On Wednesday, National Congressman Jonadab Martínez (MC-Jalisco) introduced a groundbreaking National Road Safety Act to the Chamber of Deputies, Mexico’s lower house. The law was drafted with the support of numerous NGOs, insurance companies and public officials of different levels and branches of government.
Even though some important milestones have been achieved at the local level, such as the Vision Zero policy or the Comprehensive Road Safety Program (PISVI), both already in place in Mexico City, a national policy framework has yet to be put in place. This is an enormous opportunity for Mexican legislators to show their leadership and address the underlying causes of more than 17,000 traffic related fatalities each year, and many more injuries. It is unacceptable that the first cause of death among children 5 to 9 years old are traffic collisions.
Among other things, the new law proposes:
- Setting up a National Road Safety System in charge of planning, managing, monitoring and evaluating road safety
- Assigning responsibilities regarding road safety to the different levels of government;
- Creating an independent National Road Safety Agency in charge of managing the System
- Setting up a Road Safety Fund
- Establishing the benchmarks for the state-level road safety programs
- Defining the guiding principles for street design, including complete streets, universal accessibility, safe crossings, traffic calming measures, and speed reduction, as well as road safety audits
- Enhancing the safety standards for vehicles
- Defining the hierarchy of street users according to their vulnerability level
- Addressing the pre-hospitalization protocols that first responders must follow
The Act has been sent to the legislative committees where it will be reviewed. It was co-signed by over 100 congressmen and congresswomen from all the major political parties. Now it is time to continue giving technical input to those in charge of reviewing before the final vote in order to have the best version of the Act approved as quickly as possible.
The passing of the Act will drive major changes and improvements to Mexico’s road infrastructure that will shift the focus away from the car and towards the pedestrian. This will create safer, more inviting spaces for pedestrians and in turn, more inclusive cities across the country. This national law follows Mexico City’s new leadership in parking reform, and is a major win in working towards a better future for Mexican cities.
BRT TransOlímpica was conceived to connect the Olympic arenas of Barra da Tijuca and Deodoro. It also offers a new cross connection in the West Zone of the city.
One of the most recent additions to Rio de Janeiro’s public transit system, the BRT TransOlímpica, offers great service to 25,000 people/day who were previously underserved. Building upon the model of previous BRT corridors implemented in the city, the silver-rated system received all the points in the BRT Basics metric of the BRT Standard– its corridor has physically segregated bus lanes throughout the entire 23 km of extension with platform-level boarding, and off-board collection in all stations and terminals. All 16 stations and 3 terminals serve both directions, have full accessibility provided with a good tactile ground surface, and all buses are wheelchair accessible. What makes this corridor truly unique is how it complements other corridors in Rio. TransOlímpica’s reach allows for integration with BRT TransCarioca and BRT TransOeste and other forms of public transport including rail and metro.
Rio de Janeiro currently has a total of 120 km of bus rapid transit (BRT) throughout the city, serving half a million passengers per day. TransOlímpica was implemented as a part of the city’s commitments to host 2016 Olympic Games, with an aim to make the connection between Deodoro Olympic Complex and Barra da Tijuca Olympic Park.
Between March and May of 2017 ITDP hosted various site visits, where a rating, best practices, and opportunities for improvement, were established and identified according to the BRT Standard, an evaluation tool for world-class BRT based on international best practices. As a result, the corridor received a Silver BRT Standard rating.
The BRT Standard has allowed the evaluation of the corridor design and operations based on international practices documented and disseminated by an international Technical Committee of experts on the subject. The tool has already been used by ITDP Brazil to evaluate fifteen corridors. In some cases, the complete evaluation has also led to tailor-made recommendations, for example in Belo Horizonte and Brasilia BRT corridors. The full list of corridors ranked by ITDP Brazil can be found here.
Besides the connection to the existing BRT system, the TransOlímpica corridor also allows integration with the rail transit network. Jardim Oceânico subway terminal is served by one of its lines and there is also physical integration between two of its stations with the metropolitan train stations of Magalhães Bastos and Vila Militar. The project design of two of its terminals (Recreio Terminal and Olympic Terminal) was supported by ITDP, through the specialized consultancy Oren Tatcher OTC Planning & Design.
Evaluation of BRT TransOlímpica
The area of the city where BRT TransOlímpica was built is not fully developed and has a low population density. Only 1.4% of the city’s population is located within one kilometer (approximately a 10 to 15 minute walk) from the corridor stations. Part of the extension of the new corridor was inserted parallel to a new elevated expressway, Via Rio, which hinders the adhesion to the new option of public transportation by the population that lives nearby. Despite its connectivity to other BRT systems and public transport, low population density, Via Rio, and other economic factors (Rio de Janeiro no longer benefits from the Olympic investments of the recent past), the corridor has been carrying only a third of the expected demand of 70 thousand users per day.
There are still opportunities to improve non-motorized transport (NMT) infrastructure around the corridor as planned infrastructure elements have not yet been completed. For example, at the Recreio terminal, passengers of BRT TransOlímpica who want to connect to the BRT TransOeste corridor must walk an uncovered path to reach Salvador Allende station, underutilizing the recently built Recreio terminal. A direct connection between this corridor and BRT TransOeste has also not yet been built.
The evaluation of BRT TransOlímpica with the BRT Standard revealed that the corridor stands out for service planning. The corridor offers, besides the lines that run throughout the corridor, other lines that access parts of two of Rio’s other BRT systems, TransCarioca and TransOeste. With these lines, the number of stations in which it is possible to use a service that accesses more than one corridor of the system has more than tripled (from 8 to 27). These multiple lines complement each other and allow greater integration between the corridors of the BRT system, facilitating access to different parts of the city.
Its infrastructure is also well evaluated for the adoption of high quality concrete pavement and the presence of dedicated passing lanes at stations. These aspects allow higher operating speeds (42km/h on average) and express service operations, which reduce the travel time of users and enable an increase in capacity in the medium and long term. People can travel from one extremity of the corridor to another in approximately 30 minutes. The buses run at a max of 12 min during off-peak hours for all lines and no conventional buses run parallel to the corridor.
The evaluation of the BRT TransOlímpica also reveals some points that should be improved, especially regarding access by bicycle and by foot. The infrastructure for bicycle access and parking is in the beginning stages and only covers Salvador Allende Avenue. However, even at this part of the system, the cycle network is shared with pedestrians where sidewalks are narrow and is interrupted in crossing streets.
Currently, the corridor only has one shared bicycle station, near the Recreio Terminal. Adequate access and parking infrastructure for bicycles and the presence of shared bicycle systems in the stations would guarantee comfort and safety for users who already make part of their journey on bikes and would also provide another option for users to access their final destinations, which would potentially increase the coverage of the system.
The pedestrian access to stations is also another area to be improved. Most of the access routes on the elevated expressway segment are uncomfortable for users, since they are forced to walk a considerable distance sometimes exposed to harsh weather conditions.
Besides that, access to the elevated expressway consists of walkways between two viaducts, which causes a feeling of insecurity, felt especially by women, due to the lack of visibility of these segments.
The corridor also had part of his score deducted for operational reasons. Despite the high operating speed noted earlier, a couple of lines presented a low frequency of buses during peak hours, leading to overcrowding of the stations. Besides that, during the field surveys, considerable gaps were found between the bus floor and the station platform, which hinders boarding, especially for children, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
Despite its room for improvement in NMT infrastructure and operations, BRT TransOlímpica’s high operating speeds, unique integration with other BRT corridors and public transport systems in Rio, BRT basic metric achievements garnered the system its deserved Silver rating. Other corridors also given the Silver rating by ITDP include: Expresso Tiradentes BRT system in São Paulo, which circulates in an elevated way and connects the city’s periphery areas to the central area, BRT Antônio Carlos in Belo Horizonte, which has an intense operation during peak hours, some corridors in Mexico City and Ahmedabad in India, which had wide acceptance and led other Indian cities to adopt the BRT model, and the corridors from Brisbane, Australia and Istanbul, Turkey.
Photo source: CNN
While urban street design in China often focuses on the needs of cars, the local government of Dongguan, an industrial city in China’s Pearl River Delta, decided to put people first when rebranding the Dongcheng commercial district. ITDP China’s work with DUPD and the Dongcheng district government changed Dongcheng’s car-filled past transforming the area into great public spaces.
Dongguan is made up of 32 towns. Its urban form is deconcentrated and its development is scattered. The Dongcheng government decided to develop the central commercial area to strengthen the center city district. The Dongcheng Shibo commercial area is located right at the core of Dongguan’s central district. Therefore Dongcheng District was allotted lands for commercial development and for building 3 urban streets to meet the district’s transportation needs. In order to provide the safe and pleasurable experience necessary for placemaking, the government carried out radical, people-friendly street design that prioritized walking, biking, and public transit.
The Dongcheng project includes 3 streets, 1.46 km in total. The people-friendly street design utilized several key elements including reducing the number of lanes, using roadway medians, designing dedicated bicycle lanes, and coordinating road facility space. For intersections, the design include raised pedestrian crossings, and a small radius for curb and traffic calming measures. The original Dongsheng Street and Shibobei Road were built to suit the needs of motorized vehicles with 4 two-way lanes that occupied 15m of the road width. Only 2m of the road section was designed for bike lane and only 1m for sidewalk, forcing pedestrians into the building setback space to get through.
After the redesign, both streets now have speed limits of 30km/h and 2 two-way motorized vehicle lanes with a protected bike lane. Shibozhi Road was redesigned to have 2 two-way lanes with shared bike lanes and sidewalk. The new people-friendly design redistributed the street space by reducing the number of motorized vehicle lanes from 4 to 2 and adding 2 bike lanes with a road median (for better continuity, Dongsheng Street did not use a road median). The design separated the functional zones and protected the bike lanes and sidewalk from the interference of vehicles.
Since there are small commercial plazas on both sides of Shibobei Road, the new street design added a road median to the Shibobei Road to accommodate the pedestrian flow in a bustling commercial district. The road median is 1.5m wide and allows pedestrians to briefly rest on the median providing a safer environment when crossing the road. The designers recommended greenery on the median to create a beautiful, more inviting environment (the location of the plants are adjusted to the pedestrian flow).
Past street design in Dongguan rarely considered bikes. Bikes were treated as accessories of the sidewalk and led to regular interference between bikers and pedestrians. This interference was mitigated through the new street design that reduced motorized vehicle road space and made more space for protected bike lanes. The barrier consists of rounded marble structures that allows bikes to go around it when necessary while preventing cars from encroaching bike lanes. This detail provides extra protection for bike riders.
In the past, road lights, signal lights, traffic signs and other road accessories were randomly installed on the sidewalk which created barriers and squeezed actual walking space. The new street design installed all the road accessories into the facility area with the street trees. This coordination made more space for bike lanes and sidewalk.
At intersections, raised pedestrian crossings help to improve safety and reduce the speed of motorized vehicles. Small radiuses for curbs is important for reducing the turning speed of vehicles and the crossing distance for pedestrians. NACTO’s Urban Street Design Guide proposes for a 10-15 ft or 3-5m range, the minimum curb radius to be 2 ft or 1m and the maximum be 15 ft or 5m. Dongcheng’s new street design decided to follow international standards and implemented 5-8 m curb radius, which deviated from China’s usual 10-25 m curb radius. The typical design intends for bikes to merge onto the sidewalk when crossing making it harder for bikes to cross continuously. The new design designated straight dedicated bike lanes at intersections which makes bike rides easier and smoother.
Other traffic calming measures were used including speed table which raises the motorized vehicle lanes and reduces the vehicle speed. Driveways were also raised to prioritize smooth and continuous walking and biking experiences.
Protected bollards were used to prevent motorized vehicles from entering sidewalk from accessible entrance at intersections.
Bike parking facilities were installed in plazas or facility areas to ensure parking safety.
Dongcheng Shibo District’s street design is a radical attempt to shift from car-friendly street design to people-friendly design. The redesigned streets are now in use except for 150m of Shibobei Road which is still under construction due to complications of underground engineering near the subway. In the areas that are completely renovated, Dongguan citizens who live in residential communities nearby feel safer when visiting the area especially while shopping on the weekends. They are happy with the cycling infrastructure improvements as it creates a better environment for cyclists, and they hope to see more improvements and quality maintenance so that it lasts. With these improvements, ITDP China looks forward to citizens generating a better sense of respect for people who use other transport modes besides private cars creating a more sustainable, people-friendly Dongguan.
In March 2016, the Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos inaugurated a BRT system in Cartagena, a historical city of one million people on the Caribbean coast. Its centerpiece is a 10.5 km long segregated busway along Av Pedro de Heredia, connecting the old town with the “El Portal” transfer terminal. Each of its 16 stations has an extra passing lane, which permits express services to overtake buses loading and unloading passengers.
Transcaribe buses run exclusively on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). Articulated buses, 18 m long with a capacity of about 150 passengers, provide trunk services (“troncal”) along the busway – many of them skipping intermediate stops and thereby achieving high commercial speeds of up to 30 km/h. They have high-level doors on the left side and dock on centrally located platforms which are 90 cm above the bus lane.
In contrast to Colombia’s initial BRT systems such as Bogotá and Pereira which launched providing pure trunk-and-feeder operations (where the BRT corridor is connected to local bus systems speeding up local buses through the corridor while allowing easier access to bus lanes outside the corridor) the system design – conceived in 2003 – included the (then) innovative feature of hybrid services (“pretroncal”), which run partly on the busway and partly on city streets.
As shown on the BRT map, this permits direct busway services, without intermediate transfers, to Crespo near the airport, to the popular tourist area of Bocagrande, and to the southeastern suburbs.
The standard-sized buses (12 m long) used for hybrid services have two high-level doors on the left side, compatible with the BRT station platforms, and three low-level step-down exits to provide access to the sidewalks of city streets; each of these buses has one lift on the right side to accommodate wheelchairs. When the bus operates on city streets, passengers enter the front door and validate their farecard in view of the driver. When the bus operates on the busway, passengers enter through one of the high-level doors on the left side after validating their farecard at the station entrance.
In addition to the hybrid buses, Transcaribe began implementing feeder services, usually using small (8 m long) buses which connect with the trunk-line buses at the last two stations of the busway – El Gallo and El Portal. These feeder services called Alimentación are shown in the map above in green. It is expected that these will be vital for the growth of TransCaribe into a region-wide integrated transport system.
Most Colombian cities, especially the low-lying ones near the Caribbean Sea, have in the last decade experienced a rapid growth of motorcycles, which now account for about 60% of all motor vehicles registered in Cartagena, compared to 30% in 2008. While the number of private cars increased by 74% from 2008 to 2015, the number of motorcycles grew more than five-fold; many of them are used for taxi (“mototaxi”) services, providing quick and fairly inexpensive door-to-door travel. As a result, public transport use in 2016 had fallen to 48% of all trips (of which 35% were in conventional buses and 13% by Transcaribe).
Following the successful experience with Bogotá’s TransMilenio system in 2000/2001, the Colombian Government decided to establish BRT-type mass transit in other cities. In 2016, Cartagena became the seventh city with this type of service. While the implementation of TransCaribe was slower than planned, its design benefitted from the experiences of other cities, such as Pereira, Medellín and Cali (and of course Bogotá where the initial BRT has been greatly extended in the last 15 years).
The slow implementation progress of TransCaribe was much criticized. The above photos illustrate the tremendous change that most of Avenida Pedro de Heredia underwent in the last 10 years. This made it difficult to stick to the original construction schedule. Apart from procurement issues, the project was delayed by complicated land acquisition and resettlement problems, especially at the Bazurto wholesale market where one of the main BRT stations is located. However, it now appears that TransCaribe has become an example of good BRT design (although perhaps not of rapid project execution).
The Colombian Planning Ministry reports that the total investment of TransCaribe amounts to 660,000 million Pesos, equivalent to about US$ 220 million according to the current exchange rate. As in other cities, the Colombian Government contributed 70% of the total costs, supported by a World Bank loan, with the remaining 30% being the responsibility of the city Government. At the technical level, the implementation agency (TransCaribe S.A.) received support from consultants, ITDP, and specialists of the Colombian Transport Ministry. The system also received support from a GEF project to improve its linkage to non-motorized transport (bicycles and pedestrians).
The pictures below show that special attention was given to the functional and aesthetic design of BRT stations. It is expected that public information panels will be installed soon, following the inauguration of a GPS-based control center in April 2017.
The non-governmental organization, Cartagena Cómo Vamos, (Cartagena – how are we doing?), has been monitoring the performance of TransCaribe. Based on surveys carried out in September and October 2016, they determined that on the busway the commercial speed had risen to 24.9 km/h, compared to 11 – 21 km/h in the mixed-traffic lanes alongside the busway (these lanes had also been upgraded as part of the overall project and are still being used by many conventional bus services). Point-to-point travel times by public transport had gradually increased from 57 minutes in 2005 to 68 minutes in 2015 but, after the introduction of TransCaribe, fell by 37% to 43 minutes.
Not surprisingly, 80% of TransCaribe users rated the experience as satisfactory, compared to only 59% for other public transport modes. Motorcycle users who account for a quarter of the trips in Cartagena, are somewhat less satisfied (75%) – despite the low point-to-point travel time and the relatively low out-of-pocket costs. Interestingly, when asked about best way to get to far-away locations in Cartagena during visits to the city, TransCaribe was the suggested mode of transport by hotel staff in El Laguito (a high-end area of the city).
As the Transcaribe services increase, and taking account of the high satisfaction ratings observed, it can be expected that users of conventional buses, and some motorcyclists, will be attracted to Transcaribe, and that its ridership will substantially grow from the 90,000 daily passengers reported in January 2017 – although the quoted 2019 forecast of 450,000 passengers per typical weekday appears optimistic at first sight.
In terms of potential integration of bicycles to the system, a recent study conducted by Despacio (a local research center) for the city found that there was great potential to implement bicycle parking in the terminal station, and in future the entire system. The results are being reviewed by government to find opportunities to implement.
Cartagena’s Trancaribe shows the potential of BRT to be change the trajectory of transportation systems, providing a viable alternative to the growth of car and more recently motorcycle traffic. The system already appear to be changing cultural norms across economic lines. While the implementation timeline provides a cautionary tale, the final system is another example of successful BRT in Colombia. Current signs point to continued success, especially with better integration with bicycles and other improvements.
By Nashwa Naushad , Communications Program Associate, ITDP India
“On our firm course towards sustainable transportation, we are also transforming Pune into a great city for the people, with numerous initiatives to encourage walking, cycling and the use of public transport”, said Mr. Kunal Kumar, IAS, the commissioner of Pune Municipal Corporation. Indian cities are gradually taking greater efforts to improve the quality of life for its citizens, especially in terms of transportation. Pune has come to be a pioneer in this regard.
Among the host of people-oriented initiatives being undertaken by the city, Pune has been working to improve its pedestrian and cycling environment by redesigning its arterial roads as Complete Streets. 27km of streets have been identified for redesign, in the ABD (Area-Based Development) area as part of the Smart City proposal, and 100km under the city’s annual budget. The first phase of these street design projects has already transformed Aundh’s DP Road and JM Road into more vibrant public spaces.
Complete Streets are those that cater to all user groups – designed with wide and continuous footpaths, safe pedestrian crossings, separate cycle tracks where applicable, conveniently placed bus stops, clearly designated on-street parking, organised street vending and properly-scaled carriageways. With the Smart Cities Mission encouraging the improvement of non-motorised and public transport infrastructure, cities across India are now developing networks of complete streets. Pune has gone over and beyond the Smart City proposal, by setting over twice that target with the Corporation’s own budget.
As the first step towards redesigning the 100km network, Pune Municipal Corporation has empanelled 4 nationally acclaimed architecture and urban design firms – IBI Group Inc., HCP Design, Planning and Management Pvt. Ltd., Oasis Designs Inc. and Design & Planning Counsel. The network has been equally divided and allocated to the designers. Each firm thus gets a ‘package’ of streets, ensuring uniformity in design language and better integration on ground.
Following PMC’s footsteps, Pune Smart City Development Corporation Ltd. is also allotting the 27km network in the ABD Area as 3 neighbourhoods to the empanelled designers. 9km of streets in 1 neighbourhood, including DP Road in Aundh, has been contracted to the IBI Group in partnership with Prasanna Desai Architects.
The first phase of reconstruction under the Smart City Mission has commenced on DP Road. The 1.5km stretch is being remodelled by the designers, kickstarting 520m on the ground. The 3.5m wide footpath on either side of the street has been streamlined to dedicate spaces for different users.
The numerous existing trees that line the stretch have been fundamentally incorporated in the design, with care taken to demarcate soft areas around them to allow for growth, and the perimeter forming seating. In addition, benches have also been provided along the footpath, complementing the shops and making the stretch more vibrant. Art installations, including the attractive casing that has been used to cover up the junction boxes, spruce up the space. Other features such as life-sized snake & ladder boards on the footpath further augment the character of DP Road.
Similarly, JM Road, being revamped by Oasis Designs Inc., has also been kicked off on a 300m stretch as part of the first phase. Streamlining the haphazard parking has helped reclaim space for the people, enabling a wider footpath and cycle track. Green spaces serve as buffers to segregate the two speeds of walking and cycling. Bus stops have been located so as to allow for smooth flow of pedestrians and cyclists.
Vendors now have dedicated spaces, as do children – play areas with rubberised soft flooring have been designed at regular intervals between the green buffers. Frontage of the shops spillover to the wide footpath, adding life to the street. Better signage, street lighting and seating are other features that collectively make JM Road a stellar example of street design in the country.
Backing these design changes in the city, are institutional reforms that help enhance the capacity of the government. A dedicated Street Design Cell has been set up with professionals such as urban designers and urban planners to oversee general maintenance of streets and work done by design consultants & contractors, in addition to designing neighborhood streets. The Corporation has also developed a unique set of Urban Street Design Guidelines (USDG) which give clear priority to walking and cycling.
Streets are vital public spaces which go beyond serving as mere channels for the movement of vehicles, but are crucial to the very identity of a city. Acknowledging this fact, Pune is remodelling its streets to respond to the multitude of activities and functions they host. The city thus continues firmly on its course towards becoming more people-friendly by the day.
Due to the earthquake in Mexico, we have rescheduled this webinar. The new date and time is:
Thursday, October 26, 2017
10am (CDMX time).
About the Webinar
ITDP has been working to reform parking policies worldwide for over a decade as a way to shift cities toward sustainable transport. In July 2017, Mexico City Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera announced changes in the construction code that would curtail the development of further off-street parking development. The new norm changes minimum parking requirements to maximums and puts Mexico City, the largest city in North America, far ahead of other cities in its commitment to prioritizing people over cars.
As cities grow, street space and real estate are becoming ever more valuable. However, outdated land use regulations still require developers to build huge amounts of parking for residential and commercial buildings, regardless of factors such as car ownership, proximity to transit, and market demand. This led to a host of negative consequences, including incentivizing driving, generated unwanted congestion, and reducing the space available for more important purposes, such as housing, transit, and public space.
ITDP Mexico has been at the forefront of advocating for rational changes to parking regulations. Through a cooperation with the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing (SEDUVI), the ITDP Mexico team developed the seminal report Less Parking, More City that compiled strong evidence for changing construction regulations. More than 40% of new developments in the city center was being allocated for off-street parking rather than other desirable uses. This stark preference in the codes for parking was counter to the aim of creating a more inclusive and equitable city, leading the Mayor to change course.
This webinar will discuss the findings of Less Parking, More City, how the land use regulations in Mexico City were changed, the process of raising awareness about off-street parking and lessons that could be useful to other cities.
About the Presenters
Bernardo Baranda | ITDP Regional Director, Latin America
Bernardo oversees ITDP programs in Latin America and has been deeply involved implementing global best practices in sustainable transport for over a decade. Bernardo has been involved in urban sustainable mobility projects in the private and non-governmental sectors. He is also a professor at Centro University in Mexico.
Bernardo holds master’s degrees in Transport Engineering from IHE-TU in Delft, The Netherlands, and in Management and Implementation of Development Projects from UMIST in Manchester, United Kingdom. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
Andrés Sañudo | Founder and Head of Espacio Justo
Andrés Sañudo is the Founder and Head of Espacio Justo, a long-term real estate investment vehicle in Mexico that helps reduce spatial inequality while keeping attractive levels of returns for investors. He worked at the ITDP Mexico City office from 2011 to 2015, where he oversaw local efforts to reform on- and off-street parking. He was the lead coordinator of ITDPs off-street parking reform campaign “Less Parking, More City.”
Andrés holds an Msc in International Real Estate and Planning from the Bartlett School of Planning at the University College London in the United Kingdom. He earned his Bachelor’s in Applied Mathematics at ITAM in Mexico City.
A scene from a trial run to test the proposed design for the pedestrian plaza in T.Nagar, which was a hit amongst the public.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a splash two years ago when he announced a plan to tackle his nation’s expected rapid urbanization. 100 smart cities would bloom across the world’s second most populous country, with the first 20 serving as “lighthouses” that would inspire the estimated 4,000 cities that are home to one-third of the population – a share that is expected to climb to over 40% by 2030.
Enshrined in a flagship program called the Smart Cities Mission, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs launched a city challenge with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies. In an effort to change entrenched corruption at the municipal level, cities would compete against each other to deliver the best proposals for a share of a whopping US$15 billion allocated by parliament.
As the ministry’s Secretary for Smart Cities, Sameer Sharma is at the nerve center of this massive undertaking. ITDP spoke with him about how India has refined the smart city concept.
ITDP: The theme of the recent MOBILIZE Santiago conference was “just and inclusive cities become the new normal.” How do Indian cities measure up to this ideal?
Sameer Sharma: India’s Smart Cities Challenge invited cities to propose developments that transform existing areas, including slums, into better-planned ones, or explore the potential for new development of greenfield sites outside city boundaries to accommodate a growing urban population. Apart from setting the core objective of improving basic hard and soft infrastructure and introducing smart solutions to Indian cities, the Smart Cities Mission set out a broader ambition to “improve quality of life, create employment and enhance income for all, especially the poor and the disadvantaged, leading to inclusive cities. ”
Contrary to the assumption that smart cities project would only be taken up in affluent areas, most cities have chosen neighbourhoods with substantial slum areas, dense and ill-provisioned inner city zones, and railway stations. For example, slum redevelopment forms a major component of the Ahmedabad plan. The redevelopment proposal for Wadaj slum includes housing for 8,000 slum dwellers and development of a community centre, schools, aanganwadis [mother and child care center], and complete infrastructure improvement including open spaces in the area. 12 out of the 20 lighthouse cities have cumulatively proposed affordable housing projects offering around 55,000 housing units.
ITDP: What do you see as the role that the national government should play in helping cities achieve these goals?
Sameer Sharma: The London School of Economics studied India’s Smart City Challenge and found that it was perceived as being instrumental in promoting a degree of agency and flexibility for city governments and encouraging them to take initiative while operating within an established federal framework. Many respondents felt that the competitive component of the Smart Cities Challenge allowed cities considerable space to develop their proposals. This greater flexibility was also reinforced by the encouragement to identify financing mechanisms independent from state or national sources.
The Smart Cities Mission was perceived as a localized program that gave city governments the space to shape their city’s proposals without much intervention from the central government. This can be attributed to the center’s capacity building initiatives, and the competitive format itself that generated enthusiasm and involvement at the municipal level. On the whole, the central government’s role in the competition phase appeared to be limited to competition guidelines and capacity building exercises through which it shared best practices, ideas and modes of financing projects. Overall, the Smart Cities Challenge signaled a shift in the balance of power between city, state, and central government.
How do you define smart cities? What are the key things that make a city smart?
A smart city has a different connotation in India than in, say, Europe. Even in India, a smart city means different things to different people and the conceptualization of a smart city varies from city to city, state to state, and region to region, depending on the level of development, willingness to change and reform, and resources and aspirations of the city residents. No single definition can capture the diverse conceptualizations of city residents, especially in the unique Indian culture containing dynamic, diverse, and contextual rules in use. A survey by the Center for Study of Science, Technology & Policy found that there are nearly four-dozen ways of defining a smart city. Therefore, the Indian Smart City Mission did not start with a definition of a smart city but invited cities, through a competition, to define their idea of “smartness” and the pathway to achieve it.
As a result, drawing on the Smart City Challenge proposals, the following definition has been derived: The Indian Smart Cities Mission adapted and redefined the global discourse around ‘Smart Cities’ to create its own unique take on a ‘Smart City’, one that features but is not centered exclusively on technology and includes a strong emphasis on area-based development, citizen preferences, and basic infrastructure and services.
What cities around the world are you most interested in today? Who is doing innovative work in your field?
Several cities are doing remarkable work in the field of ‘smart’ and ‘sustainable’ urban development. I am impressed with Copenhagen on walkability, Adelaide for placemaking, integrated command and control centers in New York and Berlin, how Oakland has tackled liveability, Bilbao’s strategies for urban renewal, and Barcelona’s overall urban transformation.
Is the challenge approach fueling innovation within Indian Cities?
An important innovation in the competition process was that it allowed state governments to select cities to participate, while municipal governments had to demonstrate enthusiasm in order to be successful. A second innovative development of the Smart Cities Challenge was that it sidestepped the issue of forcing state governments to devolve funding by allowing convergence of funding from other schemes. By requiring agency and alignment from both city and state, the Smart Cities Challenge encouraged cooperation and led to increased municipal initiative while allowing the continued role of the state government.
This interview is the part of the MOBILIZE Santiago Speaker Series. In this series, we will feature interviews with speakers and researchers from VREF’s Future Urban Transport where they will discuss their work in sustainable transport and reflecting on MOBILIZE Santiago’s theme: Just and Inclusive Cities Become the New Normal. To learn more about MOBILIZE Santiago and next year’s summit in Dar es Salaam, visit mobilizesummit.org.
Brazil is in a state of political upheaval and economic crisis, and just one year after the Olympics, the situation is not much better in Rio de Janeiro. The state government is bankrupt and a new conservative mayor is pushing back on the city’s progressive gains. However, there is a powerful voice in the chambers of city council, one with a biography different from the deep pockets and private school education of your typical Carioca politician.
Marielle Franco was born and raised in Maré, a complex of favelas on a tidal flat near Rio’s international airport. She became a mother at age 18 and raised the child on her own, managing a scholarship to a prestigious university. From a job as a preschool teacher, she got drawn into politics and ten years ago began working for the upstart leftist Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL in Portuguese). Last year, she won a city council seat – one of just six women on the 51 member council – and represents the voice, and daily lived experience, of the city’s black and brown women. For example, she has pushed for Rio buses to stop anywhere along a route so that women have a shorter, and safer, walk home at night.
ITDP: The theme of MOBILIZE Santiago was “just and inclusive cities become the new normal.” To what extent does Rio de Janeiro reach this ideal?
Marielle Franco: Rio de Janeiro is not a fair, democratic or egalitarian city and unfortunately, with regard to mobility, it remains an unequal city as well. There is an investment in some [richer] areas, for example, Center and South Zone, to the detriment of a part of the West Zone, speaking specifically of the neighborhoods of Santa Cruz and Cosmos, for example.
What did you learn from Santiago’s experience here at MOBILIZE?
I’m impressed with Santiago. It’s a city where you can experience urbanity on foot and experience a good integration of modes, especially the subway. It was always surprising to look at the Andes from a subway station as well! MOBILIZE was also a great opportunity to talk to people who have been involved in urban intervention projects, actions, planning and research.
How does the experience of being born and raised in Maré give you a different perspective from most people who work for the city?
From lived experience. In the day-to-day of those who need to take long commutes, a large part of the everyday occurs on buses and in the subway. The waiting hours, the difficulty to get information on the best route to take and the experience of taking the wrong route and having to make unnecessary transfers happened often. Until I went to university, I did not know the city even though I was born and always lived in Rio. Access to opportunities expands when you expand your knowledge and explore the world. Otherwise, if you do not have these experiences of how to get to the hospital, for example, or to the movies, or university, if you only stay in one part of town, you take transit less and have less experience with the city. This is not only my experience- hundreds of thousands of women do this every day, struggling to get around the city. This makes me more qualified to demand action from the city and to change public policy based on those experiences.
Rio has built a lot of transport over the last five years, specifically BRT. How do you assess the impact of these megaprojects on the lives of low-income communities and residents in the city?
For a moment of great investment in urban projects and after such major events, the expectations were for better results. But what do we see today? The choices made have not been discussed with the population as they should, and despite the promise of increased circulation, I think unfortunately what has remained as an [Olympic] legacy is a greater violation of social rights, and not a more democratic circulation by the city.
What would you change about the way Rio goes about urban planning in order to improve the lives of low-income people in Rio?
To start, I think the guidelines for greater access and rights to the city are already in a master plan that is not followed. I think the challenge is to think from the demands that already exist, to rethink favela priorities – sanitation, for example, and other fundamental rights. This, of course, is part of integrated planning. With what is provided in the master plan, we must build dialogue with the population, which is after all who uses and who seeks the services. It is fundamental to think, for example, “is it really a priority to expand line four of the subway to the” Recreio dos Bandeirantes neighborhood? “This is a proposal that has been reinforced by the municipal transportation secretary and the deputy mayor. It is time to look at the whole of the city, and with this logic, benefit a larger population. Investments should focus on another part of the west, which is not Recreio. It is a question of how to start from a place of the demands we have- the demands of favelas for basic rights.
How are Brazilian cities functioning within the current political climate and in the midst of the economic crisis?
I think Brazilian cities are undergoing a reorientation. The crisis is also a creative opportunity. If you have difficulty then you also need to reorganize. For example, look at the self-organizing of motorcycle taxi drivers or of social movements themselves. The current political situation interferes directly in the lives of all. Unfortunately, the experience of living in public spaces and circulating around the city is impaired, but I think we can make a qualitative leap thinking about the alternatives. That is if there is a dialogue between civil society and public power, if there is planning, if we talk about financing. I hope that in the crisis we can think about bettering the coming years by building a more accessible city and reducing travel time, guaranteeing the right to the city in its completeness.
This interview is the part of the MOBILIZE Santiago Speaker Series. In this series, we will feature interviews with speakers and researchers from VREF’s Future Urban Transport where they will discuss their work in sustainable transport and reflecting on MOBILIZE Santiago’s theme: Just and Inclusive Cities Become the New Normal. To learn more about MOBILIZE Santiago and next year’s summit in Dar es Salaam, visit mobilizesummit.org.
According to the Department of Transport Statistics, more than 18,500 children (under 14 years old) die of traffic accidents in China every year – 2.5 times the number in Europe and 2.6 times in U.S.A. Among many others, poor travel conditions is a key component leading to these tragedies. While many cities around the world have started to address issues of safety in transport, the first in China is the city of Changsha, located in the south-central region of the country. Due to Changsha’s awareness of the importance of creating better transport infrastructure for children and ITDP China’s advocacy, the Changsha Urban Planning Bureau included a Child Friendly City (CFC) initiative into the Changsha Long-term Development Plan 2050, and began to launch a series of transit improvement projects last year. Now, with ITDP’s assistance, the City of Changsha is not only the first to address the issue, it is the first in the nation to officially be equipped with leading CFC measures. Many other Chinese cities are expected to follow Changsha’s footsteps to implement innovative actions and become child friendly.
Since the last International Children’s Day in June 2016, ITDP China has been working for the Changsha CFC project with Changsha Urban Planning Bureau, Shenzhen New Land Tool (SZNLT), and many other local design institutes. ITDP China provided technical support including preliminary training for government officials and local design institutes, and the professional review for 10 pilot demonstration school proposals. The proposals included 186 implementation items, including 121 short-term items with a 19.085 million Yuan investment and 65 long-term items with a 108 million Yuan investment. These improvements consist of walking spaces, crossings, traffic organization, transport infrastructure, and public spaces around schools, aiming to establish a better environment for children’s studying, living, and playing.
The Changsha CFC School Area Urban Planning and Design Guide, mostly created by ITDP China and SZNLT, was issued by the Changsha Urban Planning Bureau late last year to provide design guidelines at the city level for any newly-developed or regenerated school development.
ITDP China has also assisted the Changsha Urban Planning Bureau and local design institutes to host a series of CFC communication activities, including classes open to the public in the Changsha Urban Planning Exhibition Hall and presentations to the Urban Planning Bureau, the Education Bureau, local design institutes, etc., to advocate for children’s rights. As a result, adequate resource commitments and budget analysis for children from the city government was approved creating a lot of media and public buzz. One of the most exciting results from the campaign has been the public participation, particularly from the children, during the design process.
As Changsha Urban Planning Bureau said, by International Children’s Day 2017 (June), Changsha city will implement improvements to a wider area around the schools, including implementing a refuge island, parking demand management, traffic organization for peak hours, sign integration, and public space upgrades. These improvements were implemented as promised, showcased in the images below.
Changsha’s contribution to CFC, including this project, which won the 2017 China’s CFC Community Service Projects Award issued by the China Child-friendly Community Work Committee in April, has inspired a lot of Chinese cities’ awareness of CFC. ITDP China was invited for a second time to participate in the Shenzhen CFC development on demonstration projects in communities, schools, hospitals, and libraries. More technical support like transport environment design, public space proposals, and international best practices will be provided. ITDP aims to promote more CFC demonstration projects in other Chinese cities, and cooperate with national institutes to formulate a national CFC guideline. This way, ITDP can continue to help create cities where all people can travel safely because when cities are designed with children at the focus, they are safe, sustainable environments for everyone.