From Mobility to Access for All: Expanding Urban Transportation Choices in the Global South

Many cities are experiencing a decline in access to jobs, services and people due to a confluence of two trends: rapid urbanization and motorization. Lack of access afflicts both low-income communities scattered throughout the city and low- to medium-income people living in suburbs and peripheral settlements who use private cars and motorcycles on long, congested commutes. We define these groups as underserved – those who face restricted access to opportunities because of poor location or poor transport choices. This paper asks what cities can do to change the trajectory of the urban transportation sector so that it provides the under-served with more equitable access to opportunities.

Analysis from two cities in the global South – Mexico City and Johannesburg – finds that up to half of urbanites experience restricted access, leading to high travel burdens and/or exclusion from opportunities. This paper argues that in improving access to opportunities, cities stand the best chance of solving the problems of deteriorating environmental quality and economic competitiveness that result from traffic congestion and urban sprawl.

The sixth thematic paper of WRI’s flagship World Resources Report (WRR), “Towards a More Equal City,” highlights three key action areas for cities to improve access: rethinking the role of streets and who they serve, shifting to integrated transport systems, and tempering the demand for private vehicle use.

Towards a More Equal City is a series of 15 papers that examines if equitable access to core urban services can help achieve higher economic productivity and better environmental quality for the city. Visit citiesforall.org for more information.

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