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Motorization, Demand & City Development


The patterns of spatial, population and economic growth of cities, the two-way interaction of these  patterns with urban transport systems, and public policies for managing and shaping urban activities have been time and place variant. Traditional transport planning developed largely in parallel with post-WWII explosion of individual motorization in the U.S., in an already wealthy society going through a period of sustained economic growth. The initial policy response in the U.S., based on a predict-and-provide planning framework, was to accommodate the private car to the maximum possible, while retaining public transport modes for the dwindling market of the car-less, old and young. This approach was eventually modified to reflect environmental and other social concerns, but essentially remained focused on the private car and featuring extensive, low-density spatial growth.


An entirely different strategic approach was taken in the socialist countries, opting for public transport as the primary urban mode, and developing cities accordingly. In both these cases, the common element has been the strength of institutions and the importance of public policies for the provision of infrastructure, the supply of services, and consequently the modal choices.


In the developing world, motorization is a relatively recent phenomenon, and the ownership rates in cities rarely exceed 200 cars per 1,000 population. Even at these low levels, the weakness of institutions and policies meant that the responses either in the form of accommodating the car or favoring public transport modes have not been adequate, creating congestion and poor accessibility and mobility.


With well-known exceptions like Curitiba in Brazil and Hong-Kong in China, neither urban nor state-based institutions in developing countries have been strong and/or funded enough to accommodate rapid rates of population and motorization growth, exacerbated by the presence of sharp income inequalities. In relative terms, the land use planning and regulation have been even weaker than transport planning and regulation. These problems have been at their most acute in mega-cities, and it is commonly the lowest-income groups whose accessibility, mobility, safety and security have suffered the most. This is so even in cities where population and spatial growth have been accompanied by economic growth, not to mention places where the processes of city growth and wealth generation have diverged.


Since the early-to-mid-1990s, the attention of the transport profession has been on the transformation of ex-socialist cities in the former soviet union and Eastern Europe in response to newly introduced market processes and the rise of income inequality, both reflected in the rise of motorization and crises in the provision of public transport services.


More recently, motorization waves have welled up in China and India, the most populous countries in the world, with initial conditions very different from those seen in the US or Europe. Urban transport in China, most notably, is making a transition from a bicycle-dominated pattern to a classic competition between cars and public transport modes against the background of the inherited “socialist” approach to land use planning. China appears to have opted for massive road building in tandem with improving street-based public transport services and construction rapid transit systems in larger cities.


The motorization in India has so far been of a 2-wheeler variety, with negative impacts on both bus and car transport. The response in terms of road building and public transport development has been sporadic. Neither urban development planning nor transport planning institutions in Indian cities are up to this challenge, with the jurisdictional and financial relations between the federal, state and local governments being a major stumbling block. This may change given the new awareness that urban accessibility is on the critical path for both economic growth and the standard of living of both rich and poor.


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  • A Framework for Urban Transport Benchmarking
    Mohammed Dalil Essakali, Jung Eun Oh and Theuns Henning, 2011
    This report summarizes the findings of a study aimed at exploring key elements of a benchmarking framework for urban transport. Unlike many industries where benchmarking has proven to be successful and straightforward, the multitude of the actors and interactions involved in urban transport systems may make benchmarking a complex endeavor. The study therefore proposes a benchmarking framework for urban transport, focusing on the performance of public transport. Because the design of a benchmarking framework depends on the objectives sought from it, the study focused on the performance of public transport systems from the policymaker’s perspective. The study included pilot application of the proposed framework in five cities from three continents—Beijing, Bucharest, Cape Town, Colombo, and Singapore. The pilot application and comparative analysis helped gauge applicability and practicality of the proposed framework.
  • Beyond Travel Time Savings
    Robert Cervero (University of California, Berkeley), 2011
    This paper challenges the widespread use of travel-time savings as a principal metric of economic benefits for evaluating urban transport projects. Time-budget theory and empirical evidence reveals that the benefits of a widened road or extended rail line often get expressed by more and longer trips to larger numbers of destinations and not by less time spent traveling. Induced travel demand can also erode time-savings benefits over the long term. Other conceptual and measurement issues related to travel-time reductions as a welfare measure are raised as well. A case is then made for elevating accessibility improvements as an outcome measure, particularly in light of the long-term nature of urban transport investments. Examples of measuring and monetizing accessibility are provided, although applying these techniques in developing countries is never easy. Still, tractability of measurement is no reason for relying on measures like reduced travel time when doing so flies in the face of theory, logic, and empirical evidence.
    The paper concludes that the World Bank should adopt a more robust and inclusionary framework for evaluating urban transport projects, one that supplements mobility based measures like travel-time savings with metrics tied to accessibility, sustainability, livability, safety, and affordability. A preliminary plan of action is proposed in this regard.
  • Jabodetabek and Domestic Connectivity
    Mustapha Benmaamar, August 2010
  • Land Use Planning and GHG Emissions of Urban Transport
    Elizabeth Deakin (University of California, Berkeley), 2008
  • Presentation on the Impacts of Motorization and What Can Be Done to Mitigate Them
    Marlon Boarnet, Policy Research Working Paper, January 2006
    This paper summarizes methodological approaches for evaluating the role of urban transportation projects in poverty alleviation. Impact evaluations of urban transportation projects present special challenges, including interactions with other markets and potential selection biases. Complicating matters further, poverty impacts are usually an indirect result of an urban transportation project, not a direct result. Lastly, poverty impact evaluations in the urban transport sector present theoretical challenges. These challenges can often be overcome and rigorous assessment of the poverty impact of urban transportation projects is possible. This paper provides a guide to implementing evaluations of the poverty alleviation impact of urban transportation. Section I discusses some background on the relationship between traditional transportation cost-benefit analysis and poverty impact evaluations. Section II provides background on recent World Bank urban poverty projects. Section III briefly discusses classical impact evaluation approaches, and particular methodological challenges inherent in applying those approaches to urban transportation projects. Section IV discusses types of impacts that would be typical foci for evaluation studies related to urban transport. Section V discusses methods for assessing the impact of urban transport projects on labor market outcomes of the poor. Section VI examines impact evaluation related to firm location. Section VII discusses evaluation methods to evaluate the impact of transport projects on access to services. Section VIII discusses methods to evaluate impacts on land prices, and the final section concludes.
  • Presentation on the Impacts of Motorization and What Can Be Done to Mitigate Them.
    (PDF, 2,577KB)
    Robin Carruthers, slides from a presentation, 2003
    Motorization is highly correlated with income. Differences in land use can lead to different levels, but not different paths, of motorization.
  • TWU-42. Managing Motorization.
    Christopher Willoughby, April 2000
    Motorization is seen in a dual context of transport and land use markets. The paper reviews social costs and benefits of motorization, and responses to its rapid increase in various parts of the world. It is concluded that the introduction of time-and-place variant road pricing holds the main promise to rationalize the use of motor vehicles and generate funds for their maintenance and expansion.
  • PRWP-2042. Determinants of Motorization and Road Provision.
    Gregory K. Ingram and Zhi Liu, January 1999.
    Summary - Full Document (PDF, 137KB)
    National and urban motor vehicle ownership increases at about the same rate as income, whereas road length increases with income mainly at the national level. So, urban congestion grows with income. Controlling vehicle fleet growth and use would require high taxes that increase faster than income
    ¾or there could be congestion tolls.
  • PRWP-2036. Vehicles, Roads, and Road Use: Alternative Empirical Specifications.
    Gregory K. Ingram and Zhi Liu, December 1998.
    Summary - Full Document (PDF, 169KB)
    The vehicle to road ratio in urban areas is increasing with income at an alarmingly high rate. Economic growth appears to be producing urban gridlock and promoting low density urban development
    ¾a phenomenon that deserves attention and analysis.
  • PRWP-1842. Motorization and the Provision of Roads in Countries and Cities.
    Gregory K. Ingram and Zhi Liu, November 1997.
    Summary - Full Document (PDF, 161KB)
    Using panel data from 50 countries and 35 urban areas (covering a wide range of country incomes), Ingram and Liu summarize trends in motorization and the provision of roads, and they examine the ratio of motor vehicles to roads in a production function framework at both national and urban levels. They find regularities very strong across countries and urban areas and over time.
  • TWU-23. Transport in the City of Tomorrow: The Transport Dialogue at Habitat II.
    Kenneth M. Gwilliam, October 1996.
    Summary -  Full Document (PDF, 64KB)
  • PRWP-1633. Essentials for Sustainable Urban Transport in Brazil's Largest Metropolitan Areas.
    Jorge M. Rebelo, August 1996.
    Summary - Full Document (PDF, 855KB)

    Four pillars for sound development and long-term sustainability of the urban transport sector in large metropolitan areas.
  • The Business of Sustainable Cities: Public-private partnerships for creative technical and institutional solutions
    Ismail Serageldin and Richard Barrett, 1994
    Ultimately, to be sustainable, cities must function for peoples, protect their health, provide shelter, and offer opportunities for employment and cultural expression. Leaders around the world are seeking new answers to these requirements by revisiting traditional approaches and pursuing innovative solutions. In this report international, national, nongovernmental, and public and private business and industry leaders and officials present their approaches to urban energy, transportation, and solid waste services that advance environmentally sustainable development. In each case the approach improves the quality of life in cities and presents new entrepreneurial opportunities. As detailed in this publication, new efficiencies and more effective services in these sectors are not only possible but proven, and they are well worth examining in a time of diminishing fiscal resources and increasing human needs in sprawling cities. Of vital importance, these innovations in delivering energy, transportation, and waste management services reduce or avoid environmental health effects. In many cases they invite privatization and demonstrate cooperative approaches between public and private entities, as well as encourage alliances among business, industry, and municipal leaders. The evidence in this report points to new directions in investments and technology choices that are responsive not only to the goals of Agenda 21 and the work of the Commission on Sustainable Development, but also to the World Conference on Human Settlements, HABITAT II.
  • A Framework for Urban Transport Studies
    Koichi Mera, March 27, 1970
    This paper is a product of the continuing investigation of the economics of Urbanization Division into methods for approaching urban development and, in particular, for appraising urban projects.
    After previous works on the interrelationships between transportation and land use are examined, an urban transport study method is proposed. On the project analysis level, the quantification of benefits is discussed.



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