Urban mobility trends in Latin America

Urban mobility is a cross-disciplinary challenge for Latin American cities. Congestion, with its consequent losses of productivity and quality of life, is usual in large Latin American cities. São Paulo, Bogotá, Mexico City, Medellín and Río de Janeiro occupy top spots in the global rankings that measure this phenomenon1. This is the case even where these cities have implemented integrated public transport systems (such as different forms of Bus Rapid Transit), which highlights the need to respond to the challenge of increasing motorisation through specific policies. In fact in some cases, it demonstrates a crisis of image of the public transport systems, where residents demand qualitative changes (less saturation, personal safety, better travel experience, better segmented services, new vehicular technologies) apart from the basic fact of availability.

In addition, the megatrends of electrification, digitisation, autonomous vehicles and the shared economy, have permeated the discussion of public policies as regards mobility. Electric vehicles and the advances made in terms of range and cost will gradually improve the feasibility of these technologies on the market. Moreover, the Internet of Things is starting to gain momentum as a platform to increase the efficiency of transport operations. In the current decade, non-motorised transport such as the bicycle has consolidated its space in the range of solutions. Even more recently, pedestrian mobility, road safety, access for all and gender trends have all enhanced the debate.

At such a defining and disruptive time, it is easy to be carried away by the latest technological advance announced through the social networks as a panacea. However, we must not be side-tracked from the basic concept of mobility, because neither electrification, or autonomous vehicles or digitisation will in themselves resolve the problems of congestion, pollution and poor road safety facing Latin Americans as they move around their cities. In his book ‘Human Transit’, Jarrett Walker defines mobility as the ease of moving ourselves beyond our walking range. This is rather a challenge of having a variety of options and less so about technologies, despite the latter playing an essential role in enabling and making the different options more efficient. Read more…

Jorge Augusto Suárez Velandia
Advisor on e-mobility and transport solutions for Volvo Group Mexico and collaborator on Volvo Bus North America

Article published in: FuturENERGY April 2018