Developing country medium-sized
cities (those between 500 thousand inhabitants and 2 million) are important targets for
the promotion of sustainable transportation practices. The UNEP Centre convened to
organise and fully sponsor a workshop for this purpose. Several institutions collaborated
in organising the event: the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG-Sri Lanka),
The Peace and Development Research Group from Göteborg University and institutions within
El Salvador: Centro Salvadoreño de Tecnología Apropiada (CESTA), and the Climate Change
Communication office of the Ministry of Environment in Salvador.
The Workshop "Deals on Wheels: Sustainable
Transportation Initiatives for Developing Countries" was held in the Hotel Siesta, in
the city of San Salvador, El Salvador from July 28th to 30th 1999.
The primary goal of the workshop was to share experiences of sustainable transport
practices from invited medium-sized cities in Latin America and Asia. The purpose was to
learn how sustainable mechanisms have been incorporated into national planning and
implementation systems. Emphasis was given to understand what concrete mechanism work to
promote sustainable transport in the selected projects.
The workshop included participation of transport economics
and engineers, policy makers and policy-advisors, and key representatives from the
transportation government and non-governmental sector in El Salvador. Among participants
there were also members from academia, private consultants and international NGOs.
The agenda for the three-day meeting covered 10 different
thematic sessions and more than 30 presentations representing the mutually reinforcing
dimensions of sustainable transport development: economic, environmental, social,
institutional, and the technological and global change challenges. The last section
summarised future directions and how to move from ideas to practice, from visions to
Overview of Discussion, Issues, Promising Projects and
The workshop presentations showed concrete results in
different areas. From a re-evaluation of former transport planning practices and paradigms
to the formulation of a strategic vision for transport and urban development. Several
examples of effective public transport management were presented that are enhancing
mobility and helping reduce congestion and air pollution at a socially affordable cost.
Diverse examples where increased use and promotion of non-motorised modes of transport are
helping urban and rural poor, particularly women, enhance their mobility and improve their
income situation. All these practices serve as potential models for other cities and show
promise for the creation of the multiple alternative paths that are necessary to resolve
common urban transport problems in a sustainable manner.
Meeting the Economic Challenge
A review of Hong Kongs transportation system
successes and failures challenges the long held view that achieving an ideal sustainable
city structure is mainly a matter of economic resources. Despite the amount of resources
invested, Hong Kongs current well-developed transport system is unsustainable,
providing instead an example of the inevitability of increasing congestion and
environmental problems when an economic growth strategy is pursued at all cost. Other
important tasks to achieve a sustainable path have been overlooked in Hong Kongs
case among others: vision building and stakeholder involvement in policy-making, planning
implementation and evaluations. Also an understanding of planning for transport as one
that views transport as a subservient to broader sustainable development goals
(Dimitriou-UK). A key issue raised during the discussion was the necessity to enhance
operational transport guidance at the project level to achieve goals/policies for
sustainable urban development. This implies a work with values that can be a political as
much as a scientific task (Dimitriou, Thynell).
Meeting Institutional Challenge
The main issues covered in the dialogue were the meaning of
the concept of sustainability for urban transport systems, and the contributions that
strategic planning, vision building, and stakeholder participation have in achieving a
sustainable path (Dimitriou-UK). The role of governments in building-up participation of
key stakeholders in the transport decision-making process was evaluated in the case of the
Municipality of Soyapango in El Salvador. In Soyapango, bottom-up participation
(community, organised civil society and private sector) has been instrumental in helping
the local government find solutions to their transport problems (Rodríguez-Salvador;
Thynell-Sweden). The role of non-governmental organisations from a global institutional
perspective was presented by one New-York based NGO (Peters, ITDP), working to reform the
decision-making processes of international development institutions so that their
transport sector lending or grant making activities better benefit public transit
passengers, bicyclist and pedestrians. In 1996, the effort of ITDP and several other NGOs
led to the passage of a new transportation policy at the World Bank called Sustainable
Transport. This policy incorporated many NGOs concerns by emphasising the environmental,
poverty alleviation and gender dimensions of transportation beyond the importance of this
sector to economic development (Peters, ITDP).
Meeting the Social Challenge
The need for a change of paradigm in transport planning,
from the one centred around motorised vehicles, to an integrated "human-scaled
approach in transport that is gender sensitive and favours a diversity of modal choices
for the movement of people and goods was emphasised in this section
(Cordero,Ciclored-Peru; Bravo, IFRT-Peru). In cities where a shift to sustainable
transport practices is starting to take place the work and activism of local environmental
groups has made the difference, rather than being initiated via governmental or
professional bodies (CESTA-Salvador; ITDP-New York; ITG-Sri Lanka). The work of the
different NGOs and local environmental groups presented vary from the local level to the
The potential for job creation of some transport projects
was an important aspect of the discussion of social issues brought up by CESTA
(Navarro-Salvador), the Salvadorian NGO. CESTA operates a school-workshop (Ecocentro San
Marcos) that serves as a resource centre, which trains young boys and girls in the
production and service of bicycles, tricycles and other pedal power technologies.
Micro-enterprises using pedal power mechanisms are also promoted such as garbage
collection, distribution of bottled water and refreshments and preparation/selling of
street food. Meanwhile, in Sri Lanka, De Silva showed how practitioners are developing
means of transport to assist rural people in overcoming their transport burdens. Examples
of improved back packs for women to carry goods, increasing the efficiency of hand carts,
introduction of ropeways to mountainous people as some of the solutions promoted
(Intermediate Technology Group ITG, De Silva). Aside from the ecological and social
benefits, these projects are creating jobs, boosting businesses, saving money and
revitalising local economies.
Gender issues in transport were also explored in this
section. The discussion reviewed some of the current approaches to addressing gender in
the transport sector and areas were more work and collaboration is needed to promote
gender equality within a sustainable transport framework. For example, gender is an
important issue to be addressed into rural transport projects. The work of the
International Forum for Rural Transport in this area was presented (Bravo, IFRT-Peru).
Rural transport projects have different impacts on women and men. Further, womens
access to health, education and employment opportunities are often limited by unequal
access to transport resources, either because of the gender-based division of labour
within the family and community or as a result of their special needs not been addressed
in transport project design an implementation. Today, some transport projects in rural
areas directly address gender issues, however, most projects still are assumed to benefit
men and women equally and are focused in efficiency more than equity. The benefits of
transport investments have to be gender-desegregated to assure that they do not adversely
affect women or risk undermine the projects social sustainability.
Meeting the Environmental Challenge
The environmental challenge session brought up diverse
concrete successful experiences: the "Semana de Aire Puro" (Majano,
Swisscontact-Salvador) is now being held in most Central America capitals during which
free emission inspections are administered randomly to automobiles on the road. These
experiences have served the double purpose of gathering data and raising public awareness
on air pollution issues. Several countries in Central America have enacted laws for
regular inspection and vehicles maintenance. In El Salvador the first Air Quality
Management National Plan was recently approved (Rivas, MARN-Salvador,). The
"Departamento de Fiscalización" in Santiago de Chile is successfully tackling
public transport quality operation and polluting emissions through an anonymous phone-call
system that allows citizens to report pollution or bad service on public transport units.
The "Departamento de fiscalización" is able to investigate the reported unit,
request improvements to be made on the unit and, to penalise offenders if necessary
(Albarrán-Chile). Quito Municipality has put together a pollution control strategy for
the metropolitan area of Quito and has made an enormous effort to understand the specific
circumstances and solutions for air quality management of cities located in high elevation
Public Transport Initiatives
As cities grow bigger and richer there is an inevitable
tendency for the demand for road space for vehicles to outstrip its availability. Given
the impossibility of rectifying the imbalance by increasing the amount of road space
sufficiently other strategies would be necessary, including structured densification of
land use, restraining private automobile use, use of cleaner transport technologies and
greater use of public transport. The dialogue of this session concluded that the essence
of a sustainable path for urban transport lies on enhancing public transport opportunities
while restraining the use of private motor vehicles in central areas. The experience of
"licitación" of road space in Santiago de Chile has been successful in
enhancing public transport management and operation (Malbran-Chile). Another option
explored as a way to reduce "excessive" auto use was "Car-sharing".
Promoting car sharing as an economically beneficial and environmentally responsible
alternative to the personally owned car is an innovative solution that can prove feasible
for Latin America (Zegras-USA). The successful experience of the Trolley Bus in Quito,
Ecuador was presented (Jurado-Ecuador). Finally the experience of Community Buses in Sri
Lanka has not only improved mobility but also improved economic vitality for the community
at the same time (De Silva-Sri Lanka).
Non-Motorised Modes: Going Farther with Less
In Africa, Asia and Latin America, rural people either head
carry or back carry the goods. This has resulted in carrying only what people (especially
women) can carry resulting in lots of time and energy wasted for a very low productivity.
With correct guidance and support from development organisations many people have been
able to make use of intermediate means of transport to improve their livelihoods. In this
session success stories were presented from Kenya (Masai women), Nepal (non-transport
intervention to resolve a transport problem, and ropeways) and Sri Lanka (trailer for the
bicycle). One important aspect discussed was how to ensure sustainability on these
projects. Different responses are emerging according to the organisation involved, some
have gone to do policy advocacy work to influence government, some others have their own
credit schemes for low-income people, in some instances an entrepreneur can provide a
cheaper service to the poor people. However, one important factor in sustainability of
intermediate and non-motorised transport solutions is the acceptance by the people. It has
to be culturally, socially, economically and technically sound. That is a technology
adopted by the people to suit their needs (De Silva).
Meeting the Global Challenge and The Role of
The role of the Brazilian Alcohol Program to reduce local
air pollution and as a CO2 mitigation option was presented (Ribeiro-Brazil), as
well as the CO2 mitigation options for El Salvadors transport sector
(Aguilar, MARN-Salvador). Finally, the role of technological innovations in meeting the
current local and global environmental challenges of increasing motorisation
In the discussion about how to move from ideas to practice
and from visions to reality, it was considered critical the establishment of an
appropriate policy context for sustainable transport. This required careful attention to
getting the economics right (including concentration on improving pricing and supply
mechanisms); to getting the institutions right (including the creation of multi-modal
co-ordination at the city region level); and to clear and realistic setting of priorities
for action (including attention to life and health threatening environmental impacts and
to sustainable measures for protection of the interests of the very poor). In this session
were also introduced strategic elements of a "Generic Sustainable Urban Transport
Strategy for Medium-sized cities" (Dimitriou-UK), among these elements are:
- Restraint measures restricting the
use of motor vehicles in central areas.
- Construction of a continuous network of pedestrian,
bicycle & cycle rickshaw lanes with common speed bands- within central areas,
within communities and alongside major arteries outside central areas.
- Enhancement of bus operation
providing exclusive rights of way, improving the design and operation of bus terminals and
integrating bus services with other public transport modes.
- Improvement to corridor and feeder system freight
transport infrastructure to include terminal and both motorised and non-motorised
- Institution building. Strengthening of
agencies dealing with urban transports and transports co-ordination.
- New pricing policies and mechanisms
including taxes on transportation goods, motor vehicles purchases, fuel and road use in
order to accurately reflect the real cost of the motor vehicle
- Research and development efforts into the
further development of Sustainable urban development indicators for the more appropriate
appraisal of urban transport proposals
- Utilisation of revenues from: sales of
infrastructure-improved land, public sector assisted redevelopment efforts and public
transport franchise sale.
- Stakeholder participation and consultation
to involve: workshops to disseminate strategy proposals and demonstration projects, and
media dissemination about SUD agenda, role of transport strategy in support of this.
At the end of the workshop there was a discussion about PRIORITY
AREAS for ACTION from government, non-governmental organisations, practitioners and
- Inter-institutional co-operation, information dissemination,
development of legal instruments, strategic approach to transport planning and
- Public transport enhancement, to create accessibility for
all with reduced environmental impacts
- Private sector involvement, with government intervention to
guarantee that social objectives are met
- Civil society and non-governmental organisations
participation demanding transport services to meet accessibility needs
- Non-motorised modes of transport facilities and
people-centred transport planning, to satisfy basic accessibility needs.
- Restraining automobile use and creation of a new transport
culture supported by a substantial improvement on the diversity of transport modes.
- Data collection, definition of progress indicators and
improved information dissemination
Follow-up activities after workshop
- Publication & Dissemination of workshop results.
"Deals on Wheels". Proceeding, including presentation and summary of main
discussions. Additionally, it is being considered the production of an edited book with
selected contributions from the workshop.
- Creation of an E-mail group list to do
advocacy work called: "Sustainable Transport Forum for Latin America". The
principal aim of this network is to enhance collaboration among researchers and
institutions in Latin America towards the promotion of Sustainable Urban Transport. Also
networking with other sister networks like SUSTRAN in Asia and Pacific Region. The group
will be seeking financial assistance to finance its activities in the short term.