Future-oriented ideas for dealing with urban transport are emerging in Latin America. However, it is obvious that the countries are still struggling to turn them into reality. Jorge M. Rebelo is aware of the challenges. He has worked at the World Bank for 25 years and is one of its top transport consultants. At Shaping Transportation he will talk about the four pillars of urban transport in Latin America, but he has already given us an insight in an interview.
PTV: Mr Rebelo, you have said that Latin America is a region with an important urban transport planning development policy, but the development is, in part, only making slow progress. Why is that?
Rebelo: You’re right. Latin America had some innovative and pioneering ideas, including the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Curitiba and Bogota and the first rail concessions in Rio and Buenos Aires as well as the São Paulo Metro Line 4 PPP.. On the other hand, however, Latin America is also a region suffering from high congestion and poor public transport: there is a lack of infrastructure and, in some cases, regulation. In general, there is no coordination between the various different levels of government who run transport in large metropolitan areas.
PTV: To what extent does the World Bank feel duty-bound to create new structures?
Rebelo: The World Bank is not a commercial bank. We see it as our duty to improve quality of life particularly for the poor. Many people have to get up practically in the middle of the night because they have to commute for well over an hour to get to work, and make multiple changes en route. Our projects should help reduce the amount of time that such people waste commuting, thanks to improved transport infrastructure, and also make it cheaper for them. The aim is to improve the accessibility, availability, affordability and acceptability of transport for the users.
PTV: The World Bank has come up with four pillars that will make urban transport in Latin America more sustainable in the long-term. What are they?
Rebelo: The four pillars cover the creation of metropolitan authorities, integrated strategies for urban transport, land use and air quality as well as functioning financing mechanisms and public-private partnerships.
PTV: Why is it important to create metropolitan authorities in Latin America?
Rebelo: If no coordination institution exists at the metropolitan region level, then valuable resources are wasted: for example, the governor might strive to develop transport in one direction and the mayor in another. Joint decisions on prioritizing investments, on tariff and subsidy policies and on modal integration are crucial for the users to amke its daily trips easier.. The second pillar is all about combining concepts for urban transport, land use and air quality. A lot of cities still do not actually have an integrated strategy for these elements. Therefore, when drawing up a transport development plan, you have to ask yourself questions such as: Should building houses be allowed in a particular district or should it only be used for industrial purposes? How do you cleverly combine these approaches? And how do you reduce the CO2 footprint in this context? How is the area going to be served? Can we cleverly create new poles of employment diverting people to areas other than the old centers of the metropolitan regions?
PTV: The other two pillars cover financial aspects. What recommendations would you make for Latin American countries here?
Rebelo: It is a well-known fact that a transport system can only be organized and run successfully if the necessary funds are made available. So should there be sole reliance on state funding? We advise institutions on what other mechanisms also exist. For example, that could be marketing activities or the creation of commercial spaces inside a station building. In Brazil we have already had great success with this on various occasions with the so called urban operations which allow additional floor space creation which can in turn generate funds that can be earmarked for transport infrastructure.. Such efforts to secure the additional capital necessary are often not made in Latin America. We also advise countries on public-private partnerships, the fourth pillar of our concept.
PTV: When you look back, what has the World Bank achieved over the last 15 to 20 years?
Rebelo: There are so many projects worth mentioning… If I had to choose one, then I would choose the first metro project that the World Bank supported: “Line 4″ in São Paulo. The project started around three years ago and already today “Line 4″ has 800,000 passengers every day.