Changing spaces: How Covid is reshaping passenger transport

Battered by the pandemic, the passenger transport industry on land, sea and air is feeling its way back to a new normal shaped by Covid-19 shocks. Selwyn Parker explores how “customer experience” could be the next big thing

Space travel: The airports revival is seeking more passenger space and faster turnaround times

The industry’s latest acronym is CX, which stands for customer experience and is being used everywhere to lure back travellers.

Although CX is not always visible, it affects every stage of the traveller’s journey, whether it’s a five-day cruise, trans-oceanic flight or half-hour train trip.

First, more space. Cruise ships, railway stations and airports are giving passengers more room to keep their distance in public places. Even the notoriously overcrowded Mumbai rail station has installed new seating arrangements that separate travellers. In airports, check-in lines have become shorter – and less virus-prone – because bag drops and boarding have become more automated in the last two years. A lot of the work was done when airports were pretty much deserted.

Second, pure air. In enclosed places such as aircraft cabins, the latest air circulation systems claim to eliminate 99.9 per cent of viruses and particulates as the entire volume of air is swapped every two or three minutes. Carnival, the giant of the cruise ship industry, has followed suit and installed all its fleet with air filters as well as segregating ventilation throughout the ship.  

Third, better hygiene. Swipe-activated doors on some cruise ships reduce the risk of infections spreading. The authorities are looking over the cruise industry’s shoulder. In March, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention toughened its regulations by requiring physical distancing during short excursions, among other measures.

In airports, the rating agency Skytrax has announced that henceforth it will issue results based solely on physical inspections and testing rather than on the previous paper-based systems that, according to Skytrax, “had very limited validity.” Although travellers will be largely oblivious, frontline staff are scouring seats, toilets, food and beverage outlets, ATMs, vending machines and lounges as they respond to tougher standards. If it doesn’t move, it’s being cleaned.

Digital journey

But what exactly is CX? In technical terms, it’s about using digital technologies to track the traveller’s journey almost from the moment they leave home. In aviation, CX takes in parking, queuing, checking in, shopping, boarding, flying and every other stage of the “customer-centric experience.” Etihad’s passengers, for instance, can remotely check in bags, choose their seats and collect their boarding passes under a wellness programme that avoids much human contact.

Customer Experience leading competitive advantage: CX explained

 “We recognise and alleviate passengers’ stress-inducing points … as they move through the terminal,” one airport official explains.

Artificial intelligence underpins the digital journey. Athens International Airport has gone to great lengths, engaging consultants that purport to measure the intensity, nature and type of travellers’ feelings in the quest for “emotional engagement metrics”. Having accumulated the metrics, they are then interpreted and appropriate changes made.

Everybody’s trying to make travel faster, simpler and more congenial. Miami International has introduced biometric boarding through an instant touchless click of a camera, one of scores of CX-style projects being made at American airports under a USD 600m programme designed to make them “better, safer and more accessible.” Another US airport, Arizona’s Phoenix Sky Harbour International, is piloting a system that allows travellers to book their own time for security in order “to eliminate uncertainty and stress.”

A faster gateway: Wall Street Journal reports on biometric scanning to speed up the airport experience

Lost revenues

Already it’s clear that post-pandemic travel won’t be the same as before. Take rail, for example. Big-city public transport systems are trying to figure out how to recover revenues lost in the collapse of rush hour as officer-workers stay at home two or three days a week or, when they do travel, make sure to go off-peak.

In London, the Monday to Friday strap-hanger hours have long been the golden goose for rail companies charging sky-high ticket prices. Not any more. In mid-May 2022 peak-hour numbers had plummeted to 15-20 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. Just as worryingly, overall commuter density had fallen to below half, according to the Centre for Policy Studies, an influential think tank.

Similarly, in US cities “ridership” on public transit has barely scraped above half of pre-pandemic levels, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

Most rail experts see this as a transformational moment. In Britain, a new government-run body, Great British Railways, has promised more CX-oriented ticketing and timetables that should attract previously neglected off-peak travellers who don’t want to go into the cities. The organisation must move fast though, if the government wants to recoup the GBP 14bn bill accumulated by propping up the rail system during the pandemic.

“Unless UK rail is radically overhauled and able to respond to new passenger demands for freedom and flexibility, it will be plagued by a future of decline and underinvestment,” warns the Centre for Policy Studies’ research fellow Tony Lodge.

Meantime, in an effort to boost revenues, airports and stations are being sold as exciting spaces even for people who have no intention of jumping on a plane or train. In short, destinations in their own right. Turkey’s Istanbul Grand Airport has opened a Youth Lounge where university students are offered free internet, games, low-priced food and live music.

The issue of urban space was thrown into the spotlight by the pandemic: ITF’s Streets That Fit

And in France, anybody can sit down in one of hundreds of rail stations and read a short story dispensed by an automated booth. Now, that’s history repeating itself. In 1852 Louis Hachette opened little book shops in the Grandes Gares where travellers bought cheap novels to read on the journey. They were considered the golden days of rail travel – and they may be returning.

Selwyn Parker is an independent journalist and author of Chasing the Chimney Sweep about the first Tour de France of 1903.

The International Transport Forum (ITF) offers a wealth of policy insights to help its 64 member countries navigate transport in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Learn more here

A new ITF report looks at how street space has typically been allocated in the past, examines the rationale for street space allocation and describes how to measure space consumption for mobility purposes. Get the report on Street That Fit: Re-allocating Space for Better Cities

Over a barrel – and on your bike

Increasing oil and gas prices provide a stark reminder of transport’s dependency on fossil fuels. Selwyn Parker reviews the developing situation and the possible impacts on greener mobility options.

Just when we thought it was safe to travel again by air, road, sea and rail after some two years of pandemic-forced immobility, the war in Ukraine has thrown a spanner in the works by sending fuel costs sky high.

In a stark demonstration of how all forms of transport continue to remain dependent on fossil fuels, drivers are already paying more at the pump, air travel is set to rise in price, cruise ships are contemplating fare increases (as well as slashing itineraries), and numerous rail networks have been forced to cut routes.

Europe-wide prices at the pump pass the two-Euro mark, as seen in Turku, Finland

In mid-April, spooked markets had sent the price of a barrel of Brent crude, one of the key benchmarks, to over USD 100 compared to around USD 40 in the same month of 2021. Most experts expect prices to stay at that level, while some forecast USD 140 in the event of a complete embargo against Russian hydrocarbons.

Even if and when peace in Ukraine is restored, it will probably take years for governments to find enough oil and gas to replace Russian supplies. The problem in Europe, the region with the most-affected countries, is a pre-existing dearth of energy. As the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies points out in a paper published in March on the short-term situation, “the European market is already very tight” and warns that a worsening geopolitical context could “make a challenging market situation even tighter, with price surges to new record highs the inevitable outcome.”

In short, Europe has little room for manoeuvre – with obvious implications for all forms of travel.

Already, then, we’ve clearly got an energy shock on our hands, probably the most serious since the 1970s when the oil-producing nations of OPEC turned off the taps: between October 1973 and November 1974, the price of a barrel crude rose five-fold.

Retro reporting: how USA’s NBC covered the 1973 oil crisis

Back in the seventies, most western countries responded with all kinds of fuel-saving measures, for instance, by legislating slower speeds on roads. The British government, for example, appealed for citizens to take public transport and handed out fuel rationing books (although they were never actually used).

In the half-century since, aviation has become a voracious user of fossil fuels – and now faces yet another setback as it struggles back from the pandemic. The airline association IATA notes that “jet fuel prices rose sharply since the start of the conflict”, reaching  USD 150 a barrel in late March – up 39 per cent in just one month and 121 per cent year-on-year. As sanctions against Russia bite deeper – or indeed are extended – the outlook will become even more dismal, fears IATA.

The cost of jet fuel accounts for about a quarter of an airline’s operating expenses, and ticket prices inevitably reflect this. Although some airlines have hedged against the rising cost of jet fuel, others are fully exposed. So far, bookings to most destinations are rising as travel-starved passengers get back in the air, albeit from low pandemic levels. But fares aren’t yet reflecting the latest fuel costs.

Unfortunately, it’s too early for the next generation of sustainably produced jet fuels (sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF) to come to the rescue of the airline industry. Although airlines are using it in small amounts as a “drop-in” fuel, there is not enough of it, and it’s too expensive. As European SAF leader Neste tells me, “the main challenge for the development of SAF is the cost at three to five times more than conventional jet fuel.”

That’s because the commercialisation of SAF is in its infancy and because the cost of raw materials and the production process is high. However, at the current high price of jet fuel, the economics of SAF look better. The price difference is down to around three times that of conventional fuel. That would add around 4 to 15 euros to the price of a fare over a conventionally fuelled flight, Air France-KLM has found.

The International Transport Forum recently organised a webinar to explore the development of flagship SAF policies in leading aviation markets (USA and EU) and emerging aviation markets. Aviation experts explained the current SAF sector’s output and mid- and long-term targets. The meeting discussed policies to scale up volumes and economic and regulatory instruments to support airlines’ switch to SAF.

Regional policies to promote sustainable aviation fuels: ITF webinar

Meantime down on the earth, 1970s-style measures may yet be enforced for road transport if fuel shortages increase. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has just provided a blueprint. Its “Ten-Point Plan to Cut Oil Use” would slash oil demand by 2.7m barrels a day in just four months if fully carried out in advanced economies, the IEA says. That amount is equivalent to the oil demand of all the cars in China.  

Along with greater use of high-speed and overnight rail and virtual meetings replacing air travel, the plan calls for lower speed limits (at least 10km/h less on highways), cheaper public transport and car-pooling. All of these seem very dated, except for Zoom meetings.

Faced with such restrictions, road users will probably opt for electric vehicles. Indeed sales of EVs and hybrids are already up just about everywhere. Commuters could also jump on bikes. The Dutch government has just decided to pump an extra EUR 240m into a cycling-to-work programme between now and 2024. If other countries follow suit, expect an even bigger boom in e-bikes than we’ve already got.

Selwyn Parker is an independent journalist and author of Chasing the Chimney Sweep about the first Tour de France of 1903.

ITF’s 2021 report “Decarbonising Air Transport: Acting Now for the Future” provides an overview of technological, operational and policy measures that can accelerate the decarbonisation of aviation.

Learn more about ITF’s work on cutting carbon emissions from transport through more ambitious policies around the globe. See the ITF’s Decarbonising Transport initiative

एक नया तरीका: मेट्रो और मुंबई

मुंबई का बुनियादी ढांचा बदल रहा है । शहर में फील्डवर्क करते हुए, कार्ल एडलर ने देखा कि भारत की वित्तीय राजधानी में नए परिवहन मोड महानगर को कैसे नया रूप देंगें ।

Go to English version

मैं उठता हूँ , तैयार होता हूँ , बाहर जाता हूँ  और चर्चगेट तक लगभग एक किलोमीटर चलकर आता हूँ । मैं जांघ-ऊंचाई वाले बोल्डर और बाड़ की लंबाई के बीच से गुज़रता हूँ, जो फुटपाथ को संकुचित करते हैं । कोई इष्टतम ऊंचाई नहीं है जिस पर मेरी निगाहों को इस तरह  टिका सकूँ कि बाधाओं से बच जाऊं ; यहाँ हर जगह आश्चर्य है, और पूरे दृश्य पर पूरा ध्यान देने की आवश्यकता है। अंत में, मैं चर्चगेट पहुँचता हूँ। मैंने यहाँ और बांद्रा के बीच के लिए एक मासिक पास खरीदा है, इसलिए मुझे टिकट खिड़की के  बाहर कतार में इंतजार नहीं करना पड़ेगा। मुझे अगले तीन सप्ताह तक ऐसा नहीं करना पड़ेगा। मैं लंबे सफेद गलियारे के अंत में मेटल डिटेक्टर से गुज़रता हूँ   और बर्थ में आराम से बैठी चौड़ी बैंगनी ट्रेनों को देखता हूँ ।

प्रत्येक ट्रेन बड़े हरे रंग की संख्याओं और अक्षरों के साथ एक डिस्प्ले के नीचे खड़ी हुई हैं जो इंगित करती है कि ट्रेन कब जा रही है, कहाँ रुकेगी और कहाँ ख़तम  होगी। यह कोड सरल है, लेकिन उन सभी महीनों में इसे क्रैक करने से मुझे ऐसा लगा कि अब मैं मुंबई से हूँ । अब मुझे इसके बारे में सोचने की भी जरूरत नहीं है। मैं उस संकेत के नीचे ट्रेन तक जाता हूं जो मुझे बताता है कि यह एक्सप्रेस नहीं चलती है, कि यह अंधेरी जाती है, और यह दूसरों की तुलना में जल्दी जा रही है। मैं गाड़ी में प्रवेश करता हूं और ओवरहेड पंखे को चालू करने के लिए अपनी सीट के पास एक स्विच फ्लिप करता हूँ । तीस सेकंड के भीतर, हम प्रस्थान करते हैं। दरवाजे बंद नहीं होते हैं, लेकिन यह सामान्य है। माहिम जंक्शन के लिए मेरे पच्चीस मिनट या उससे अधिक की यात्रा में, मेरी कार में भीड़ बढ़ जाती है और लोग उन खुले दरवाजों के पास खड़े हो जाते हैं, और उस \ पट्टी को पकड़ते हैं जो समर्थन के लिए प्रवेश द्वार को द्विभाजित करती है। प्रत्येक स्टेशन पर, सवारी वाहन के रुकने से पहले प्लेटफॉर्म पर कूद जाते हैं, ट्रेन के साथ कुछ मीटर जॉगिंग करते हैं और फिर धीमी गति से चलते हैं। हम माहिम जंक्शन पहुँचते हैं; मैं गाड़ी से बाहर निकलता हूँ और ट्रेन को उत्तर की ओर धुंध में खोते हुए देखता हूं।

मैंने इस यात्रा के बाद लगभग आधा साल, सोमवार से शुक्रवार तक, घनी उष्णकटिबंधीय गर्मी में बिताया। एक शौकिया परिवहन उत्साही और नवोदित विद्वान होते हुए, महानगर की सभी चीज़ों से ज़्यादा, मुंबई की लोकल ट्रेनों ने मुझे आकर्षित किया । इस प्रणाली ने डेढ़ सदी से अधिक समय तक शहर की संचार प्रणाली के रूप में कार्य किया है। सब्सिडाइज्ड किराए से सभी सामाजिक-आर्थिक पृष्ठभूमि के मुंबईवासियों को लोकल ट्रैन इस्तेमाल करने का मौका मिलता है । इसकी विशिष्टताएं पौराणिक हैं।। अनगिनत बॉलीवुड फिल्मों में भीड़-भाड़ वाली लोकल ट्रेनों में लटके लोगों के क्लिप होते हैं। पात्र अक्सर वाहनों के अचूक पिंजरे जैसे  हिस्सों में मिलते हैं। मुंबई की लोकल ट्रैन गेटवे ऑफ इंडिया, ताज महल पैलेस होटल और मरीन ड्राइव की आर्ट डेको वाली इमारतें के सामान शहर का प्रतीक हैं । हालांकि, यह खामियों के बिना नहीं है।

मुंबई की लोकल ट्रेनों का सुरक्षा रिकॉर्ड बेहद खराब है। भारत की सरकारी रेलवे पुलिस के मुताबिक 2019 में नेटवर्क के अंदर 2691 लोगों की मृत्यु  हुई थी। इसके अलावा 3194 लोग घायल हुए थे। यह संख्या अन्य शहरों में अकल्पनीय होगी। चलती गाड़ियों से गिरना और  प्लेटफार्मों के बीच से पार करने वाले लोग इन मृत्युओं के मुख्य कारण हैं। स्टेशनों पर जाते समय चलती वाहनों से कूदने से भी लोग घायल हो जाते हैं। भीड़भाड़ ने घंटों की यात्रा को यात्रियों के लिए दुःस्वप्न बना दिया है। गाड़ियों को दो वर्गों में बांटा गया है। प्रथम और द्वितीय श्रेणी में बहुत अधिक अंतर नहीं हैं, लेकिन प्रथम श्रेणी के टिकट की कीमत द्वितीय श्रेणी के किराए से लगभग दस गुना अधिक हैं, जिससे ऐसी स्थिति उत्पन्न होती है जहाँ द्वितीय श्रेणी में अत्यधिक भीड़ होती है और पहले में बहुत अधिक जगह होती है। सिस्टम की सभी विलक्षण और आदर्श धारणाएं खुली ट्रेन के दरवाजे से बाहर निकलती हैं, और यह अहसास होता है कि इस प्रणाली को किसी प्रकार के अपग्रेड सेट की आवश्यकता है।  स्थानीय ट्रेन प्रणाली में एक सीमित सेवा क्षेत्र है। मुंबई में रहने वाली एक युवा पेशेवर, श्रुतिका मणिवन्नन, लोकल ट्रेनों से यात्रा करती हैं, लेकिन सिस्टम की अपेक्षाकृत खराब कनेक्टिविटी पर प्रकाश डाला,”लोकल ट्रेन बड़ी दूरी के लिए सुविधाजनक है क्योंकि यह मुझे यात्रा के समय की बचत करती है, लेकिन मैं इसे छोटी दूरियों के लिए टालती हूँ क्योंकि स्टेशन तक पहुंचने में कुछ समय लगता है”।

इस दबाव को कम करने के लिए, मुंबई ने एक नई मेट्रो प्रणाली बनाने के लिए एक महत्वाकांक्षी परियोजना शुरू की है। यह परियोजना कई मुंबईवासियों के अपने शहर से गुजरने के तरीके को पूरी तरह से बदल देगी। यह लोकल ट्रेनों के लिए एक सुरक्षित, अधिक आरामदायक विकल्प का वादा करती है। नए नेटवर्क में अंततः दस लाइनें शामिल होंगी और दोनों का उद्देश्य उन क्षेत्रों की सेवा करना है जहां वर्तमान में स्थानीय ट्रेन की पहुंच नहीं है या फिर लोकल ट्रैन के अलावा एक और विकल्प प्रदान करती हैं । मुंबई मेट्रोपॉलिटन रीजन डेवलपमेंट अथॉरिटी (एम. एम. आर. डी. ए.) के अनुसार, पूरा सिस्टम लगभग 190 किलोमीटर तक फैला होगा।  व्यापक शहरी रेलवे नेटवर्क हासिल करके, मुंबई सडकों पर निजी वाहनों की संख्या में कमी देखने की उम्मीद भी रखता है। अभी तक, केवल एक परिचालन लाइन, लाइन वन है। लाइन वन एक पूर्व-पश्चिम गैलरी में चलती है जिसमें पहले रेलवे कनेक्शन नहीं था और तीन लोकल ट्रेन लाइनों में से दो के बीच महत्वपूर्ण स्थानांतरण स्टेशन प्रदान करती है। इसका निर्माण पब्लिक प्राइवेट पार्टनरशिप के माध्यम से किया गया था, जिसमें रिलायंस एनर्जी लिमिटेड की 69% हिस्सेदारी थी। इस परियोजना की लागत लगभग 43०० करोड़ रुपये थी और सेवा 2014 में शुरू हुई थी। लाइन वन लेकर अन्य लाइनों पर सवार के अनुभव की जानकारी मिलती है।

मैंने पहली बार 2018 की शरद ऋतु में एक जॉब साइट पर पहुंचने के लिए लाइन वन की सवारी की। एक सहकर्मी और मैं उमस भरी दोपहर में हमारे धारावी कोलीवाड़ा के कार्यालय से सायन स्टेशन तक गए । भीड़-भाड़ का समय अभी शुरू ही हुआ था, और हम मध्य रेलवे की वाहन  में सवार हो गए, जैसे ही वह प्लेटफार्म पर पहुंची । हम पूरी यात्रा के लिए दरवाजों के पास रहे- वाहन  में आगे जाने का मतलब यात्रियों की लगातार बढ़ती भीड़ के पीछे फंसना हो सकता है। हमने ट्रेन को लाइन वन के पूर्वी टर्मिनस घाटकोपर पर छोड़ा और मेट्रो के लिए संकेतों का पालन किया। आखिरकार, हम उज्ज्वल और शानदार मेट्रो स्टेशन पर पहुँचे। हम टिकट खिड़की तक गए, वहां इलेक्ट्रॉनिक टोकन खरीदे और उन्हें टर्नस्टाइल पर चिप रीडर के सामने लगाया । गेट खुल गए और हमने प्लेटफार्म तक एस्क्लेटर ले लिया । हमारे सिर के ऊपर लगे एलसीडी पैनल ने हमें बताया कि अगली ट्रेन सिर्फ दो मिनट में रवाना होगी। जल्द ही, हम वातानुकूलित ट्रेन में चढ़कर बैठ गए। हमने मेट्रो से बाहर शहर को अपने नीचे से गुज़रता देखा और दस मिनट के भीतर, अपने गंतव्य पर पहुंच गए।

बाद में कई बार मैंने लाइन वन की सवारी की, सभी एक साथ मिश्रित होते हैं- लाइन का उपयोग करना सुखद और सीधा है। इस नई प्रणाली में लोकल ट्रेनों की विशेषताओं का अभाव है और यह कभी भी शहरी पहचान का केंद्रबिंदु नहीं हो सकता है, जो लोकल ट्रेनें कई मुंबईवासियों के लिए हैं। लेकिन, यह निस्संदेह नेटवर्क पर जगह खाली कर देगा और ड्राइवरों को निजी वाहनों के साथ आने-जाने का एक व्यवहार्य विकल्प दे सकता है। सबसे महत्वपूर्ण बात यह है कि मेट्रो की बढ़ी हुई सुरक्षा अधिक मुंबईवासियों को कम से कम डर के साथ जीने की अनुमति देगी।

कार्ल एडलर साइंस पो पेरिस में मास्टर के छात्र हैं और इंटरनेशनल ट्रांसपोर्ट फोरम में इंटर्नशिप कर रहे हैं।

2022 के अंत तक मुंबई की मेट्रो की कई अतिरिक्त लाइनों के चालू होने की उम्मीद है।

इंटरनेशनल ट्रांसपोर्ट फोरम दो परियोजनाओं पर भारत में परिवहन को डीकार्बोनाइजिंग पर काम करता है:

डार्बोनिसिंग ट्रांसपोर्ट इन इमर्जिंग इकनोमीस (डीटीईई) – भारत परियोजना का उद्देश्य भारत सरकार और अन्य हितधारकों को परिवहन उपायों की पहचान करने और परिवहन सीओ 2 उत्सर्जन को कम करने और अपने जलवायु लक्ष्यों और एनडीसी को पूरा करने के लिए मार्ग स्थापित करने में मदद करता है । और अधिक जानें

एशिया के लिए एनडीसी ट्रांसपोर्ट इनिशिएटिव (एनडीसी-टीआईए) का उद्देश्य विभिन्न क्षेत्रों के मंत्रालयों, नागरिक समाज और निजी क्षेत्र के बीच समन्वयित परिवहन के लिए प्रभावी नीतियों की एक सुसंगत रणनीति को बढ़ावा देना है। और अधिक जानें

A New Mode: The Metro and Mumbai

Mumbai is in the midst of an infrastructure makeover. Drawing on his fieldwork in the city, Carl Adler looks at how new transport modes in India’s financial capital will reshape the metropolis.

हिंदी संस्करण पर जाएं

Hanging out: Mumbai Suburban Railway moves over 7 million commuters daily

I wake up, get ready, go outside and walk the kilometre or so to Churchgate. I weave between thigh-height bollards and lengths of fence that constrict the footpath and occasional gaps in pavement. There is no optimal height at which to fix my gaze to avoid impediments to movement; there are surprises everywhere here, and the entire scene requires full attention. Eventually, I reach Churchgate. I bought a monthly pass for between here and Bandra, so I do not have to wait in the queue snaking out from the ticket window. I will not have to do so for another three weeks. I walk through the metal detector at the end of the long white corridor and look out at the wide purple trains sitting snugly in their berths.

Each train rests under a display with big green numbers and letters that indicate when a train is leaving, where it will stop and where it will end up. This code is simple, but cracking it all those months ago made me feel a little bit more like I belonged here. Now I don’t even need to think about it. I walk to the train under the sign that tells me it does not run express, that it goes to Andheri, and that it is leaving sooner than the others. I enter the carriage and flip a switch near my seat to turn on the overhead fan. Within thirty seconds, we depart. The doors do not close, but this is normal. Over my twenty-five-minute-or-so commute to Mahim Junction, the crowd in my car swells and people stand beside those open doors, gripping the texturised vertical metal bar which bisects the entrance for support. At each station, riders jump onto the platform before the vehicle stops, jogging alongside the train for a few metres and slowing to a walk. We reach Mahim Junction; I exit the carriage and watch the train pull north into the haze.

I spent nearly half a year following this commute, Monday through Friday, in the thick tropical heat. As an amateur transport enthusiast and budding scholar, Mumbai’s local trains stole my attention more than anything else in the metropolis. The system has served as the city’s circulatory system for over a century and a half. Subsidised fares allow access to Mumbaikers from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Its idiosyncrasies are the stuff of legend. Countless Bollywood films feature clips of people hanging out of crowded local trains. Characters often meet in the unmistakable cage-like interiors of cars. Mumbai’s local train system is as emblematic of the city as the Gateway of India, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and the Art Deco facades along Marine Drive. It is, however, not without its flaws. 

2.64 billion Mumbai Suburban Railway’s annual riders arguably rate service as the worst anywhere in the world

Mumbai’s local trains have an abysmal safety record. According to India’s Government Railway Police, 2,691 people died within the network in 2019. In addition, 3,194 people were injured. These numbers would be unthinkable in other cities. Falls from moving carriages and people crossing between platforms at rail level are the main causes of these fatalities. People also sustain injuries from jumping from moving cars as they pull into stations. Crowdedness makes rush hour travel a nightmare for commuters. Carriages are broken down into two classes. First and second class do not have many material differences, but first-class ticket prices are around ten times as high as second-class fares, leading to situations where there is intense congestion in second class and a great deal of space in first. All romantic and idealised notions of the system fly out the open train doors on crushing weekday mornings, and the realisation that this system needs some sort of an upgrade sets in. Finally, the local train system has a limited service area. Shrutika Manivannan, a young professional based in Mumbai, commutes with local trains but highlighted the system’s relatively poor connectivity. “[The local train is] convenient for large distances because it saves me on commute time, but I avoid it for shorter ones considering reaching the station itself takes some time”.

“I want my travel to be super cool and modern,” say Mumbaikers on the move

To ease some of this pressure, Mumbai has embarked on an ambitious project to build a new metro system. This project will completely change the way many Mumbaikers move through their city. It promises a safer, more comfortable alternative to local trains. The new network will eventually include ten lines and aims both to serve areas that do not currently have local train access and provide an alternative to some local train routes. According to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), the completed system will stretch over nearly 190 km. By having a more comprehensive urban railway network, Mumbai also hopes to see a reduction in the number of private vehicles on the road. As of now, there is only one operational line, Line One. Line One serves an east-west corridor that did not previously have a railway connection and provides important transfer points between two of the three local train lines. It was constructed through a Public-Private Partnership, with Reliance Energy Limited holding a 69% stake. The project cost about INR 43 billion, and service began in 2014. Riding Line One gives insight into what rider experiences on other lines will be like.

I first rode Line One in the autumn of 2018 in order to reach a job site. A colleague and I walked through the humid afternoon from our office in Dharavi Koliwada to Sion station. Rush hour had just begun, and we crammed into the Central Railways car when it pulled up to the platform. We stayed near the doors for the whole trip- going further into the car could have meant getting stuck behind the ever-swelling mass of commuters. We left the train at Ghatkopar, Line One’s eastern terminus, and followed the signs for the metro. Eventually, we reached the bright and polished metro station. We walked to the ticket window, bought our electronic tokens and waved them in front of the chip reader on the turnstiles. The gates opened and we took the escalator up to the platform. The LCD panels above our heads told us the next train would depart in just two minutes. Soon, we stepped onto the air-conditioned train and sat down. We watched the city roll underneath us and, within ten minutes, had reached our destination.

Turning point: The Mumbai Metro in action

The many subsequent times I have ridden Line One all blend together- using the line is pleasant and straightforward. This new system lacks the local trains’ quirks and it may never be the centrepiece of urban identity that local trains are for many Mumbaikers. But, it will undoubtedly free up space on the network and it may give drivers a viable alternative to commuting with private vehicles. Most importantly, the metro’s enhanced safety will allow more Mumbaikers to live with at least a little less fear.

Carl Adler is a Master student at Sciences Po Paris and is working on an internship at the International Transport Forum.

Several additional lines of Mumbai’s metro are expected to be operational by the end of 2022.

The International Transport Forum works on decarbonising transport in India over two projects:

The Decarbonising Transport in Emerging Economies (DTEE) – India project aims to help India’s government and other stakeholders to identify transport measures and establish pathways to reduce transport CO2 emissions and meet their climate goals and NDCs. Learn more

The NDC Transport Initiative for Asia (NDC-TIA) aims at promoting a coherent strategy of effective policies for decarbonising transport that are co-ordinated among various sector ministries, civil society and the private sector. Learn more

Fertile Ground for Innovation: A Fresh Look at Rural Mobility

Our rural regions are highly car-dependent, creating huge problems for those who do not want to use their car or cannot drive or afford a car. Carl Adler looks at innovative transport options that better connect rural users.

New options on offer: A rural mobility hub in France | Copyright: Ecov France

Rural areas around the world are in the midst of significant changes. Remote workers from urban areas have taken up residence in the countryside. Families looking for fresh air and space have sought property in small towns and villages. Rural societies have also been rocked by high levels of outmigration and shrinking economic opportunities. The growing gulf between cities and rural areas represents one of the most significant societal divisions within many countries today. Transport discrepancies between rural and urban areas are an oft-overlooked and critical aspect of these broader differences. Within the world of transport, urban mobility is a frequently discussed and highly visible concept, while rural transport is often an afterthought or missing entirely from the discourse. In fact, mobility policies for rural areas are often addressed through an urban lens. This leads to service which does not align with the realities of rural life and further disenfranchises rural residents from participation in society. Furthermore, broad initiatives to decarbonise transport which tend to prioritise urban transport, threaten to sweep rural mobility issues under the rug altogether.

Transport policies become a tipping point in the urban-rural divide: “Gilets Jaunes” protests in France

By taking stock of rural transport realities and innovations in the field, ITF’s Innovations for Better Rural Mobility report provides policymakers with a path forward to provide rural-dwellers with excellent mobility solutions. The report’s strongest message is political: to be successful, new rural transport initiatives must stem from the experiences of people living in rural environments.

Rural and remote mobility is characterised by heavy dependence on private cars. This is unlikely to change in the near future. However, many people living in rural areas cannot drive or do not own cars. These individuals are often members of the least-advantaged segments of society: the elderly, low-income people, individuals with physical mobility constraints. Providing mobility options to rural areas is an important way to foster inclusion and give all rural-dwellers an opportunity to live full lives.

There are several common logistical challenges related to providing good practice mobility solutions to rural areas. Distances are often too great for micromobility solutions to be implemented as standalone modalities. Demand is frequently perceived to be too low for conventional means of shared transport like bus lines to be practical or financially viable. However, these obstacles make the field of rural mobility a fertile ground for innovation. For example, a Finnish pilot programme aimed to unify different forms of subsidised rural transport (e.g. paratransit and schoolbuses) through a digital platform in an attempt to merge parallel or redundant transport networks into one system. An app-based carpooling system in France has given people a new and reliable way to get around. Digital innovations such as these are vital to making rural mobility as efficient and user-friendly as possible, thus increasing access and use.

Finally, different localities have experimented with implementing transport hubs in rural areas. These typically bring various forms of transport, like buses, car-sharing stations and bicycles for last-mile connectivity, into one physical space. In addition to helping rural residents connect to many more types of transport, these mobility hubs can be further drivers of economic growth in rural areas and function as spaces of congregation and commerce.

The SMARTA Project provides a snapshot of Europe’s rural mobility situation

In light of the exciting changes digital technologies can bring to rural mobility, now is an opportune time for policymakers to look at rural mobility policies. Throughout this exercise, it is of the utmost importance that rural mobility is considered differently from urban mobility and that policy is informed by people living rural lives. In the words of Professor Laurie Pickup, the Innovative Mobility for the Periphery Working Group chair, “Peripheral, outlying, marginal, etc. – are urban words. Rural areas may be ‘peripheral’ to city-dwellers, but to rural communities, these areas are the centre of their worlds.”

Carl Adler is a Master student at Sciences Po Paris and is working on an internship at the International Transport Forum.

Join ITF’s “Ask the Author” session with your questions on rural mobility on Thursday, 27 January 2022. Free registration here

“Transport for Inclusive Societies” is the theme of the ITF 2022 Summit, to be held in Leipzig, Germany, from 18 to 20 May 2022. See the Summit programme

The fine art of taking good aim (when trying to save the climate)

Nobody throws a lance when they have no target: what climate policy can learn from human resource management  

Natural disasters are now more frequent and ferocious (Photo: D. Futalan,

By Hans Michael Kloth

The annual round of climate negotiations known collectively as COP kicks off on 1 November in the Scottish port city of Glasgow. It will be the 26th edition of the “Conference of the Parties” to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change since 1995, the year when signatory countries began to meet annually to assess progress in their efforts to combat climate change. 

This year’s edition, COP26, is a critical meeting for that combat, for time is running out. Most data-based scenarios see temperatures rising far above sustainable levels if greenhouse gas emissions are not cut radically. And scientists warn that climate change will become irreversible as various tipping points approach that threaten to cascade and conjure a “hothouse” climate that will be less inhabitable for humanity. 

Changed dynamic

COP26 is also critically important because the positive dynamic has also changed. The pivot was the Paris Agreement, negotiated in the City of Lights at COP21 in December 2015. There, nearly 200 countries agreed to draw up national decarbonisation strategies and to submit them to a public registry maintained by the UN.  

COP21 created a positive dynamic (Photo: Bruno Chapiron/MAEDI)

More importantly, they committed to continually tighten the screw for carbon emissions and submit more ambitious reductions strategies every five years. COP26 marks the first of three rounds in which plans with increased ambition, better measures and concrete targets must be put on the table (the original date of 2020 was pushed back because of Covid-19).  

In between these five-year intervals, the world community will take stock of whether the world is on track to achieve net-zero emissions and climate resilience by 2050 – or not (see illustration below). 

The process set by the Paris Climate Agreement (Source: Climate Watch, WRI, CC BY 4.0)

Not looking too good 

At the moment, it doesn’t look too good.  Only eight parties to the Paris Agreement have enacted a legal net-zero target, according to Climate Watch. Fourty-four more have made a political pledge to implement net-zero or evoke this target in policy documents. But six years after Paris, 145 countries have not in any way indicated that they are working towards net-zero in 2050 or how – and these 145 make up just under half of GHG emissions.   

review of how countries tackle transport CO2 in their decarbonisation strategies – commonly known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs – does not make for encouraging reading either. Only 14% of NDCs contain a concrete target for reducing transport CO2, which is responsible for around a quarter of man-made CO2 emissions – a disappointing share that also hasn’t changed with the new submissions since 27 September (there was only one in fact, from South Africa). 

Public transport users in Toronto, Canada (Photo: Andre Furtado,

To make matters worse, this group of committed transport decarbonisers which have set an overall reduction target for the sector accounts for a paltry 5% of all transport CO2 emissions.  Conversely, a look at the ten largest overall emitters reveals that all of them acknowledge the role of transport for decarbonisation of the world economy and 7 out of 10 propose concrete measures. But only one of them, Canada, has a concrete transport sector target (and there, it is only the province of British-Columbia, which aims for a 27-32% CO2 reduction by 2030 compared to 2007 levels). 

A glass half full?

Those who like to see the glass half full can point to the fact that three quarters (77%) of Paris Agreement signatory countries at least list transport decarbonisation measures and that these generate fully 87% of global transport CO2 emissions.  Some of these even have sub-targets for specific parts of the transport sector.

The European Union’s Green Deal, for instance, sets the goal of a 55% CO2 reduction from cars and 50% from vans by 2030, and zero emissions from new cars by 2035. Such specific targets are valuable and worth applauding, but they raise the question why such help to get their bearings right is not extended to airlines or the road haulage sector and, ultimately, transport as a whole. That said, the EU does have an economy-wide target of reality climate-neutrality by 2050. 

High-level targets help to create a sense of purpose, align efforts and bundle available resources. Based on decades of research in the cognitive sciences, human resource professionals advise managers to set “SMART” objectives for their teams – goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. They also recommend that targets should be a bit of a stretch to activate energy, motivation and learning.  

It sounds just like what most national climate strategies need now. 

Are you serious?

The signatories of the Paris Agreement have to submit more ambitious decarbonisation plans by early November. We take a look at how committed they are to reducing transport CO2.

Demonstrators urge cimate action. Photo by Markus Spiske on

By Hans Michael Kloth

Finally, during the third all-nighter in a row, the breakthrough came. In the catacombs of the airport-turned-convention centre in Le Bourget on the northern outskirts of Paris, lawyers huddled from 2 a.m. to comb through 29 articles of fiendishly complex text. As morning broke, translators went to work. In the afternoon, deft diplomacy forestalled a surging last-minute drama over a single contentious word.

At 7:16 p.m. on Saturday, 12 December 2015, France’s foreign minister took the stage. Only barely controlling his emotions, Laurent Fabius announced the almost unimaginable: nearly all the planet’s sovereign nations had found a common way forward to stop climate change. “We are now at the end of one path, and without doubt at the beginning of another”, Fabius exclaimed. “The world is holding its breath and counting on all of us.”  

Six years later, the world is still holding its breath, and it is still counting. Much has started to move since the historic moment in Paris. But will it be enough?  

Almost all recent analyses agree that the international community is not yet on a path to achieve the goal agreed in Paris: to limit global warming to 1.5° Celsius above the temperature level of the pre-industrial era. “The pledges by governments to date – even if fully achieved – fall well short of what is required to bring global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to net-zero by 2050 and give the world an even chance of limiting the global temperature rise”, warns the International Energy Agency

A nifty mechanism

Yet the Paris Agreement created a nifty mechanism to nudge countries towards sustained action. It not only obliges them to draw up national decarbonisation plans and submit them to the United Nations. The treaty also requires signatories to repeat this exercise every five years, and with more stringent measures.  

In the words of the Paris Agreement, successive plans “will represent a progression beyond the Party’s then current nationally determined contribution and reflect its highest possible ambition”. In simpler language: countries must continuously up their game, and to the max. 

The Paris Agreement process explained. Source: Transport CO2 and the Paris Climate Agreement

The second round of those “Nationally Determined Contributions”, known for short as NDCs, was due in 2020. By the deadline – extended to 30 July 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic – only 110 countries had submitted new or updated NDCs. Latecomers will not be turned down (although left out of the UNFCCC’s “synthesis report” that will take stock of progress) – indeed, fourteen more NDCs have since come in. And what the lagging nations bring to the table can make a considerable difference for the overall picture. That will be reviewed in Glasgow in November at COP26 (short for “26th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change”), hosted by the United Kingdom.

Eyes on transport

Many eyes will be on transport. Almost one-quarter of all CO2 emissions from fuel combustion comes from transport activity (see chart). Half a century after the first oil shock, transport remains more than 90% dependent on oil. Increasing demand for mobility drives transport CO2 emissions further up: the International Transport Forum projects global transport to more than double by 2050, with traffic emissions rising by 16% compared to 2015 – even if existing commitments to decarbonise transport will be fully implemented.  

Global energy-related CO2 emissions by sector. Source: IEA

How, then, does transport figure in countries decarbonisation commitments? An analysis of the first round of NDCs was hardly encouraging. The 2018 report “Transport CO2 and the Paris Climate Agreement” found that 8 out of 10 NDCs evoked transport somehow, but only 6 in 10 included transport measures, and a disappointing 10% set targets.    

Even those first NDCs which acknowledge transport merely listed “CO2 reduction ambitions, but not yet clear pathways or measures”. And the quality of the measures, the report concluded, “often … remain vague at best” and “in some cases, the mitigation potential of identified ‘measures’ is contestable”. 

Traffic congestion. Photo by Pixabay on

Rough but illuminating

Five years on, things look ambivalent at best from a transport decarbonisation perspective. On the positive side, nearly all signatory countries now recognise transport in some shape or form in their current NDCs. The Transport NDC Tracker of the International Tramsport Forum clocked in at 94% on this measure on 27 September 2021. Only eleven countries still ignore transport, and of these nine still have to submit second-round NDCs – so it is still possible to reach 99% overall by November.  

Share of transport mentions, measures and targets in countries’ NDCs

Those countries which mention transport in their NDCs do so 33 times on average. This number might be interpreted as awareness for the role of transport in climate change mitigation, but it is misleading, for 14 countries mention transport only once. Another 11 do so twice. Two nations drive up the average: Colombia’s NDC includes 112 references to transport; that of South Sudan 117.  

On this level, transport mentions in NDCs are illuminating but only the roughest of indicators for decarbonisation ambitions. What about concrete measures to decarbonise transport? Five years ago, 60% of the parties to the Paris Agreement listed at least some in their first NDC submissions. At the end of September 2021, the share has increased to over three-quarters (77%). Depending on how many outstanding second-round NDC will include transport-related measures, that share could still go up to as much as 92%.   

The gold standard of decarbonisation

How effective these measures can be will require a thorough qualitative assessment. A first glance reveals a wide range of proposed actions – some bordering on the trivial, others well-aimed and with a solid evidence base like the decarbonisation measures listed in the Transport Climate Action Directory

The Transport Climate Action Directory is a tool for policy maker to deliver on their decarbonisation ambitions

The gold standard in decarbonisation policy is concrete CO2 reduction targets, however: benchmarks against which the real impact of interventions can be measured and which help steer ambitions towards real results. Yet targets can also be a two-edged sword, as missing goals may cause political backlash. So they need to be developed with great care, based on a good understanding of the complexities involved.  

For those reasons, it was not so surprising that only a smattering of first NDCs contained concrete quantitative targets for cutting transport CO2 emissions. Many will find it disappointing, however, that five years on the share of NDCs with transport CO2 reduction targets has grown by only four percentage points, from 10 to 14%. So progress for the most important action item has been much less than for the other two indicators, which grew by 13 (mentions) and 17 (measures) percentage points over the same period. 

Several dozen second-round NDCs are still due for COP26. There and then, the world will get a better sense of whether it still needs to hold its breath, and on whom it can count.  

Supply chain reaction: why the time is ripe for sustainable logistics

With the stakes higher than ever in the run-up to the crucial UN climate talks in Scotland this November, Sophie Punte and Alan McKinnon share their vision of how logistics systems can and are providing a sustainable backbone for the planet’s ever-increasing movement of goods.

Electric vehicle last-mile deliveries in Shanghai, China

When logistics systems work, as they normally do, they are taken for granted and attract little media attention, despite handling USD 19 trillion of merchandise trade annually. The Covid crisis, however, has exposed both the importance and vulnerability of our just-in-time supply chains. These chains have played a critical role in the switch from conventional to online retailing during periods of lockdown and in the supply of personal protective equipment and now vaccines. On the other hand, cancelled ship sailings, trucks caught in 40 km tailbacks at borders, disrupted production lines and empty shelves in our shops have shown how susceptible logistics is to major disasters.

The pandemic has given us a glimpse of the kind of disruptions we can expect from climate change. Already, supply chains are being stressed by climate-induced events, such as the Australian and Californian forest fires and Africa’s floods and droughts. Meanwhile, adaptation of our built environment to ever-more-frequent and extreme weather events will generate much additional freight demand as we try to minimise the consequences of climate change.

Efforts to contain coronavirus have also given us a sense of the magnitude of the changes required to mitigate carbon emissions from freight transport. In May 2020, the International Transport Forum projected a 28% drop in freight-related emissions (PDF link) worldwide as a result of the Covid-19 lockdowns. Although emission levels have since rebounded, this level of decarbonisation will be required by 2030 to get freight transport onto a net-zero trajectory by 2050, though without having to resort to industrial and societal shutdowns.

With logistics’ share of global CO2 emissions at 10-11% and rising, efforts to decarbonise it must intensify. We believe that recovery from the pandemic presents an opportunity to build global supply chains that are both more environmentally sustainable and more resilient. Fortunately, these goals of sustainability and resilience are well aligned, and there are many ways in which they can be jointly achieved.

The logistics decarbonisation process is underway, though its pace and scale must increase to reach the Paris climate goals. In a recent European survey of 90 businesses, 30% had a target to cut total logistics emissions and a sustainability strategy in place or being implemented to deliver it.

New technology and a switch to low carbon energy will dramatically reduce freight emissions. Shenzhen, for example, has already deployed 70 000 “electric logistics vehicles” (ELVs). Small players like Workhorse are aspiring to become the Tesla of the electric delivery van market. However, we need faster action now and cannot wait until the world’s freight fleets migrate from fossil to zero-carbon energy. In the short to medium term, training in fuel-efficient driving, better use of freight carrying capacity, less packaging and shifting freight to cleaner, lower-carbon transport modes can all shrink the logistics carbon footprint.

In deploying these essentially managerial initiatives, we can ride the wave of digitalisation that is already transforming logistics. Digital freight platforms, like G7 in China, Sennder in Europe, India’s Freight Tiger and Flexport worldwide are taking the online matching of loads with available capacity to a new level. They are cutting the 20-30% of truck-kilometres typically run empty and raising fill rates in sea containers, planes and rail wagons. They are also helping entire supply chains to become more visible both operationally and in terms of their carbon emissions. This makes it easier for companies to report emissions to customers and identify ‘hot spots’ in need of efficiency improvement.

An increasingly carbon-intensive hot spot in many companies’ supply chains is the ‘so-called’ last-mile delivery to online consumers. By 2023, online shopping was expected to reach 22% of all retail sales worldwide before taking the impact of the coronavirus into account. A World Economic Forum / McKinsey study (PDF link) has predicted a 30% growth in CO2 emissions from last-mile delivery in the world’s 100 largest cities by 2030.

Where an online delivery replaces a car shopping trip, a significant net reduction in emissions can be achieved. Still, much more can be done to improve the energy and carbon efficiency of last-mile logistics by, for example, consolidating orders, using locker-banks and minimising returns.

The good news is that environmental action in the logistics sector is growing. In support of the EU Green Deal, a Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy was published in December outlining how the freight transport sector’s green and digital transformation should proceed. California has mandated that by 2035 only zero-emission vehicles are sold and is requiring truck manufacturers to transition to electric zero-emission trucks beginning in 2024. As part of its commitment to be carbon neutral by 2060, China is prioritising goods movement by rail and the use of electric delivery vehicles to curb freight emissions. About forty cities in The Netherlands are introducing zero-emission freight zones, as are cities in the UK, China and elsewhere.

Over 100 multinationals, including Unilever, HP Inc and Maersk, calculate and report logistics emissions using a standard developed by the Global Logistics Emissions Council or GLEC, thereby increasing consistency and transparency. DP-DHL was the first logistics company to commit to zero-emission freight by 2050, while IKEA will be making only zero-emission home deliveries by 2025. In the European study mentioned earlier, a majority of the 90 businesses surveyed reckoned that at least half of CO2-reducing measures in logistics also cut costs, giving them a strong commercial as well as environmental motive to decarbonise. Of these companies, 70% also reported that the pandemic would have either no impact or a positive effect on their logistics decarbonisation efforts.

Calls for a green recovery to the Covid-19 crisis are growing, supported by clear policy recommendations from the We Mean Business coalition. This needs to go hand-in-hand with making infrastructure climate-ready, at a cost of around USD 1.8 trillion by 2030 according to the UN-led Global Commission on Adaptation. Despite this huge spend, much of which will go on logistical operations, it should save around USD 4 for every USD 1 spent.

This year’s UN Climate Change conference (or COP26) in Glasgow presents an excellent opportunity to scale- up our collective efforts to achieve resilient, zero-emission freight and logistics by 2050.

Sophie Punte is the founder and board advisor of Smart Freight Centre, a global non-profit organisation dedicated to zero-emission freight, and Managing Director of Policy at the We Mean Business coalition.

Alan McKinnon is Professor of Logistics at Kuehne Logistics University in Hamburg, a lead author of the transport chapter of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report and author of “Decarbonizing Logistics“.

The International Transport Forum’s 2021 Virtual Summit on “Transport Innovation for Sustainable Development” will be held from 17 to 28 May online. This special virtual edition of the world’s premier transport policy event features sessions for a brigher transport future including on low-carbon vehicles, actions to decarbonise freight transport, and on achieving more resilient and innovative goods transport. See the Summit programme and register to join the debate!

Gender in the balance: the win-win of designing innovations for all

This UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Magdalena Olczak-Rancitelli encourages us to seize the opportunity for more inclusive transport policies in the wake of the Covid pandemic

Increasing numbers of people cycling and walking has been one of the few pieces of good news to come out of the Covid crisis. But what if you live in a society where girls are not even allowed to learn to ride a bike? What if you’re afraid to walk to home from work at night? The pandemic has revealed many long-standing problems and highlighted many urgent issues for women and girls as transport users, and as employees in the transport sector. But there is hope: these issues can be addressed using the many tools at our disposal, from technological innovations to better government policy.

If we want to change behaviours, attitudes and capacities, the best place to start is by listening to the experiences and proposals of those most directly concerned. The third edition of the ITF Compendium on Transport Innovation for Sustainable Development: A Gender Perspective does just that. The publication presents a wealth of ideas from women on how to make transport more inclusive and sustainable.

The wide-ranging contributions share a common starting point: transport is not gender neutral. Women prefer flexible modes that facilitate trip chaining more than men, for example. And since women do most of the unpaid care work that many families depend on, they travel more with children and other dependents – the “mobility of care”. Anyone who has struggled to get small children and related paraphernalia up public transport stairs or onto a bus will be painfully aware that these needs are usually not accommodated in the design of transport infrastructure, services or vehicles.

Women also feel less safe and secure in public spaces, which deters them from choosing public transport, taxis, shared mobility, or from cycling and walking. Ultimately, this limits women’s and girls’ access to schools, jobs, health and other public services. The digital gender gap further hampers women’s access to online mobility services.

Even if the observational evidence is there for all to see, well-designed policies reply on good data. Gendered analysis helps assess whether specific gender needs are met properly and what the impact of innovation could be on mobility. Understanding what women want from cities, and how this translates into a vision for urban transport, should be at the heart of urban public policy. This, however, will require much finer and more differentiated knowledge of travel behaviour and users’ needs than has been the case until now. New data sources can help develop that knowledge base, but it is important to avoid biases that have become ingrained in past transport policy making. Public-private co-operation to collect, share and process gendered data is a solution, not least as a way to benefit from the wealth of mobility data created during the Covid 19 pandemic through track and trace apps.

Technology and planning alone will not suffice to improve our transport systems. Access to and affordability of transport often depends on education and income. Digital competence now also determines access to new mobility solutions, as well as the need to own a smartphone. Universal access to innovative transport services can only be achieved when these aspects are placed squarely at the centre of governance framework design.

Ride hailing is a good example. Few industries have been so greatly impacted by the pandemic, but the form of impact has varied enormously. In some markets, passenger trips have stopped, while in others there has been a sudden surge in demand as wary riders shift away from public transport. Focusing on women would not only be morally justifiable: it would enable a resilient recovery for the sector. Post-Covid recovery plans that are attentive to the concerns and needs of women will lead to an increase in female customers.

The experiences of women working in the transport sector been highlighted, and changed, by the pandemic. Customer-facing staff have seen their role expanded from ticket sales and information to policing social distancing and mask wearing regulations. Often their jobs are more dangerous where public co-operation is lacking. Transport staff, of course, risk greater exposure to the virus, as born out by infection and death rate data.

Women are often hailed as front-line “heroes” of the pandemic. The increased automation of ticketing, cleaning and other activities in response to the virus is more likely to threaten their jobs, however. Women must be given access to the training and skills development needed to benefit from the employment opportunities led by innovation. Some of the most innovative sectors – like remotely piloted aircraft systems (drones) – have pronounced gender disparities. The industry as a whole reflects the existing gender inequalities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Governance, nomenclature, and education must be combined in our approach to right this injustice.

Good governance is essential to point technological innovation towards equity and sustainability. But we need to rethink governance itself to follow rapid innovation and increased complexities. Exchange of good practices and ideas among all stakeholders – policymakers, business, civil society and academia – is essential to any good governance framework. The ITF Annual Consultation on gender provides a unique platform to advance dialogue on gender issues in transport and to facilitate knowledge exchange.

Our latest Compendium on Transport Innovation will inspire the discussions at this year’s consultation on 11 February 2021. But the discussions won’t stop there, and will continue in the lead-up to and during the 2021 ITF Annual Summit on Transport Innovation for Sustainable Development: Reshaping Mobility in the Wake of Covid-19.

2021 ITF Compendium on Transport Innovation for Sustainable Development: A Gender Perspective

Magdalena Olczak-Rancitelli is a Manager for Summit Preparation at the International Transport Forum


Safer arterial roads in Latin America: lessons from Bogotá, Fortaleza and Mexico City

Three Latin American cities provide effective road safety lessons using a holistic management approach to a culture hooked on speed.

Bogotá permanently reduced maximum speed limits from 60 to 50 km/h in May 2020 | Source: Secretaría de Movilidad de Bogotá

Road safety is a growing concern in cities aiming to become more liveable. Where people feel unsafe, policies to promote walking and cycling will be handicapped, and deliver far less than their potential. Reducing crash risks thus not only saves lives, it also unlocks sustainable forms of transport that cut pollution, fight congestion and improve the physical and mental health of citizens. Cities all around the world have committed to deliver safer streets. Many have taken a leadership role in the battle for road safety. Much can be learnt from cities that have achieved large reductions in traffic fatalities, as revealed in this ITF report. The publication details seven case studies of cities implementing data-driven policies that inspire best practices in urban road safety.

In Latin America, the case studies provide insights into how to address high road mortality rates (PDF) in the context of rising motorisation and a culture hooked on speed. Lessons from Bogotá, Fortaleza and Mexico City are the key to delivering safer arterial roads. In all three cities, streets with a mix of vulnerable road users and motor vehicle traffic were limited to 30 km/h in accordance with international guidelines, while arterial roads were limited to 50 km/h. Strategies to improve speed limit enforcement, including introduction of new speed control systems, were also part of the holistic speed management approach taken in these cities.

Safe speed limits on Bogotá’s most dangerous roads

In 2016, the administration in Bogotá adopted a ‘Vision Zero’ approach as the roadmap for their road safety strategy. From the adoption of a speed management programme, the city targeted arterial roads for speed reduction and installation of speed cameras. In 2017, these corridors accounted for three out of four traffic deaths.

The speed reduction programme on arterial roads first targeted the five corridors with the highest casualty rates. It tested the benefits and then disseminated results via social media before the expansion to other roads. Headlines included the number of lives saved since implementation and days without recording a death. The demonstrated reduction in lives lost convinced many of the administration’s strongest critics to accept the speed management programme as effective.

Positive results led to the reduction of speed limits on another set of five corridors at the beginning of 2019. The arterial roads that received treatment under the programme showed a decrease of 21% in traffic fatalities compared to the average for the three years 2015-2018, corresponding to 46 lives saved. Data from speed cameras also indicated improvement in compliance, with lower excess speeds although the proportion of vehicles exceeding limits, old and new, was unchanged at around 20%.

Arterial roads selected for new speed limit of 50km/h in 2018 and 2019 in Bogotá:

Source: Secretaría de Movilidad de BogotáSource: Secretaría de Movilidad de Bogotá

Plans for the programme to cover the entire arterial road network of Bogotá were accelerated by the Covid-19 crisis. The city announced a permanent reduction of the maximum general speed limit for all roads from 60 km/h to 50 km/h in May 2020. Intended to clear hospitals of traffic injury victims during the peak of the pandemic, the measure also aimed to protect the lives of citizens in the long term. 92 speed cameras placed at 40 points in the city will monitor speeding and issue automatic sanctions to offenders.

Disrupting the high-speed culture in Fortaleza

Source: Prefeitura Municipal de Fortaleza

Fortaleza is one of the rare places in the world that achieved the United Nations’ target of cutting traffic fatalities by half during the Decade of Action for road safety. The city went from a rate of 14.9 deaths per 100 000 inhabitants in 2010 to 7.4 in 2019. A successful strategy targeted the culture of speeding in Fortaleza through street transformations. Bike lane and dedicated bus lane networks were both expanded. Traffic calming measures were implemented in specific areas, with the redesign of pedestrian crossings, modernisation of the traffic light system, and speed limit reduction on arterial roads.

The city followed a similar approach to Bogotá in securing public support and winning over opposition. Each intervention was first tested on pilot projects, with positive outcomes publicised extensively. A first experience targeted Fortaleza’s most dangerous arterial road, the Avenida Leste-Oeste. Framed as an infrastructure improvement, this pilot proposed to complement the speed reduction with a redesign of the avenue. The new limit of 50 km/h accompanied new traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, lighting, bike lanes, and bus lanes. Narrower lanes and more frequent stop lights were also used to nudge drivers towards compliance with the new speed limit.

Redesigned Leste-Oeste avenue with safer speed limit of 50km/h:

Source: Prefeitura Municap de Fortaleza

The success on the Avenida Leste-Oeste was measurable: collisions involving motorised vehicles and pedestrians decreased by 63%. Data from the city’s camera enforcement system also revealed a higher rate of compliance. The city applied a tolerance period without penalties to give drivers the time to adapt: the police notified drivers of infractions but gave no sanction to people driving between 50 km/h and 60 km/h during the first six months. Positive results from this pilot project resulted in a decision to expand the same treatment to another four avenues. Fortaleza is now working on a Road Safety Plan for the next 10 years to scale up interventions and consolidate a Safe System approach (PDF) to the whole of the city.

Innovative speed control systems in Mexico City     

Source: SEMOVI Mexico city

In Mexico City, hostility to traffic surveillance and control mechanisms, in particular speed cameras, pushed local authorities to rethink their speed control system. The city shifted from Fotomultas (automatic fines) to Fotocívicas, a new system that replaced monetary fines with civic sanctions. Traffic penalties in Mexico City are now educational and correspond to the number of infractions perpetrated by the driver. They range from online courses, to awareness workshops, and up to 10 hours of community work.

The new system aims at improving driver behaviour and increasing compliance with speed limits. To curb speeding, Fotocívicas considers speed violations of more than 40% above the limit as more serious. Such infractions correspond to five penalty points, in contrast to one-point penalties for other violations registered by red light and speed cameras. The programme also relocated the surveillance technology to road sections and intersections with a higher incidence of traffic collisions and speeding.

An online course is one of civic sanctions from the new Fotocívicas system:

Source: SEMOVI Mexico City

Early results from the new system indicate improvements in the compliance with speed limits. Fotocívicas identified a reduction of almost 60% in the average speed of the vehicles exceeding the limit of 50 km/h on urban roads. The results also reveal a lower repeat offence rate: one out of three sanctioned drivers violated traffic rules on more than one occasion, in contrast with one out of two for the same period under the old system.

A positive repercussion of the awareness workshops among the population incited Mexico City to plan an expansion of this educational programme towards all drivers. As a first step, the administration selected motorcyclists engaged in commercial activities to be the first road user group to attend the workshops. Currently, one out of two crashes in Mexico City involve a motorcyclist.

Bogotá, Fortaleza and Mexico City are members of the ITF’s Safer City Streets network, which includes more than 40 cities across the globe. Together in the network, cities share data and draw lessons from their various approaches to urban road safety policy. To join the network, contact the ITF secretariat: