Toward Sustainable Mobility

April 29, 2016


BRT Curitiba (Integrated Transport Network - RIT), Brazil. Photo: Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz.

Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and the Climate targets agreed on by most countries in 2015 will require bold and ambitious action across all sectors of the economy, but particularly transportation.

Long-term mobility patterns and future level of greenhouse gas emissions are determined by today’s transport investment choices. It is estimated that the transport sector contributes about 23 percent of energy-related CO2 emissions. 

With one billion cars already on the road -and another billion to be added by 2050- it is crucial to support the transition toward sustainable mobility by designing efficient public transport systems and policies to avoid unsustainable lock-ins.

Urban air pollution, for example, largely from transport, leads to the death of an estimated 800,000 people each year. And road accidents claim 1.3 million lives every year and injure some 50 million people worldwide—90 percent of them in developing countries. The lack of road safety costs countries between 1 and 5 per cent of GDP.

Developing countries, which still face a large transport infrastructure gap, have the opportunity to leap frog car-dependent transport and adopt multimodal strategies that reduce pollution, energy consumption and congestion, and increase road safety, while achieving economic growth and improving people’s wellbeing.

If transformed, the transport sector can hold the key to reducing the emissions trajectory.

How the World Bank is helping

The World Bank is helping countries enhance the sustainability of their transport systems. Concretely, this means making mobility more accessible, more efficient, safer, and more climate friendly. This is done through assistance on policy design and implementation, as well as project interventions tailored to specific country needs.

Universal Access: The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 9 calls for equitable access for all to infrastructure. By investing in public transport projects, such as bus rapid transit, metro and railways, and in the construction of rural roads, we help to increase access to transport, especially for the bottom 40 percent of the population. In Burundi, for example, we are helping to build resilient transportation infrastructure and drainage in greater Bujumbura, so the roads are kept accessible and clear of landslide debris or flood damage. 

Efficiency:  Improvements in transport efficiency unlock capital for new investment and directly support sustainable development. Seventy percent of fuel energy, for instance, is lost in engine and driveline inefficiencies. Therefore, efficient mobility solutions minimize use of energy, and address passenger and freight transport needs with market-oriented services.  In Nigeria, for example, a Bus Rapid Transit system has moved 400 million passengers in the last five years, reducing travel time, fares, GHG emissions and road accidents.

Safety: The multi-donor Global Road Safety Facility works with clients to mainstream road safety into transport projects. GRSF provides technical assistance and advisory services to help countries make their roads safer, through a holistic approach. Our interventions in client countries focus on all components of an effective road safety policy: institutions, infrastructure, behavior, enforcement, and post-crash care. Past the midpoint of the UN Decade of Action on Road Safety, much work remains to help countries meet their goal of halving deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes and saving 5 million lives by 2020.

The World Bank-led GSRF and donor partners, for example, supported the assessment of more than 40,000 km of roads for stronger safety measures in 13 countries, including the Philippines, India and Brazil. Similarly, GRSF supported the establishment of a regional road safety observatory in Latin America to improve data collection, along with capacity building in more than 20 countries.

Climate responsive: We help mitigate the climate impact of transport projects through better land-use planning, logistics, ICTs, and by shifting to lower-carbon transportation such as rail and waterways. We help design mobility solutions that are resilient to climate impacts and provide greater access, efficiency and safety, all in a climate-friendly way.

The Wuhan Urban Transport Project in China has helped the city build 10 new bus depots and terminals to attract mass transit users and stem the rising tide of cars. As a result, the public transport network has expanded and bus ridership has increased by 40 percent. The project also helped build or revitalize cycling and walking paths, as well as training local officials on how to plan and develop sustainable urban transport options.