In 2015, ITDP is celebrating our 30th birthday. Over the past three decades, ITDP has worked in over 100 cities in more than 35 countries. Through our work, we’ve designed, built and implemented sustainable transport systems that save time, money and improve quality of life for millions.
See below for impacts of our work, an interactive timeline of our history, and more. Impacts
See an interactive timeline of some of our favorite projects
Click around the map to see highlights from 30 years of ITDP, or follow the arrows to take a tour.
Our Vision for Cities
The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy uses technical expertise, advocacy and policy work to promote efficient, sustainable transport systems, dense, mixed-use cities, and safe, equitable urban spaces.
ITDP has a range of experience, covering:
Bus rapid transit
Cycling and walking infrastructure
The basic elements of high quality BRT
Travel demand management
ITDP’s 8 Principles for Urban Development
And a focus on the health, equity, and sustainability impacts of transit
Thoughts from Partners
Over three decades, ITDP has worked with some of the best and brightest minds in sustainable transport. A few of them were generous enough to share their thoughts on the past 30 years.
30 Years of Progress
by Michael Replogle
In 1984, with the U.S. involved in an illegal war on Nicaragua a conversation with a friend of a friend, bike mechanic Karl Kurz, resulted in a simple idea: to send bikes (not bombs)* to teachers and health workers as humanitarian aid. We set out to organize bike clubs and churches to donate secondhand bicycles to Nicaragua as a response to the CIA’s drugfunded war, and as a way of empowering ordinary American citizens who felt helpless to stop the actions of their government, but also as a way to demonstrate how basic mobility can massively improve quality of life.
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The following year, we incorporated the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. What started with 100 bikes, quickly grew to 10,000, moved beyond Nicaragua, to Haiti and Mozambique, and included efforts to reform the transport policies of both the World Bank and the U.S. government.
Thirty years ago, cycling was considered a fringe element in U.S. transportation research, planning and engineering. “Sustainable transportation” was not yet established as a concept, and proposals for research papers and conference sessions about it were initially rejected. A 1984 World Bank report on China, a country where the vast majority of people traveled by cycling, did not even contain the word “bicycle,” and the World Bank’s Urban Transport Sector Study mentioned cycling just four times in 300 pages, disparaging it as a marginal mode suited just for villages. These policy choices demonstrated just how forcefully American car culture was being exported to the rest of the world, to everyone’s detriment. The
World Bank was happy to fund road and railway construction but considered walking and bicycling
to be backward modes of travel, not worthy of attention, let alone financial support.
Through conference sessions, publications and letter writing campaigns, our small team challenged the World Bank and other institutions to pay attention to bicycling and walking and the transport needs of the poor. Gradually, we made progress. We got the World Bank to hire its first bicycle coordinator. Invitations to train Bank staff and advise on integrating non-motorized transport into Bank strategies and projects followed in the 1990s.
In a mark of how far we have come in 30 years, in 2012, the eight largest multilateral development banks (MDBs) offered a voluntary commitment to invest USD 175 billion over ten years in more sustainable transport. This action was spurred behind the scenes by ITDP and the Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT), which ITDP helped organize in 2009. This brought a new dedication to efforts to advance, measure and report on progress toward sustainable transport.
Though there are still bad ring road motorways and costly metro projects being advanced, many MDBs have adopted sustainable transport policies and initiatives. To accelerate the transformation of lending, we need to continue a long march through the institutions, helping cities develop and operate more efficient and cost-effective urban transport, integrated travel demand management, non-motorized transport and green freight.
It’s amazing to look back and see how much has been accomplished over 30 years, and it’s due to decades of work by ITDP’s dedicated staff, volunteers and donors. I want to say thank you for all you’ve helped us do together.
*Bikes Not Bombs, the group that launched ITDP, is now based in Boston:
30 Years of São Paulo
by Helena Orenstein de Almeida
Former Director, ITDP Brazil
Today, more and more people in São Paulo are switching to bikes, public transport and walking—and contributing to a more rational, sustainable and pleasant experience in the city.
Many feel as if they’ve come to know a new city, gaining new perspectives on São Paulo by trading the isolation of a private automobile for the freedom of a bicycle.
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Thirty years ago, such a scenario was unthinkable, not only in São Paulo, but in other Brazilian cities as well. Car culture reigned in the 1980s, and cycling or promoting the rights of pedestrians were not options considered by either society or government. Tunnels and urban highways were then opened to give passage to a fleet that was beginning to grow and would explode in the 1990s.
The city of São Paulo has made steady progress in the past ten to fifteen years with regard to urban mobility. A consolidated vision of a city where public transport is the primary mode of transportation has taken hold among both the public and the city government. In corridors of power, this vision has transcended partisan bickering to become a nearly universal goal. The positive political agenda and legacies of recent city administrations have been connected to this perception of public space: Marta Suplicy is remembered for having created the Bilhete Único smart card fare control system and for installing the city’s first bus corridors; Serra and Kassab are remembered for the Virada Cultural (with metro and buses running all night for the shows) and their campaign for pedestrians. This progress paved the way for the current mayor, Fernando Haddad, to take even greater strides toward the development of a more just and sustainable São Paulo. Haddad just approved a daring master plan, aligned with the most contemporary visions of urbanism, which are—not by chance—those defended by ITDP.
Exclusive bus lanes continue to be expanded, in an initiative supported by 95 percent of the population. Meanwhile, each month around 40 kilometers of new cycle lanes are implemented and eventually will cover 400 kilometers, the goal established for the end of 2015. This includes the Butantã bike lane, which ITDP designed in partnership with the city. “The example comes from abroad,” said the Mayor in a recent interview, thus hinting at the important role that ITDP played and continues to play in these positive developments in São Paulo.
By influencing public opinion through the media and through direct contact with the government, ITDP can be proud of its role in São Paulo, as in so many other cities throughout the world. For a youth of just 30 years, this is no small accomplishment—and this is just the beginning.
Old Values, New Again
By Paul Steely White, Executive Director, Transportation Alternatives and former Regional Director for ITDP Africa
As we go deeper into the 21st century, demand for ITDP’s work is growing. That’s in part because of urbanization, and in part because of concerns about climate change, and in part because of the huge successes in ITDP’s past 30 years—the world-class BRT systems and bike networks and pedestrian spaces. Mostly though, I think the growing demand for ITDP’s work is because of the organization’s particular vision.
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The public right-of-way should be designed and managed for the public.
Until ITDP’s founding in 1985, that revolutionary idea was hidden in plain sight, obscured by the decades-long reign of the “expert” traffic engineer, who insisted that rigorous analysis conducted during a site visit or two was the most reasonable way to shape the streets and communities that people called home for their whole lives.
ITDP was the first to plant a big green and white flag and shout to the world: “The engineers have no clothes!” They insisted, with dogged persistence, that there were smarter, more efficient, more inclusive ways to design city streets and urban transportation systems.
This is the sacred work of ITDP—work that has drawn thousands to dedicated service, has caused hundreds of thousands to take action and impacted the lives of hundreds of millions around the world. Because of the improvements ITDP has won, future generations will be healthier, happier and more connected.
And as we go further into the 21st century, and the demand for ITDP’s work further increases, it’s that particular vision that must carry the day. If I have one big idea for ITDP to ensure 30 more years of success, it is for the organization to meet this challenge of demand by growing its direct engagement with the public and honoring its particular vision for smarter, more efficient, more inclusive ways to design city streets and urban transportation systems.
While policy makers and practitioners are more likely to know ITDP, revere ITDP and demand its services, the riding public is our real customer base. ITDP may be the most effective organization that average citizens know nothing about. Most urbanites are unaware that their public space and transportation resources are being squandered. More widespread familiarity with ITDP, its values, its heroic history and its innovative solutions will ultimately unlock the resources needed to meet the rising demand for sustainable, equitable transportation. An inclusive way of thinking about streets was what set us apart, and an inclusive way of changing them is what will carry us forward with great success.
The Triumph of TransJakarta
By Alfred Nakatsuma
Regional Environmental Office Director, USAID
When ITDP began, BRT only existed in a substantial form in Curitiba, Brazil, and convincing governments to consider this new system of mobility for their cities was a monumental task. I witnessed this firsthand as the USAID project manager for a grant to ITDP to undertake the establishment of the TransJakarta busway. In 2002, I went with ITDP and Jakarta’s Governor Sutiyoso to Colombia to see the Trans-Milenio busway in Bogotá.
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The purpose of this trip was to convince the Governor that a similar busway should be built in Jakarta. We thought this would be a difficult task because BRT was relatively new to Asia, the required budget was big, and there was little human capacity to implement it. We were not highly optimistic. Due in large part to the impressive show in Bogotá, Sutiyoso saw the potential of a high quality BRT system and agreed. ITDP and USAID were elated. ITDP quickly provided a superior technical design, and Jakarta started construction. However, the six months of major traffic disruption on the city’s main north-south corridor created public outcry and political pushback—not from Indonesians, but from the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta. Their acquiescence came only with the assurance that USAID’s funding for ITDP’s design would not be publicly revealed.
We kept our secret safe for the time being and were certain that the temporary pain would be compensated over the long run. After months of finger pointing and complaints about nasty traffic, TransJakarta was launched and became highly popular. The year the system opened in 2004, it served over 50,000 people per day. Today, it’s increased to 11 corridors, serving 360,000 people per day. Unfortunately, the quality of construction was far below the quality of design we provided, rendering the BRT less effective and less efficient than it might have been, and leading to jail time for the contractors involved. But despite all the skepticism and headaches, TransJakarta is still serving the poor, improving air quality and moving thousands of people every day.
Since those difficult times, thanks in large part to ITDP, BRT has increased in popularity and has been developed in many other cities, including impressive projects in China. Cities across Asia and beyond are much more certain about BRT’s benefits, and improved designs are creating larger impacts for the benefit of people and our planet.
Congratulations to ITDP for 30 years of hard work. Though your organization is small, you have made large impacts and have helped transform bus rapid transit into a tool for efficient urban transportation, pollution and climate change mitigation, as well as human livability.
Urban Mobility in 2045: Energy Production
By Julio Lamas, Journalist, Brazil
According to the United Nations, 6.5 billion people will inhabit cities by 2045, with more than 80 percent of them living in emerging countries like Brazil, China and India. Especially in cities in these countries, one of the most important issues for the next 30 years is how to plan urban centers that will provide a better quality of life for the 84 percent increase in global population that experts anticipate.
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Today, many urban planning transformations are underway to create more density in cities, options for public transportation and spaces for cyclists and pedestrians. In the future, the energy matrix will play a larger role in the debate over urban mobility in the context of imminent global warming and the containment of greenhouse gas emissions. But this discussion won’t be held on the field of growing consumption as much as it will be in the perspective of production. At this moment, renewable sources account for 22 percent of world energy production, according to the Renewable Energy Policy Network. Indeed, a great leap forward has happened in this direction, but until 2044, solar energy and other clean sources must be assimilated in every economic activity inside cities to answer for a new class of consumers and producers.
From this point of view, public transportation, cars, cyclists and pedestrians will be partly responsible for pushing forward energy production in more advanced cities. Projects like solar roadways, which make roads and venues pickups for solar energy, will be taken very seriously and will provide electricity for houses and the operation of clean transportation systems and their infrastructure.
New buildings will also be smart and involve new intelligent materials in their designs, as slighter, more transparent and flexible solar cells are developed. Imagine a building by Frank Gehry or Renzo Piano that is able to produce energy enough for its offices and apartments, and at the same time feed the central grid that powers subways, bus rapid transit systems, light rails, electric cars and delivery drones. Drones will lessen short and medium distances between cities, generate information about traffic, facilitate the exchange of products and help to expand the areas covered by local public services and private businesses.
In another technological improvement, we will probably see more use of data-analyzing software for sustainable urban planning and mobility control. And this is exactly what researchers from MIT in India and Singapore and the University of Michigan in the U.S. have been developing over the past ten years. The objective is to allow decision making on urban interventions with the maximum of real-time information and the minimum of direct impact on the cities, through a series of simulations and studies. It will be easier
to find new spaces for construction, expand public transportation on demand, create projects with connections between urban mobility modes and avoid traffic congestion.
It’s hard to play the role of a fluent and coherent futurologist like Arthur C. Clarke or Ray Kurzweil, but we can try. It helps to think that we in fact live (right now!) in a golden age of knowledge about cities and urban mobility. With great help from ITDP, Brazil has conquered so much in terms of educating and enlightening minds about the importance of sustainable and democratic developments in urban spaces that the vision I described does not seem like such a distant future.
Planning and Implementing Mobility
By Yonah Freemark
Metropolitan Planning Council, Chicago
Change has set in. In virtually every American city, the fastest-growing neighborhoods are those located in the core. These communities are dense, mixed-use and made for sustainable transportation. In city after city, this growth has produced more walking, more biking and higher rates of public transit use.
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For the most part, the private market has triggered these changes by responding to popular demand that—after two decades of a steady uptick—has ceased to be a “trend” and is now the new development paradigm in U.S. cities.
In too many places, however, development is constrained, and with it our ability to produce transit-rich metropolitan regions. Governmental regulations promote limited density, offer too little transit and require an oversupply of roads and parking. As poverty declines in the core, producing increasingly exclusive neighborhoods, it has shifted to the suburbs, reducing the ability of the transit system to expand access to opportunity and forcing the most needy to rely on unsustainable, expensive personal automobility.
It’s time for the public sector to revamp development regulations to build more livable cities and fully harness this growth.
Stronger political will is needed to fund the transit investments that serve people living in dense areas, particularly in large metropolitan areas. New York, Los Angeles and Chicago each have expanded their rail and rapid bus networks to meet their respective needs, but these efforts pale in comparison with those being made in major European and Asian regions. If we’re not careful, continued core growth without corresponding transit investments will mean increased congestion and journey times, reducing quality of life. A failure to invest outside of the traditional city will mean a continued geographical disconnect between the transit system and the population that most needs it.
To seize growth’s momentum and ensure equity in our transit-oriented neighborhoods, we must allow increased density. This requires not only regulatory changes, but also a commitment to using city land more effectively as a development resource that prioritizes mixed-use, mixed-income projects. Not doing so will reduce the potential for economic growth, increase housing prices and ultimately limit our ability to contain unsustainable, automobile-oriented greenfield development.
Over the next 30 years, leaders of American cities must take a more dominant role not only in developing proactive plans for transit-based developments designed in the public interest, but also in leading their implementation. With political leadership, whole neighborhoods can be transformed into urban communities designed specifically around sustainable transport, with equitable access to housing, jobs and other resources.
Transport Takes Center Stage
By Rehana Moosajee, Transportation Planner
City of Johannesburg, South Africa
Transport is more than just vehicles and infrastructure. Transport is about the dignity of the people using it. Transport policies and practices influence people’s access to opportunity, often dictate what life prospects are open to them and substantially influence economies and quality of life.
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Transportation has been integral in shaping movements for rights and human dignity, from when Mahatma Gandhi came to South Africa and got kicked out of the first class compartment because he had the wrong skin color to Rosa Parks who sat down to stand up, giving birth to the civil rights movement that has transformed the United States.
But even as transport has the power to stir us to act in defense against the indefensible, inequity still plagues transport in the form of where we are putting our resources. I am hopeful that the next movement spawned by transportation is for people-centered cities. The next 30 years of sustainable transport will need to throw off
vehicles and modes and focus on human beings. More pedestrians are killed in car crashes than motor vehicle drivers or passengers. Streets and roads around the world are built without sidewalks or cycle lanes, only for cars. And the voices we hear on the radio or TV news are the car captives, complaining about the injustices that car drivers are suffering.
What I hope from the next 30 years is to hear more voices. The voices of the disenfranchised and displaced, demanding transportation that responds to their needs—to reach work and school and hospitals—in an affordable and convenient manner. I hope to hear the silent voices of today demanding sidewalks, so that they do not have to walk in the street, afraid of cars. I hope that the movement for designing cities for people swells forth, beginning with how we design our streets. We show value for people by giving them dignified and safe options.
To do that, we require an ongoing investment in building transportation leaders who boldly and fearlessly provide thought leadership, challenge the status quo, help to break through siloed thinking and provide voice for the billions whose transport experiences remain challenging on a daily basis.
A commitment to knowledge sharing, respect for local conditions and culture, an openness to share and learn, collaboration rather than competition, approaches that incorporate head and heart: these are what need to inform transport policies and planning as we move forward. We must resist the temptation to see placemaking and transit options as merely engineering disciplines, lest we lose the human component of the decisions being made.
Rea Vaya, the bus rapid transit project I worked on in Johannesburg, was the first investment in public transport that connected townships to the downtown in over a decade. With ITDP’s help, we were able to launch based on this. We needed the sharpest minds and the strongest hearts to do this, and now it is expanding and hopefully only getting better.
As ITDP reflects on its past 30 years, may we be reminded of the ongoing urgency in elevating transport in the quest to change the lives of the citizens across the globe. As the world grapples with issues of sustainability, quality of life, growing inequality, poverty and imbalance, the Institute for Transport Development and Policy is likely to have an increasingly important role.
Urban migration, depletion of resources, loss of life through road crashes, diminishing air quality, increasingly insular communities and a focus on infrastructure development to the exclusion of people are all issues that require bold and visionary leadership. ITDP and the policies it advocates have the potential to equip leaders, decision-makers, service providers and civil-society activists alike with the tools to make decisions that are about the well-being of humans and the planet.
As ITDP turns 30, it is time to create a spotlight on transport that clarifies its interdependency and relationships with other aspects of life. As we pause to celebrate, may we be reminded of the ongoing urgency in elevating transport in the quest to change the lives of citizens across the globe.
The Word on the Street
W how far the field of sustainable transportation has come, where it’s going next, and what it means to the people involved. e asked advocates, experts, activists and everyone in between to share their perspective on See some of our favorite responses