaker or that of someone who is cared for. Furthermore, elderly people are more often disabled as compared to any other age demographic. Children are in uniquely vulnerable positions because their age prevents them access to many forms of transportation – if they are not walking or riding bicycles, they are relegated to being passengers are they are unable to drive themselves. Both elderly and children are generally fragile financially so they tend to be most reliant on low cost public transportation or walking, making them most affected by poor design or dangerous access points for public transportation.
Conclusions & General Recommendations
One major conclusion was that popular above ground passages – foot bridges that are elevated over roads to allow for easy vehicle passage – are less safe and accessible for pedestrians. These passing bridges are often poorly maintained and steep, making them difficult to pass. They are also more expensive to build and maintain. Therefore, it is recommended to create at-road passings for pedestrians. The survey offered additional recommendations including:
More frequent at road crossings – double the number of crossings (from three to six) so that there is a pedestrian crosswalk every 200 km along the BRT corridor route. This is important in helping groups that cannot walk long distances from having to travel on foot for too long.
Identify dangerous areas and deploy speed reduction measures like radii and better intersections to create a safer walking environment for pedestrians. Traffic incidents affects all groups, but for those who are generally slower, smaller, or both, they are important features in safety.
Improve bicycle and intermodal access to stations so that all users can easily access BRT. Many children travel by bicycle so having improved access gives them a particular boost.
Promote TOD Standards in building around stations – with high density and mix land use around the stations there will be natural urban planning that would support pedestrians and make for a pleasant urban environment. This is an example of a policy that allows for a safe environment for vulnerable groups but simultaneously creates improved design and quality of life for non-vulnerable groups.
Why is this significant?
This survey provided clear policy prescriptions to benefit vulnerable groups and expand necessary access to transportation modes. By thoughtfully designing stations with improved access, the city is providing crucial access to the groups who benefit most. Furthermore, this process engaged with the community in a positive way allowing for public discourse and a sense of community buy-in that was low cost and easy to execute. The conclusions – and the method of reaching them – are both easy and important to replicate in other cities and for other projects.