ITDP started working in Europe at the beginning of the 1990s after the political shift from socialism in Central and Eastern Europe began. Working in close partnership with local NGOs such as the Clean Air Action Group in Hungary, the Polish Ecological Club in Poland, Friends of the Earth Europe in Brussels and the Institute of Sustainable Urban Form in the Czech Republic, ITDP helped to stop highway projects funded by multilateral development banks including the World Bank, European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. This work marked the beginning of ITDP’s commitment to reforming the way development banks fund projects.
The first project ITDP worked on was to halt the M0 orbital motorway around Budapest. ITDP challenged the environmental impact assessments and put together case studies that demonstrated the disruptive role of the proposed highways. In the case of the World Bank, whose mission is to alleviate poverty, highways had been erected with no cost recovery plan. Low-income public transit riders ended up paying a higher transit fare as a way to cover the highway loans. As a result of ITDPs advocacy, the World Bank decided not to fund these types of projects.
A grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund starting in the late 1990s helped fund work on brownfield redevelopment to tackle sprawl and shopping malls. Since tax revenues from the transition economies in Central and Eastern Europe mostly came from commercial developments, local governments were enticed to build big box retail. Many developers wanted to work on transit-oriented projects and many of the brownfields were on transit accessible lands, but unclear deeds and unsettled restitution claims posed problems.
In 2003, ITDP opened an office in Germany to continue this work and document best practices for dissemination worldwide in mobility management, parking, freight, urban design, cycling and many other areas.
Currently ITDP has partnered with The Clean Air Action Group (CAAG) to work on more environmentally sustainable, lower carbon, freight policies and strategies for Europe that can be models for the world.