Transport is a crucial driver of development, bringing socio-economic opportunities within the reach of the poor and enabling economies to be more competitive. Transport infrastructure connects people to jobs, education, and health services; it enables the supply of goods and services around the world; and allows people to interact and generate the knowledge that creates long-term growth. Rural roads, for example, can help prevent maternal deaths through timely access to childbirth-related care, boost girls’ enrolment in school, and increase and diversify farmers’ income by connecting them to markets.
Although the sector is crucial to reducing poverty, sharing prosperity and achieving development goals, transport is also at the heart of critical development challenges:
- Rapid urbanization and motorization: Cities are expected to hold 5.2 billion residents by 2050. Over the next 20 years, more cars may be built than in the auto industry’s 110-year history.
- Accessibility and affordability: An estimated one billion people in low-income countries still lack access to an all-weather road. In cities, time lost to congestion erodes prosperity. High mobility costs cut the disposable income of the poor in many cities that lack formal and affordable public transportation.
- Air pollution and road safety: More than 1.2 million people are killed and up to 50 million are injured on the world’s roads every year. Low and middle-income countries account for 90 percent of the deaths although they own just half the world’s motor vehicles. Urban air pollution, largely linked to transport, leads to the death of an estimated 800,000 people each year.
- Climate change: Transport contributes about 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (IPCC 2007). With motorization on the rise, that share is expected to grow.
As the developing world rapidly urbanizes, there is an opportunity to build safer, cleaner and more affordable transport systems that reduce congestion, facilitate access to jobs and lower transport energy consumption. In emerging mid-size cities, where most of the new urban dwellers will live, city planners have an opportunity to design sustainable and inclusive transport systems from the start, leapfrogging more polluting and costly modes. In older or larger cities, technology and data management is helping better map travel patterns and needs, engage citizens and improve the quality and efficiency of transport solutions.