Work, space and transportation

October 2014 — Every modern city grapples with the challenge of facilitating residents' journeys to their workplaces, whether formal or informal, fixed or mobile. Public transportation's positive impact on congestion and the environment is clear, yet commuters often experience it as inefficient, overcrowded, and costly. Likewise, transportation in cities — for some, a way to get to work; for others, a means of income — often leads technological innovation, but can also lag woefully behind.

This month's discussion examines cities' struggles and successes in navigating the challenges of work, space, and transportation. Case studies from across the Global South will show how transportation systems must adapt constantly to new demographic and environmental needs as they try to solve problems of cities and the people who inhabit them. Follow the conversation as it unfolds throughout October — and please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Transport and the post-colonial city: Cape Town's new Integrated Transport Plan for 2032

Cape Town, 23 October 2014 — Cape Town is the latest of close to 200 cities worldwide to adopt the BRT urban transport model, to allow the mobility needed for a diverse economy to thrive. But unlike BRT pioneers in South America, South Africa's fast-growing cities have amongst the lowest average population densities in the world and, in Cape Town especially, there is also deep-rooted social and spatial injustice written in the city structure. Is there a wider role for "an efficient, world-class public transportation system" in the post-colonial, post-apartheid city? See more.

Mengurai kemacetan Surabaya dengan Angkutan Masal Cepat

Surabaya, 22 October 2014 — Kota metropolitan identik dengan kemacetan. Tumpukan kendaraan di dalam kota kerap menghambat masyarakat menuju tempat kerja mereka, ditambah dengan minimnya jumlah dan kualitas transportasi publik menjadikan masyarakat bisa berjam-jam berada di jalanan. Dapatkan sistem Angkutan Masal Cepat menejadi jawaban untuk kemacetan Surabaya? Baca lebih lanjut.

Convirtiendo el uso de la bicicleta en un medio de transporte efectivo y seguro

Cali, 21 octubre 2014 — Cali es una ciudad perfecta para que las bicicletas ocupen un lugar destacado en la movilidad. Sin embargo, tras décadas de expansión centrada en el transporte motorizado, el uso de las bicicletas es incómodo y peligroso. El Plan de Ordenamiento Territorial ahora en discusión en el Concejo busca revertir esta situación. Leer más.

Plataformas para la movilidad en la Ciudad de México

Mexico D.F., 20 octubre 2014 — En la Ciudad de México dos empresas optan por usar dispositivos móviles para ofrecer un servicio seguro a los usuarios del transporte privado "taxi" en una forma rápida y asequible. Estas plataformas digitales para la movilidad y el transporte conectan a los pasajeros con los conductores de taxi de manera que ambos obtengan información sobre el trayecto que recorreràn, garantizando la seguridad del pasajero. Asì mismo, estas aplicaciones son un medio para aumentar el ingreso de los conductores que se inscriben a la plataforma. Leer más.

Putting Mumbai's skywalks to use

Mumbai, 17 October 2014 — Has a "war on the car" begun in cities such as Helsinki and Madrid? That's hardly the case in India, where pedestrians have been pushed off the streets. Elevated skywalks now dot the Mumbai skyline, and while they do allow walkers to cross heavily trafficked intersections and clogged roadways more easily, many say they are underused due to safety and accessibility issues. Embarq has proposed a six-point plan to bring them back into use — a plan that doesn't reprioritize the pedestrian on the street, but at the very least makes the city's large-scale investment more usable. See more.

Governance and the informal-formal transport divide

Dar es Salaam, 16 October 2014 — This article focuses on the governance of transport systems, and the individuals driving the restless city. Dar es Salaam showcases a class division in the transport systems available and further barriers between formal and informal systems. However, as informal transport workers collectivise, a new perspective is rising. See more.

مشروعات النقل العام في القاهرة... طريقة لنقل المواطنين والحد من البطالة

Cairo, 15 October 2014 — لا أحد يستطيع أن ينكر أن مشكلة المواصلات والطرق من أصعب المشكلات في القاهرة حيث يقضي المواطن متوسط ساعة ونصف الساعة يوميا للوصول لمكان عمله. مشروع التنمية المستدامة في قطاع المواصلات الممول من قبل مشروع الأمم المتحدة الإنمائي سيكون بمثابة تغييرا جذريا في حياة المصريين. اقرأ المزيد هنا

Go-Jek dan solusi kemacetan Jakarta

Jakarta, 14 October 2014 — Berada dua sampai tiga jam, bahkan lebih, di jalanan macet Jakarta merupakan hal lumrah bagi warga kota. Ojek kemudian menjadi salah satu favorit masyarakat untuk mencapai tujuan lebih cepat meski sering aspek keamanan dan kenyamanan penumpang bukan prioritas ojek. Kini di Jakarta hadir Go-Jek, ojek dengan beragam layanan dan jauh lebih professional. Baca lebih lanjut.

Walking between worlds: imagining infrastructure between Alexandra and Sandton, Johannesburg

Johannesburg, 13 October 2014 — The history of modern architecture and planning over the last century in South Africa is fraught with contradictions. Whereas modern city craft like concrete highways provided the apartheid state with a powerful vocabulary to keep communities apart, today it is transport infrastructure that is again invoked to connect the city together. Spatial thinking, imagination, and interdisciplinarity must be part of this process of imagining and building a different kind of city, for the segregated and unequal city cannot transform its future with the same tools used to create its past. See more.

Keke NAPEP: Redefining work, space, and commuting for the urban poor

Lagos, 10 October 2014 — Transportation is an important factor in determining how income is spent as well as the mobility of a city's residents. Introduced as a poverty alleviation tool, the commercial motorized tricycle Keke NAPEP not only provides affordable mobility within Lagos, but is also an opportunity for employment and a different kind of workspace. See more.

A revolução da bicicleta em São Paulo — uma vitória do cicloativismo

São Paulo, 9 outubro 2014 — Um novo programa está enchendo as ruas de São Paulo de faixas recém-pintadas de vermelho. Apesar de controversa, a nova política de construção de ciclovias está colocando o uso da bicicleta não apenas em debate, mas como uma alternativa modal real numa cidade dominada por carros. Apesar dos conflitos, as bicicletas vieram para ficar. Ainda bem! Leia mais.

Master planning Nairobi's way out of the jam

Nairobi, 8 October 2014 — It is estimated that Kenya loses roughly 37 billion KSH annually in gross domestic product (GDP) as a result of Nairobi traffic jams. This valuation neglects to account for the environmental or carbon pollution and human public health costs associated with heavy traffic flows, congestion, and associated injuries from road accidents. A number of public-private partnerships, non-governmental organizations and tech-savvy entrepreneurs have been developing innovative solutions to address these challenges. See more.

What can Delhi's public transport goods achieve for the poor?

Delhi, 7 October 2014 — The rapidly rising population and the concomitant growing demand for transport, including transport to work, have left millions of people in Delhi Region with poor access to basic social and economic services. This article discusses the case of E-Rickshaw and the Rickshaw Bank, describing the two departures that Delhi needs to make to reconsider the traditional questions about mobility and access. See more.

Tax breaks to improve commutes in Lilongwe

Lilongwe, 6 October 2014 — Commuters in Malawi could soon enjoy a more pleasant and reliable ride to work, as the country's new government has bowed to industry lobbying and pledged to provide tax breaks for the import of new minibuses. The move is set to make minibuses more competitive against larger buses, as well as help improve the industry's poor safety record. See more.

Smart moto-taxi in Ho Chi Minh City: a creative initiative or a bigger jam?

Ho Chi Minh City, 3 October 2014 — Smart moto-taxis started to appear in Ho Chi Minh City in 2012. They attract low- and middle-income customers for three main reasons: reliability, flexibility, and professionalism. They also create jobs for a number of less advantaged groups. However, the immediate benefits of this transportation innovation may hide a longer-term consequence. See more.

Construyendo el metro de Bogotá

Bogotá, 2 octubre 2014 — Se espera que la construcción de la primera línea de metro de Bogotá comenzará en 2016, poniendo fin a 50 años de retrasos. Una vez que entre en funcionamiento, el metro será una pieza central en la solución de los acuciantes problemas de transporte que paralizan la ciudad. El Transmilenio y el SITP deberán también ser mejorados y expandidos. Leer más.

Biking in Bangalore

Bangalore, 1 October 2014 — Commuting is one of the biggest headaches for India's urbanites. For the poor, who are forced to rely on under-resourced public transport networks, the obstacles are greater. In Bangalore, cycling is increasingly being tested as an answer to reducing major traffic and pollution issues and providing public transport commuters with last-mile connectivity. The few projects on the ground in Bangalore, however, have either failed or failed to take off fully. We'll explore what needs to be done to make green commuting an option in Bangalore and India's other major metropolises. See more.


Join the discussion on work, space and transportation in the comments below.

You can also join our September discussion on the impact of a city-focused Sustainable Development Goal.

Join the discussion for this month's topic!


I agree that this is both a gift and curse at once. I've been living in Hanoi for a short period of time, and see the benefits that this service would bring, but also see how it isn't solving the real issues of needing better public transit and walkable infrastructure. While it isn't easy in lower-middle income countries, the state should play a bigger role in these types of transit (in my opinion).

Tam Nguyen's picture

Hi Corey Pembleton,

As for the overall mobility problem, moto-taxis should indeed be a temporary solution only. HCMC citizens are looking forward for a broader-scope and longer-term metro lines, which are expected to cover the whole central area and connect the central with satellite cities. This, and not the moto-taxis, should be the focus of the government in the long run.

With the public transportation improved, in my opinion, moto-taxis should be limited to its special purposes - tourism & medicals. These vehicles are currently the great choice for non-local & foreign tourists to have a direct experience of the city. In addition, they also offer a great help to regular patients who have to pay frequent visits to hospital but are too weak for buses or metro lines.


Pembletonc's picture

I agree. I may be off point, and am basing what I know on speaking with colleagues here, but I agree that both cities need massive investments in public transit and related infrastructure in order to make the switch. I can only speak for Hanoi, but I feel there is also the potential for some very novel solutions. The motobike "issue" isn't just that, it is a vital part of the cities' culture, and I feel couldn't be easily replaced and as such maybe a different solution is needed? I don't know what that solution is, but maybe after living here for a few years it will all make more sense! Thanks for the article, look forward to more,

jorgebela's picture

Hi Corey, as I mention in my article, Bogotá has been waiting for the first metro train to arrive for more than 50 years! Now the plans are underway, but still the hurdles are huge. The initial coost estimates, made after a costly study, were about 5 billion US$. Yesterday, the City presented the final geological studies, and cost has suddenly escalated by 50%, o almost 8 billion US$. Itr is quite likely that the costs will escalate even further before the project is concluded.The big question is if this level of investment is what the city needs. The answer is not so obvious. The problem is that if not enough resources are reserved for all other modes of transportation, and a way to integrate them, Bogotá will have a wonderful metro line, but the City's transportation problems will not have been solved, perhaps they would have been made even worse.

The World Bank has just said so in a statement regarding the metro in Bogotá. The WB has been accompanying the city through the process so far, so they are very familiar with it. They warn that it is necessary to consider all transportation forms and to make sure that the huge financial costs of building the metro will not siphon away resources needed to expand and upkeep the BRT and the integrated feeder lines, which are still half baked.

Nora Lindstrom's picture

Hi Nguyen,

Thanks for your piece on the smart moto-taxis. Having spent 6 years haggling with Phnom Penh's (and occasionally HCMC's) moto-dops I see the semi-formalisation of the moto-taxi trade as a great step forward (particularly the inclusion of female drivers). While I agree with you that there is a need for more investments in public transportation, I wonder why you think the moto-taxis should be limited to tourism and medicals only? Ideally, public transportation would eventually out-compete moto-taxis for regular journeys, and moto-taxis would be available for 'other' trips - whatever they may be.

Shaima Abulhajj's picture

Nice piece Priyanka. I wonder if the Rickshaws drivers mentioned have a syndicate or some sort of association that can help them overcome the government regularities.. We have same transport means in Cairo, however also they are not welcomed in all Cairo districts given the housing standard in each place..

Priyanka Jain's picture

Dear Shaima,

Thanks for your comment on the article on e-rickshaw. Arvind Kejriwal, party convener of local political party called Aam Admi Party (AAP), is strongly supporting the E-Rickshaw drivers and have been fighting for their rights. The main issue is also that many drivers took loans to buy e-rickshaw in aspiration for a better future. But the model soon fell under controversies and most of them drive rickshaw at night in fear of the ban. They are repeatedly beaten by police personnel as its illegal under the current circumstances. The transport minister had made many promises but policy didn't change much to lift the ban.
The good news is that on October 2 the ban was lifted by high court and the e-rickshaws can officially ply on Delhi city roads. We now wait to see if enough changes will be made under the vehicle act for E-rickshaws to be cheap enough for the poor man.

Carlin Carr's picture

Hi Priyanka, thanks for the recent updates on e-Ricks in Delhi. I've been hearing about these since the Commonwealth Games, but it seems for a variety of reasons, they haven't taken off. Besides the recent roadblock with classification as motorized transport, do you have any other sense of why they've been so slow to expand in the city? Have any of them actually been in use over the last few years? I also wonder what would be the incentive to drivers to switch to an e-rick.The initial costs would be higher, though they would save on fuel in the long-run. Look forward to any other specifics on their potential in the city. Thanks, Carlin

Priyanka Jain's picture

Dear Carlin,

Thanks for your comment. Let me reply to the concern regarding the cost of E-Rickshaws. The price of the Rickshaw is only Rs 80000. Thats low enough for many people to take a loan and switch to driving E-Rickshaw. The concern is that the classification increases the cost of registration drastically, more than 5 times the cost of the rickshaw itself. They were used at the times of Common Wealth Games but now used only on the outskirts of delhi or at night because of the ban and controversies around it. There is also the requirement of E-rickshaw drivers to have completed education till Class X. That leaves out a lot of uneducated people from availing the opportunity. Thanks, Priyanka

Olatawura Ladipo-Ajayi's picture

Hi Priyanka,
I have to agree, policies for transportation really need to consider its overall effects, particularly on the economy and those the different modes of transportation target. Lagos traffic is terrible and the fastest and cheapest mode of transportation way the commercial motorcycles, like Delhi, transport policies recently banned most of these from major roadways for safety reasons,however its benefit can be argued outweighed its detriments. This ban cost arguable the urban poor operating these machines their jobs, and middles class citizens a cheap and fast way to making livelihood, and created increased hours in traffic which at the end of the day affects productivity.

Transport policy in Lagos in the city's defense is attempting to upgrade the transport system to the 21st century through BRT systems, trains, cable cars etc. The issue with this however is the complex systems of the city's transport network, its varied class groups and economic status of residents are not being fully evaluated in the decisions being made. This affects not only the poor but also general economic productivity as most workers tend to spend half of their day on the road.

I would disagree that the primary question in forging transport policy should be what can it achieve for the poor but more looking at transport policy from the perspectives of what problem these policies solve, which do they create and how best to make it work for the majority of city residents both poor and rich.

Nora Lindstrom's picture

Hi Wura, great point re the need to develop transport policy for both the rich and the poor. While the poor man and woman's means of transportation often gets criticised for being unsafe and causing traffic jams and consequently banned as many of the above articles attest to, it's often the increase in cars owned by wealthier city residents that are the actual cause of gridlocks. So transportation policies need to look both at how to get the less off from where they are to where they need to be, but also on how to develop public transportation that is inclusive of both the rich and the poor - say like the New York metro.

Priyanka Jain's picture

Dear Wura,

Thanks for the comment. I agree that transport policy need to focus on all citizens. Here I am particularly talking about the public transportation goods. The reason to emphasise the need to look at what it can achieve for the poor is mainly because many decisions, for example bus versus metro or wider vehicular access than proper pedestrian and bicycle right of way, are often taken without considering the fact that in Delhi the transport goods are largely used by low income population. They form an important factor in their access to economic opportunities as well. For them, the public transportation goods is not a matter of lifestyle but a necessity. By focussing on their needs, the city automatically increases the quality of life of other residents as well. Nevertheless, I agree that on a holistic level, the policies need to address the needs of all citizens both poor and rich. Thanks, Priyanka

Olatawura Ladipo-Ajayi's picture

Hi Hilary,
Interesting article, for cities like Lagos and Nairobi, the ability to map transport routes and traffic routes real time is invaluable. Much progress has not been made in this aspect in my city so I was wondering if there was a lot of corporation between the government and the efforts to map transport systems with the programs mentioned like the Digital Matatus project, Ma3route, and Sonar, or was it easier to get them going as the transportation was private? It would be interesting to see how these programs got integrated into policy planning if they were fully created privately without government support.

Hilaryzainab's picture

Hey Olarawure!

The Digitial Matatus project was carried out by a team of researchers from the University of Nairobi, Columbia, MIT and Groupshot.

Linnet Kwamboka @g33kmate had conducted a lot of this foundational work as well during the time. She developed some maps which I believe informed the Digitial Matatus project. Her work centers on open data and transparent governance. Through her work she had a strong relationships with government officers.

As to Ma3route they are based out of the Bishop Magua center where iLab, Nailab and Ushahidi are seated. They are a mobile app driven tech start up. Sonar is also a mobile app that draws on the Digitial Matatus project. Inclusion in the policy process is something that certain ministries are more engaged with than others. The Nairobi city government has been more outwardly open to citizen participation however who is actual in the room is a different story. However the government can be seen in media and social network sites encouraging comment.

As to larger infrastructure based planning such as road locations etc., this is more driven by private-public partnerships and Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding. For example the Thika superhighway project contracted to a Chinese company was done through ODA assistance from the Chinese Government.

Hope this answers your question.

jorgebela's picture

Hi Eliana,

I was a bit concerned about the idea of building hundreds of kilometers of bike lanes on the short term. The experience in Bogotá shows that it is best to plan carefully and not to cut on necessary costs. In Bogotá much of the bike lanes were built on the sidewalks, thus bikers are forced to share the space with pedestrians, informal sellers and cars turning into the streets that often are looking for cars at the opposite side where bikes are coming. This is a highly risky and inefficient approach. In some streets, as is the caso on 11thy St., the bike lanes are on the right side of traffic, where bus and taxi riders board and unboard their vehicles. The result is chaos, mutual anger and ultimately risk for pedestrians and bikers alike. Lack of proper maintenance is making an already bas situation even worse.

I am wondering if the plan for Sao Paulo avoids these pitfalls, and if dedicated, safe bike lanes are the proposed solution. Building hundreds of kilometers of unsafe and unsustainable lines can be politically advantageous on the short term, but will do little to improve the transportation problems of Sao Paulo on the long term.

Thank you for your comment, Jorge.
I agree with you that softer modes (pedestrians and bikes) should be thought together.
For now, São Paulo is giving its first steps in terms of cycling integration, but I believe is an important step, since it could provide the critical mass the cycling activists base their activities on. Without increasing the number of bikes, the improvements in cycling infrastructure will be considered necessary. This first infrastructure, despite not ideal, offers a possibility. I strongly believe that our cities have to do what they can, with the resources they have to improve. In Brazil, the municipality is not even the legal responsible for the sidewalk (design and maintenance), therefore the painted cycling routes are a small advance, because they mark the place for cycling in the city, inexistent until now.

jorgebela's picture

Hi, Wura. I wonder if you can provide some more info on the planned cable cars for Nairobi. They were used very successfully in Medellin, but they have been much less so in Rio de Janeiro. Once again, proper planning and sufficient investment on upkeep are essential. Thanks for your comment!

Olatawura Ladipo-Ajayi's picture

Hi Jorge,
I'm not sure about Nairobi Hilary could possible have details, but for Lagos, the idea is to connect satellite cities to metropolitan Lagos. It is expected to limit congestion of the city, traffic and encourage living outside Lagos, to make urban planning easier. You are right though it will require a lot of maintenance, and proper planning. Currently a lot of people leave outside the immediate city hub of mainland and island Lagos encroaching on neighbouring states and the cable cars might prove as effective as it did in Medellin with adequate planning.

My personal fear is that the cost might prove to high for thoes who need it. This is speculation of course, but such technological projects and most urban city projects now tend to be PPPs which means the private partners will be looking for a little bit of profit which makes the social good initially overpriced, the city experienced the same with the road toll. Was there any such problems in Medellin?

María Fernanda Carvallo's picture

Hi Carlin, in Mexico City has been implemented the same bike system in array that people have more transportation options, however this transport is just available in areas where there is greater sharing of economic activities. In this sense, one of the major challenges is the mobility of people living in marginalized and remote areas of the City, as they first have to use other means of transportation to get to these areas and such means offer poor quality of transportation due that is highly demanded by passengers..

In São Paulo is the same. So far the bike lanes are still concentrated in what we cal expanded center, but bikes are more present as the main mode of transportation in the peripheries. There is an effort to concentrate the new lines around transportation hubs and we have a bike share system integrated with public transport, although it is very expensive (not affordable for the poorest). Still I believe is an important start.

widya anggraini's picture

Hi Tam,
I think we covered similar topics this month. I’ve been to Vietnam twice and visited HCMC and Hanoi and experienced moto taxi culture. It is quite an experience because the city is full of motorcycles and drove pretty scary and I am wondering if this moto taxi company is providing their drivers with new motorcycle or recruiting current drivers and renews their motors? Because giving new motor will increase possibility of traffic. I agree with Pembletons that to change this kind of culture will be difficult, and Indonesia also found it hard because every year, there is high increase of motorcycle ownership in the city due to cheap price of Indian and china-made motor plus low awareness of city government in providing good and affordable public transportation.

Wura , you have strong argument and I am totally agree with you. City of Jakarta and Surabaya inhabits largely by middle-income people, and public transportation that is affordable and serve many routes for the poor are mainly city bus (Kopaja) with poor condition. While only people live in the city afford to use MRT (TransJakarta). Although the price is sometimes affordable for people live in poorer are, most of the time, few line of MRT reach their place, therefore, only few of poor people can actually enjoy good public transportation.

Hilaryzainab's picture

Hey Carlin,

Are there any network maps currently available to commuters? It would be interesting as you say to see how the skywalks can be better incorporated into other modes of public transit to increase use overall. However, safety issues are still considerable. Utilizing gender-inclusive planning is one step to addressing these issues and female security officers are an important aspect.

I would be really interested to see in other cities how skywalk networks have been successfully incorporated into overall mass transit networks. Do you know of any good examples?

Hilaryzainab's picture

Olatwara & Priyanka,

I am responding jointly as your articles both covered very interesting topics which I've seen challenge low income commuters and small business owners/entrepreneurs across Kenya who operate Boda boda [motorcycle taxis] &/or Piki piki [Keke].

In specific the frustrating and compounding effect of requiring at times expensive registrations and training while also daily facing extorted fees. Though a rather simple public transit good with respect to E-Rickshaws, by dragging their feet the Delhi authorities actually increase the burdens on operators and commuters. I say this because demand will require that they still be on the road, as you have noted they continue to operate at the fringes of town and in the evenings. As a result operators will undoubtedly face fees from police and traffic officials while indirectly increasing the cost of commuting for many of the cities poor. At the same time an opportunity for income generation is missed that could support a highly concentrated issue of urban poverty. Hopefully, a more equitable solution can be reached that accounts for the needs of low-income commuters, operators and local officials.

I agree with you Oltwara that any policy must be conceptualized and driven by a holistic understanding of its affects on all levels of society. This goes back to the point you raised regarding how these informal fees and extortion make it extremely difficult for individuals who took loans to begin small scale transportation businesses can be stifled and as a result the underlying poverty meant to be addressed continues to persist.

The challenge is how do you address the fact that there is a lack of accountability at the street level will individuals are faced with officers? For matatu drivers in Nairobi I know that paying bribes is simply part of the business. You get pulled over, boarded, and pay then move on. If you don't then all of your passengers disembark [often demanding their money back] and your towed or stand around until a price the authorities believe to be reasonable has been agreed upon.

This I think also highlights an opportunity. Reporting platforms such as I Paid A Bribe launched in Bangladesh allow for simple SMS reporting which would at least provide a time stamp and way to quantify the cost of these external pressures while also allowing the development of a better understanding of how from the supplier [transport operators] perspective, opportunities exist that can support poverty alleviation.

Id be interested in finding out if any city has a user-driven movement of this nature that attempts to hold public officials accountable while also providing commuters with valuable information on routes and fees.

Great articles enjoyed reading them both.

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.