Bringing Together Local and Global Perspectives for 12th International Congress on Cities and Transport
On October 10-12, WRI México hosted the XII International Congress on Cities and Transport in Mexico City. High level authorities, city officials, civil organizations and academics came together to share experiences, knowledge and solutions to improve quality of life in cities. Focusing on city government, urban mobility, road safety and technical innovation, experts shared best practices to inspire smart and connected cities. The three day event was full of panel discussions, presentations, hands-on workshops and even an evening bike ride through the center of Mexico’s capital city. With a strong focus on enhancing cities for all, the conference set the stage for Habitat III the following week.
Strong Local Authorities and Community Involvement Inspire Smart Cities
WRI México annually brings together thought leaders, pioneers and innovators in sustainable urban development and transportation. Since the first conference in 2005, the International Congress on Cities and Transport has become one of the most important and largest platforms for sustainable cities in Latin America.
The role of local authorities and civil society, as well as the partnership between the two, was a major topic during the three day conference. Mike Lydon, co-founder of Street Plans, discussed the important roles of both authorities and citizens in implementing tactical urbanism, which involves small actions that can achieve long-term impact. Citizens can propose and implement projects on the ground, while city leaders must establish a framework that will encourage and support citizens' initiatives and take into account their needs.
Carmenza Saldías, the former Secretary of Finance in Bogota, also recognized the value of involved and dedicated city authorities in her Tuesday lecture. Saldías explains that the real wealth of a city is in its land use, and it is the job of city authorities to plan and control land use. She explains that regulated land use and smart city investment will lead to a high quality of life, by creating an inclusive and equitable city. Furthermore, if urban wellbeing is high, residents will financially contribute more to the society in which they live, providing greater stability to the urban system.
Opening Ceremony of the XII International Congress on Cities and Transport. Photo by WRI Mexico
Scaling Up Integrated Transit and Road Safety Leads to Better Cities
Sustainable urban mobility, integrated transit and road safety were important topics of conversation in Mexico City. Representatives from the Ministry of Environment of Mexico City presented impressive data on the use of Mexico City’s public bicycle system, EcoBici. Since its launch in 2010, the bike share program has been responsible for avoiding over 20 million car trips. Additionally, a panel of experts presented on similar public bicycle systems. The panelists agreed on the importance of these systems in achieving integrated transport. On Tuesday, following a long day of events, participants joined together for an 11 kilometer (6.8 mile), EcoBici bike ride to the center of the capital, seeing for themselves the benefits of riding a bike.
While bicycle use is very promising in Mexico City, Maximiliano Zurita, Director General of CAF-Mexico, believes that trains are the cornerstone to successful integrated transit systems. Passenger rail, he argues, shows great efficiency, capacity and regulatory services. For instance, the Buenavista station in Mexico City connects the suburban railway with Metro lines, buses, taxis and EcoBici bikes. Zurita highlights the need to prioritize this mode of transport, as Mexico City continues to expand its mobility system. In addition to trains, experts told success stories of various bus rapid transit systems. Cristina Albuquerque, from WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities, presented on the financial sustainability of Brazil’s BRT system.
In addition to showcasing Mexico’s City’s commitment to urban mobility, a panel of Mobility Ministry personnel highlighted the city’s work to increase road safety. By outlining Mexico City’s Comprehensive Road Safety Program, the panelists demonstrated that effective policies, regulations and behavior change incentives can impact transit safety and urban wellbeing. The capital’s program and recent regulations have reduced road fatalities by 18 percent, since its implementation last December.
Evening Bike Ride After a Busy Day at the Conference. Photo by WRI Mexico
The Road Quito and Beyond
This week, experts gathered to present, discuss and inspire one another to take action and promote sustainable cities. Since the first International Congress on Cities and Transport in 2005, WRI México has positioned itself as a leader for sustainable cities and is recognized by the highest city officials. On Monday, Felipe Calderón, former President of Mexico and current President of the Sustainable Human Development Foundation, highlighted WRI’s leadership in sustainable cities and creating a bright future. He said: “we have a serious institution (WRI México) that will allow us to win in different ways." Involving important local actors in the conversation, the XII International Congress strove to inspire high-level, city-wide regulation and smart urban planning.
Looking at the bigger picture, Adriana Lobo, Director of WRI México, said: “we seek to move society towards a model of life that protects the environment and ensures the ability to provide resources to meet the needs of present and future generations.” WRI Mexico ensured that XII International Congress on Cities and Transport inspired safe, healthy, connected and sustainable cities that can benefit all.
This year’s conference, positioned a week ahead of Habitat III, focused on issues that will be discussed in Quito, including urban leadership and planning, mobility and enhancing urban quality of life. On Tuesday, Adriana Lobo moderated a panel on Habitat III, and WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities’ Nivea Oppermann participated. The panel discussed the nature of the New Urban Agenda and its vast implications if implemented properly. The electric atmosphere in Mexico City set the stage as we move toward Habitat III in Quito next week.
To learn more about the 12th International Congress on Cities and Transport, click here.