New approaches to transportation
Transportation in the developing world is notoriously difficult, especially in urban centers. Lack of planning, rapid urbanization, and overcrowding are some of the many issues residents face on a daily basis. Many existing forms of transportation are inefficient, unsafe, and unsustainable. The following five examples are from cities attempting to create an efficient and affordable transportation system. Read on to learn about the situation in Rio de Janeiro, Lagos, Mexico City, Mumbai, and Nairobi, and join the discussion below.
Keke, a progressive transport mode with potential, but mixed results
Victoria Okoye, Lagos Community Manager
In March 1998, 500 three-wheeled keke vehicles first appeared on the streets of Lagos. Bright yellow in color, powered by a motorcycle engine, balanced on three thick wheels and covered by a metal half-shell replete with plastic windows, the city's most innovative transport mode was introduced by then Governor Mohammed Buba Marwa. The vehicle came to be known colloquially as keke marwa: Keke being the Hausa word for "tricycle," (Marwa's native tongue); and Marwa being the surname of the governor himself.
At the time, existing urban transport included taxicabs, danfo (bright yellow Volkswagen minibuses) and molue (44-seater buses), as well as the okada, motorcycle taxis that had risen in popularity in the 1980s. Highly patronized and ubiquitous throughout the city's roads, the large-sized vehicles contributed in major part, along with private vehicles, to the city's worsening traffic congestion, known locally as "go slow."
Diversifying urban transport
The keke formed an important complement to these modes: unlike the danfo or molue, the keke was private transport; unlike the okada, the vehicle's outer exterior provided a shell of safety for both driver and passenger. Around the same time the keke were first introduced, the governor placed a citywide ban on okada, banishing the quick, deft, yet dangerous mode of transport. With the minimal protection for passengers (few were provided helmets) and the risky behavior of drivers, accidents and deaths became commonplace. "That motorbike, that okada — it was the fastest way of reducing the population of Nigeria," reflected Sister Mary, a Catholic nun and commuter.
Small in size (fitting three or four passengers with the driver), and powered by an upgraded Vespa motor, keke represented a speedy and protected form of transport. "It's very strong," Sister Mary said of her experience riding keke over the years. "It can go through any flood, and it will get you out of it," she added, referencing a prime concern for commuters during the rainy seasons.
The second iteration of keke, the keke napep, drew its name from the National Poverty Eradication Program (NAPEP), which was implemented by then President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003. This time, the intervention was not only focused on an opportunity to improve transport; it was envisioned as both literal and figurative vehicles for youth employment opportunity and poverty reduction among the low-income masses. Painted green and white (Nigeria's national colors) and larger in size, the keke napep had an expanded role from its predecessor.
The strategy for the keke napep was to make it a widely spread form of paratransit to relieve city congestion and build a new avenue for employment. Young men were recruited as drivers who could start earning reliable incomes and enter the formal system; in turn, they would also be providing a much-needed service to the public. By continuing to diversify the city's urban transport services, the government had high hopes of relieving traffic congestion.
The economics of the Keke
There are an estimated 12,000 keke operators in Lagos alone, but an enduring challenge to keke's potential is rooted in the city's existing economic inequalities. The very group targeted for positive impact has enjoyed limited benefits, due to lack of access to finances and collateral to purchase the vehicles that could empower them. As keke have risen in popularity, so too have prices for vehicles, pricing out the lower and no-income groups.
On average, the keke costs N400,000 (about US$2,550) for the vehicle and registration. For youth and low-income earners, getting into the keke business means borrowing the funds necessary for purchasing a new vehicle, and paying it back over time (plus interest) based on operating profits; in the end, going this "hire purchase" route means paying at least N550,000 (US$3,500) before becoming the official owner. On top of this, many keke drivers regularly face harassment and extortion by police.
On the flipside, some do benefit from keke's popularity; for those with the means, keke has turned out to be a lucrative business. For many drivers, some of whom had been previously unemployed, a recent study showed that 86 percent earned, on average, between N2000 to N4000 (US$12 to US$25) daily, and that a third of operators surveyed earned higher incomes that significantly relieved their household burdens (e.g., ability to pay rent and household bills). The more affluent that enter the business are able to buy fleets of keke, hire them out to young drivers, and enjoy immense returns on their investments. In addition, the vehicle's popularity has created demand for local manufacturers, who assemble the vehicles locally for sale across the country.
An innovative form of transport, the keke represents a progressive government-led strategy to tackle Lagos' urban congestion and economic development. It has proved an innovative and lasting, though imperfect, mode of paratransit. From Lagos, it has spread to almost all parts of the country.
It continues to be a regularly patronized form of transport, but it also represents the tension at play within the country's wider economy, between the rich and the poor. First, as admitted by the NAPEP, one of its greatest drawbacks is the lack of access to finance and collateral for the urban poor. Putting structures in place to guarantee funding and maintain low costs, such as loan schemes and further oversight, may be key to making keke successful in its originally envisaged goals. As well, and as is clear on Lagos' roads, tackling the city's congestion requires a much more progressive reform.
Waiting for a system that works: new approaches to transportation undermine Nairobi's economy
Katy Fentress, Nairobi Community Manager
The Kenyan Traffic (Amendment) Act 2012 came into force at the end of last November amid widespread Public Service Vehicle (PSV) worker strikes and scepticism as to how effective it would be.
The objectives of the introduced regulations were to minimize carnage on the roads by imposing steep penalties for those who commit traffic offences or engage in reckless driving. The main targets for the new penalties are the 14-seater PSVs — commonly known as matatus. These mini vans are widely considered to be the main source of Nairobi's traffic delirium, and calls to do something about them have been mounting over time.
Under the new Traffic Act, penalties for infringement of the law vary from 3 months in prison and/or a KShs. 30,000 (Approximately $350) fine for overlapping and driving on the sidewalk, 10 years in prison and/or KShs. 500,000 (a little under $6,000) for driving under the influence, 10 years in prison and/or KShs. 500,000 for unauthorised driving of a PSV and loss of driving license for speeding.
The much-maligned matatus are a popular source of anger and resentment as they are seen to epitomize much of what is wrong with Nairobi. Over the past decade, with growing numbers of private vehicles congesting the capital's streets, matatus have been known to practically climb up walls in order to take advantage of any possible gap during the city's notoriously gridlocked rush hours.
Matatus are, however, also one of the only forms of transportation to get from one part of the city to another and hundreds of thousands of the city's workforce depend on them in order to complete their daily commute to-and-from work. They also provide jobs for thousands of youth who rely on the casual work provided by the matatu industry to get by.
According to James Wamburu, a matatu driver who recently acquired notoriety through his blog, the Traffic Amendment Act "is a good idea whose time has not yet come". Wamburu insists that if the government had included people employed in the matatu industry in the consultation phase, it would have been possible to come up with a more realistic solution to the problem.
Part of the issue, says Wamburu, is that the government has done nothing to encourage matatu owners to employ drivers and conductors permanently, preferring instead to hire them by the day at a fixed rate and without any provision for benefits or insurance. As a result, drivers find themselves desperate to make the money needed to cover the vehicle hire cost and earn a day's wage for them and the conductor.
In theory there are schemes underway to phase out 14-seater matatu completely, with plans in the pipeline to introduce public buses that will comply with safety regulations and be wheelchair-friendly. Whether there will be any move to compensate matatu workers for their loss of employment and matatu owners for the loss of their vehicle remains to be seen.
In the meantime, however, what the situation means is that seeing that the new fines that have been introduced are generally much higher than the matatu drivers and conductors' earnings, it is impossible for them to pay the fine. As a result their options are only to contest the fine (which requires money and a lawyer), serve time for their offence, or bribe the policeman double the old rate, in order for him to overlook the infringement. Given the track record of the police in this country, it appears that the third option will remain the most frequently adopted one. As a result, it is safe to guess that for the time being the new laws will accomplish little more than helping corrupt officials line their pockets and making bigger criminals out of those who are arguably the backbone of the city's economy.
Ideas for sustainable transport in Mumbai
Carlin Carr, Mumbai Community Manager
Mumbai's millions of commuters rely on a woefully outdated public transportation system. The two-and-only rail lines carry more than 7.24 million people every day. (The New York City Subway system has 24 rail lines through five boroughs on 656 miles of track and carries an average of 4.8 million passengers each weekday; that's a mere 60 percent of the people carried on Mumbai's 265 miles of lines.) The dangerously overcrowded Mumbai locals, while surprisingly fast and frequent, have become increasingly life-threatening. An average of 12 people die every day on the suburban tracks. Any commuter who can afford to buy a car does so, leaving a traffic-tangled mess of cars, rickshaws, taxis, and worn-out busses on the dusty streets. The resulting emissions concerns have reached alarming rates as well.
Mumbai's municipality has responded with a laundry list of half-finished mega projects that will only benefit the top tier of the city. Car-focused solutions such as sealinks and flyovers have become the trend. These initiatives feed into more people buying cars, and the public transport routes remaining at a literal standstill.
In a presentation by Mumbai-based architect and urban planner Trupti Amritwar Vaitla at the BMW Guggenheim Lab, she pointed out that while the population of Mumbai went down by six percent over the past decade, the number of vehicles is growing at 10 percent per annum. "Private vehicles take up 60 percent of the road space and carry just 15 percent of people," she explained. Further proof of the car-centric and elitist transport investments are the flyovers, which carry 75 percent cars, 23 percent taxis, and 2 percent busses. The majority of commuters — and most especially the poor — are being left out of this type of planning.
Bus rapid transit
While many long-term projects are being undertaken and planned, including a monorail and potentially an extension of the very controversial sealink bridge, Rishi Aggarwal, environmental activist and fellow at the Observer Research Foundation think tank in Mumbai, says that there are affordable and doable options that can provide relief in the near-term. He, like many transport experts around the world, champions bus rapid transit (BRT) as a economical solution that has seen great success in Latin America as well as in India. In Mumbai, the decade-long discussion over the innovative bus system has been stalled for various reasons, says Aggarwal, adding the difficulties involved in decision-making with a coalition government. Ahmedabad, on the other hand, has seen great success with its BRT system, which is now being doubled in size. Ahmedabad's implementation was made easier by transforming a green field corridor where land use and density issues were not as challenging as in Mumbai, says Aggarwal.
Improved rickshaw fleets
Another idea for a sustainable transport initiative comes from the city of Rajkot, Gujarat, where India's first auto-rickshaw fleet was launched. G-Auto is India's first city-supported, privately operated fleet auto-rickshaw service, which is managed by the city government in partnership with Nirmal Foundation, a charitable trust. G-Auto was chosen by the World Resources Institute (WRI) as one of the top sustainable transport success stories of 2012. An article on WRI's web site says that rickshaws account for 10-20 percent of trips in India's urban centers, but the three-wheelers are often highly polluting and poorly maintained. "Benefits for passengers include reliable, meter-based services; trained drivers; dial-in, doorstep pickup services; and dependable auto-rickshaw presence at bus terminals, railway stations, and the airport. In terms of broader sustainable transportation policy, G-Auto promotes the use of public transport and reduced reliance on private motor vehicles," says the site.
Mumbai is in need of transport innovations such as Rajkot's fleet service or Ahmedabad's BRTs that can be done quickly and serve the masses. If the government continues to focus on developing roads, flyovers, and sealinks for more and more cars, a public health crisis will soon follow. Sustainable transport is not only a means of helping commuters travel more quickly and easily throughout the city; it is also a moral obligation to hand off a greener planet to future generations.
Acceso a movilidad con sustentabilidad en el DF
María Fernanda Carvallo, Mexico City Community Manager
The urbanization of Mexico City has not been planned or orderly, making transportation one of the most contentious issues in the city. Since 2006, the Federal District Government has proposed to improve the city's mobility by laying the foundation of an integrated transport policy. Strategies such as the Metrobus lines and a public bicycle program ECOBICI have been transformative, but challenges remain, like providing equal access to the most vulnerable populations, and facilitating transfers between different types of transportation.
Hoy en día el proceso de concentración de la población en las áreas externas de la Ciudad, como respuesta a la concentración humana, industrial, comercial y financiera, ha provocado cambios importantes en los patrones de viajes de la movilidad del D.F.. Mientras que en la década de los ochentas los viajes tenían origen y destino en las mismas Delegaciones, actualmente las distancias por recorrer son más largas e interdegacionales, inclusive hasta los municipios del Estado de México pertenecientes a la Zona Metropolitana. En este contexto, la administración del Gobierno del Distrito Federal desde el 2006 ha implementado diversas estrategias para transformar la movilidad y sentar las bases de una política pública de transporte integral.
El pasado 15 de enero del 2013, se galardonó a la Ciudad de México con el Premio al Transporte Público 2012 del Instituto de Políticas para el Transporte y el Desarrollo, que reconoce ciudades del mundo que se caractericen por su liderazgo en estrategias de transporte sustentable y movilidad urbana. Esta organización internacional en conjunto con el Gobierno del Distrito Federal y la organización EMBARQ, han promovido soluciones de transporte que reduzcan las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero, la contaminación ambiental, los tiempos y costos de traslado, para mejorar el desarrollo económico y la calidad de vida en la capital.
Para frenar el uso indiscriminado del automóvil, en el DF se instalaron cuatro líneas del Metro Bus que atraviesan la ciudad en sus cuatro extremos. Es un sistema de autobuses que cuenta con carriles exclusivos y estaciones de acceso sistematizadas. Bajo este sistema se alcanza la velocidad y comodidad del metro, al tiempo que ofrece un sistema de transporte más flexible y de bajo costo como el de los autobuses convencionales pero con alta tecnología y servicio. Así mismo, ofrece importantes beneficios ambientales al reducir las emisiones de gases efecto invernadero y la contaminación ambiental debido al tipo de combustible que utiliza.
Por su parte, una de las estrategias más prácticas para reducir las emisiones de CO2 ha sido el fomento del uso dela bicicleta y el desarrollo de calles más seguras para el peatón en el centro de la Ciudad. Se han construido caminos para peatones, corredores, banquetas, reubicación de parque vehicular para rescatar los espacios para el flujo de autobuses y peatones, además de implementar el programa de bicicleta pública ECOBICI. Con una red de 90 cicloestaciones y 1,200 bicicletas, el sistema de transporte ECOBICI da servicio a 5 colonias de la Zona Centro con un costo anual de $300 pesos. Este medio de transporte facilita la movilidad en distancias cortas en donde el uso del vehículo sería excesivo.
De acuerdo a EMBARQ, en la Zona Metropolitana del Valle de México se realizan 49 millones de viajes diarios, el 53 por ciento de ellos en el transporte público y el 17 por ciento en vehículos particulares; la implementación de estas estrategias de transporte y movilidad sustentable contribuye a mejorar la movilidad en la tercera megalópolis a nivel mundial. No obstante, con la nueva administración del gobierno local en la capital, es necesario que la continuidad de las políticas públicas sean más agresivas a fin de brindar a la ciudadanía mejores opciones de transporte. Uno de los grandes retos, y que es resentido por la población más vulnerable, es el integrar los diversos sistemas de transporte para que sea menos costoso y más fácil a los usuarios de realizar las transferencias durante los viajes.
The Complexo do Alemão Cable Car: An example of inclusion and transformation
Catalina Gomez, Rio de Janeiro Community Manager
The Complexo do Alemão is a agglomeration of several low-income neighborhoods in the North Zone of Rio, with over 90,000 residents. The Complexo is known for its precarious housing, its lack of urban and social infrastructure, and its crime-related past. Since late 2010, however, the Complexo has benefited from several interventions by the police and military; they expelled most of the drug trafficking groups in the area, resulting in a significant drop in crime and violence.
Thanks to the dislodging of the crime groups, the Complexo do Alemão's reality is gradually changing for the better. In conjunction with these efforts, the federal, state, and local governments have promoted several investments to improve the quality of life of the residents, especially with regard to mobility and social services. One of the most relevant investments is changing the face of the Complexo do Alemão: the new cable car was opened in July 2011 in order to improve the mobility and accessibility of its dwellers.
The cable car was built as a part of the federal government's Growth and Development Program (Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento), in partnership with the State Government of Rio de Janeiro. The cable car has six main stations (Bonsucesso, Adeus, Baiana, Alemão, Itararé/Alvorada, and Palmeiras) and is linked to the city's train system. Beyond its function as a transport system, the cable car has several social service centers, including centers for youth integration and the promotion of culture.
This innovative, non-motorized system is the first of its kind in Brazil. It is 3.5km long and has 152 cars, with a capacity of 10 passengers. The trip from the first station (Bonsucesso) to the last one (Palmeiras) lasts about 16 minutes — a significant improvement for residents who previously had to walk for hours to reach the rest of the city's transportation routes. The cable car is also quite affordable: registered residents get two free daily passes, and extra tickets are R$ 1,00 ($0.50) per trip.
The cable car has become an essential solution for many people who previously faced accessibility and security issues when trying to get around their neighborhood. The cable car is also becoming a positive reference within the community, and is creating income opportunities, as well as bringing tourism and visibility to the neighborhood. Hopefully in the future more of these investments can be brought to other low-income neighborhoods, to continue the efforts of inclusion and transformation of Rio's favelas.
I invite you to check this week's blog on Urban Mobility in Rio to explore more of the important efforts the city is undertaking to improve transportation and mobility.
Teleférico do Complexo do Alemão: Um exemplo de inclusão, acessibilidade e transformação
Catalina Gomez, Rio de Janeiro Community Manager
O Complexo do Alemão é um conjunto de favelas da Zona Norte do Rio de Janeiro onde moram em torno de 90.000 pessoas. O bairro é conhecido pela sua precariedade e carência de equipamentos urbanos e sociais. Além de suas carências básicas, o Complexo do Alemão tem sido vitima do crime organizado e no passado foi uma das áreas de maior violência da cidade. A partir do final de 2010, o complexo vivenciou uma das maiores operações de pacificação por parte da policia e das forcas armadas, expulsando facções criminosas e diminuindo drasticamente os crimes da área.
A partir dos esforços de pacificação, a realidade do Complexo do Alemão está mudando positivamente. Acompanha o processo de pacificação uma serie de grandes investimentos públicos que procuram melhorar as condições de vida de seus moradores, especialmente no referente ao aceso a mobilidade e serviços sociais. Um dos equipamentos que está transformando ao Complexo do Alemão é seu novo teleférico inaugurado em julho de 2011 com o intuito de facilitar a locomoção dos moradores entre as favelas do complexo.
O teleférico foi construído como parte das obras do Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento, do Governo Federal em parceria com o Governo do Estado do Rio de Janeiro. O equipamento está integrado ao sistema de transporte ferroviário e tem seis estações - Bonsucesso, Adeus, Baiana, Alemão, Itararé/Alvorada e Palmeiras. Além de cumprir sua função como um sistema de transporte, o teleférico também destina espaços para equipamentos de inserção social, como centros culturais, da juventude e de assistência social.
O novo e inovador sistema de transporte não motorizado é o primeiro do Brasil. Ele tem 3,5km de extensão e 152 gôndolas, com capacidade para transportar 10 passageiros cada uma (sendo oito sentados e dois em pé). A viagem da primeira estação (Bonsucesso) à última (Palmeiras) tem duração de 16 minutos. Cada morador do complexo que esteja cadastrado terá direito a duas passagens gratuitas diárias (uma de ida e outra de volta), não acumulativas. O cadastro é feito pela RioCard por meio de apresentação de CPF e comprovante de residência. As demais passagens tem um custo de R$ 1,00 cada uma.
O teleférico está virando uma solução para um grande número de moradores do complexo que no passado tenham muitos problemas de acessibilidade e segurança para transitar dentro de seu próprio bairro. Além de ser um projeto inovador, ele está se tornando numa referência positiva para a comunidade. Também está promovendo segurança, oportunidades de emprego e renda, turismo e visibilidade para a comunidade. Tomara este tipo de investimentos sejam ampliados a um grande número de bairros para continuar os esforços do governo para assegurar a inclusão e transformação das favelas cariocas.
Convido vocês a dar uma olhada ao blog desta semana sobre Mobilidade Urbana no Rio para conhecer outros avanços importantes da cidade na área de transporte e mobilidade.