This year, the MOBILIZE Summit in Santiago, Chile was a call to action on our theme of “just and inclusive cities become the new normal”. This vision of mobility and community demands for transport policy advantages to be experienced more equitably throughout neighborhoods in our cities. We must consider how people really travel, and how goods are delivered. Just and inclusive cities promise broader distribution of resources and therefore, justice.
Santiago won the 2017 Sustainable Transport Award, the criteria for hosting MOBILIZE, by making improvements to walking conditions in the downtown area, enhancing access with transit-priority streets, and adding new kilometers of cycling lanes. In a region where much of the infrastructure has been car-oriented, Santiago is in the process of reprioritizing to improve access to the city. Walking is how humans naturally get around, but walking infrastructure continues to be neglected at crisis levels internationally due to the continued emphasis on moving cars as fast as possible. Inequality in city design produces concentrations of wealth and poverty, and two populations that experience the city very differently. Making difficult trade-offs over issues such as parking and urban freight delivery in how street space is used is part of the challenge. Santiago is confronting a history of class divisions, showing how much progress can be made when city leadership along with a coalition of supporters gives budget and policy priority to low-carbon, inclusive modes.
The MOBILIZE Summit brought together researchers, practitioners, civil society groups, private sector stakeholders, international financial institutions and philanthropies to see first-hand how Santiago developed more sustainable mobility projects. It also gave participants a chance to share ideas about the challenges Santiago and other cities still face around the theme of inclusivity.
Accelerating the implementation of sustainable transport is the best available solution to the dire forecasts of global climate change, the challenges of social inequality and the urgency cities face in coping with rapid urbanization. Santiago initiated several efforts gearing up for and following up from the MOBILIZE Summit:
- César Rodríguez, Secretary of Planning in the Municipality of Santiago, announced that the city will support a project that decks approximately three kilometers of the Central Highway, a sunken multi-lane thoroughfare, to create an at-grade public park next to downtown Santiago.
- A new bidding process to operate Transantiago buses is coming. The process which is handled by the Ministry of Transportation includes half of the routes and buses of Santiago. The new firms are expected to be announced by March 2018.
- A new Metro Line was announced just before the event. The line will run east-west covering 25 kilometers and considering 21 stations.
- Mayor Felipe Alessandri announced two weeks later that three blocks of Bandera Street in the heart of downtown Santiago will be devoted to pedestrians and cyclists.
Cities can not be places that only the privileged get to enjoy, but the poor must endure. This, we know from history, is unsustainable and has led to political upheaval. The decision about whether a street is used primarily by private cars, heavy trucks or shared demands is a decision made by politicians, not technical experts. It is possible for cities to be places where individuals can pursue their own goals and also benefit from inclusive, compact urban design that fosters social cohesion. For the sake of our society, our economies, and our environments, we must keep involving more perspectives outside of our typical transport bubbles to make just, equitable cities the new normal.
Director of Global & U.S. Initiatives & Head of MOBILIZE