New Urban Agenda Promises Mobility for All


QuitoPanelMayors.jpgToday, the majority of people, an estimated four billion, live in urban areas. By 2050, the urban population could be up to six billion, according to population experts at the United Nations.


Rethinking the way we build, manage, live and transport ourselves in cities is center stage as the UN General Assembly embarks on its 72nd session this autumn.


That rethinking was formalized almost a year ago, in October 2016, at the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, Habitat III, in Quito, Ecuador. There, 167 UN member states signed the New Urban Agenda, <> an action-oriented document that sets global standards of achievement for sustainable urban development for the next 20 years.


The New Urban Agenda adopted at Habitat III aligns with many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG 11 on making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.


The document became official strategy when it got formal approval from the UN’s main legislative body, the General Assembly on December 21, 2016; member states adopted a resolution by consensus that “welcomes the adoption” of the New Urban Agenda.


The New Urban Agenda is not a legally binding agreement. It provides guidance to national governments, city and regional authorities, civil society, foundations, NGOs, academic researchers and UN agencies in their thinking about cities, urbanization and sustainable development.


Guidance is not binding, yet the New Urban Agenda now has formally supplanted the earlier Habitat Agenda as the UN’s main strategy for dealing with urbanization.


Sustainable mobility and innovative transport technologies are an integral part of the New Urban Agenda, which promotes "age- and gender-responsive planning and investment for sustainable, safe and accessible urban mobility for all, and resource-efficient transport systems for passengers and freight, effectively linking people, places, goods, services and economic opportunities..."


Access to public transport for people with disabilities, the poor and those living in informal settlements, is an important part of the New Urban Agenda.


The Agenda envisions "safe, inclusive, accessible, green and quality public spaces, including streets, sidewalks and cycling lanes, squares, waterfront areas, gardens and parks, that are multifunctional areas for social interaction and inclusion, human health and well-being..."


The 167 signatory nations committed themselves to the "generation and use of renewable and affordable energy, and sustainable and efficient transport infrastructure and services, where possible, achieving the benefits of connectivity and reducing the financial, environmental and public health costs of inefficient mobility, congestion, air pollution, urban heat island effects, and noise."


"We commit ourselves to adopting a smart-city approach that makes use of opportunities from digitalization, clean energy and technologies, as well as innovative transport technologies..." they stated.


Transportation safety measures are written into the New Urban Agenda, which says, "We will take measures to improve road safety and integrate it into sustainable mobility and transport infrastructure planning and design."


The signing countries agreed "to actively protect and promote pedestrian safety and cycling mobility, with a view to broader health outcomes, particularly the prevention of injuries and non-communicable diseases."


They agreed to develop and implement comprehensive legislation and policies on motorcycle safety, given the disproportionally high and increasing numbers of motorcycle deaths and injuries globally, particularly in developing countries.


"We will promote the safe and healthy journey to school for every child as a priority," they stated.


Other priorities outlined in the New Urban Agenda are: encouraging urban–rural interactions and connectivity by strengthening sustainable transport and mobility; new technology that enables shared mobility services; and prioritizing non-motorized options such as walking and cycling over private motorized transportation.


The Agenda includes equitable “transit-oriented development” that minimizes the displacement, in particular, of the poor, and features affordable, mixed-income housing and a mix of jobs and services.


Better and coordinated transport and land-use planning would lead to a reduction of travel and transport needs, enhancing connectivity between urban, peri-urban and rural areas, including waterways; and transport and mobility planning, particularly for small island developing States and coastal cities, the Agenda states.


The Agenda supports urban freight planning and logistics concepts that enable efficient access to products and services, minimizing their impact on the environment and on the liveability of the city, and maximizing their contribution to sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth.


"We will take measures to develop mechanisms and common frameworks at the national, subnational and local levels to evaluate the wider benefits of urban and metropolitan transport schemes, including impacts on the environment, the economy, social cohesion, quality of life, accessibility, road safety, public health and action on climate change, among others," the signatories pledged.


Funding, well, funding is always an issue.


The signing governments pledged to "...encourage national, subnational and local governments to develop and expand financing instruments, enabling them to improve their transport and mobility infrastructure and systems, such as mass rapid-transit systems, integrated transport systems, air and rail systems, and safe, sufficient and adequate pedestrian and cycling infrastructure and technology-based innovations in transport and transit systems to reduce congestion and pollution while improving efficiency, connectivity, accessibility, health and quality of life."


"We will also consider establishing urban and territorial transport infrastructure and service funds at the national level, based on a variety of funding sources ranging from public grants to contributions from other public entities and the private sector, ensuring coordination among actors and interventions as well as accountability," the signatories state.


To see how well implementation of the New Urban Agenda is coming along in its first year, mayors, local and regional leaders and representatives of the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments attended a high-level meeting on September 5-6 in New York, convened by then President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson of Fiji, just before the opening of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly.


The meeting discussed the report of the Independent Panel to assess and enhance the effectiveness of UN Habitat after the adoption of the New Urban Agenda.


Governments made it clear that they are not interested in the creation of a new UN body to coordinate global action on sustainable urbanization.


In its report, the eight-member panel, which includes Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, calls for a formal role for a Local Government Committee in a renewed UN Habitat governance structure.


Panel co-chair, the new United Cities and Local Governments President Parks Tau, who was the mayor of the city of Johannesburg, South Africa from 2011-2016, told the conference, “The challenges are so great that there needs to be total change in the way we approach development and we will need to include a greater number of actors."


Amina Mohammed of Nigeria, who serves as UN deputy secretary general, opened the two-day meeting on the New Urban Agenda saying, "Cities are hubs of promise, jobs, technology and economic development."


"When built with low-emission development in mind, they are the most environmentally sustainable habitats possible – showcasing the safest and most efficient public transport systems and energy conserving buildings and homes in the world," said Mohammed.


"Over 80 percent of the global GDP is generated in urban areas, and they are where most new ideas, innovations, inventions and collaborations are taking place, especially with our young people," she said.


Cities are centers of promise and innovation, and they are also the epicenter of many of the challenges of sustainability, said Mohammed.


"They are responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption. They are home to the majority of the world’s refugees, where disasters strike hardest, and often flashpoints of social unrest and conflict," said Mohammed.

"It is clear that it is in cities where the battle for sustainability will be won or lost."


The 167 nations backing the New Urban Agenda agreed to encourage the General Assembly to hold the fourth United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development in 2036, within a renewed political commitment to assess and

consolidate progress of the New Urban Agenda.


Cities in the Driver’s Seat


Making transport sustainable for all city residents is a prominent part of the New Urban Agenda, say Holger Dalkmann, Dario Hidalgo and Thet Hein Tun writing on the World Resources Institute website on October 13, 2016.


"This demonstrates the international development community’s recognition of how important mobility is for prosperity, social inclusion and environmental sustainability. Making that vision a reality presents challenges to city leaders who struggle to address the immediate need to move people from homes to jobs with limited resources."


"In many cases, cities continue with old, unsustainable models that rely too heavily on cars and roads. And the problems of traditional transport - including traffic fatalities and the health effects of air pollution - will continue to be felt primarily by society’s most vulnerable," they write.


Electric bus in Nottingham, a city in central England’s Midlands region,
(Photo by Railway Dave and Jim Freebury)


Between 2000 and 2015 the use of motor vehicles worldwide jumped 67 percent to 24 trillion vehicle kilometers (15 trillion miles) from 14 trillion (8.7 trillion miles).


During that period, the total number of vehicles on the road surged 49 percent to 992 million from 664 million, reflecting the growing urban middle class in developing countries.


Electric vehicle stock grew too, but still accounted for just one million in 2015, up from fewer than 20,000 vehicles in 2010.


While new technologies such as e-hailing apps provide flexibility and convenience, these ad hoc private services further increase the focus on cars for mobility, rather than inclusion in a comprehensive transit plan that fosters the use of clean modes like walking and cycling.


Addressing these challenges will be essential if cities are to achieve the New Urban Agenda’s sustainable transport goals.

WRI’s World Resources Report: "Towards a More Equal City" examines this issue in a working paper that looks at the possible policies city governments can use to propel their communities towards sustainable urban mobility.


Transport Sector Gears Up for 2017 Climate Summit


The Paris Process on Mobility and Climate (PPMC), a joint initiative of the Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT) and Michelin Challenge Bibendum, was established in 2015 to give greater visibility to transport within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and other global processes on climate change.




The Paris Process on Mobility and Climate sets eight priorities for the Global Macro Roadmap, 2017
(Graphic courtesy PPMC)



The 2015 Paris Agreement on climate and its ambitious target of reducing temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius and moving towards 1.5 degrees Celsius was "successfully negotiated by political decision makers," the PPMC says in an August 4 Draft Planning Note for the upcoming UN climate conference. Now the task is to turn that commitment into lower temperatures.


That task will be taken up by world leaders at the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, known as COP23. It will be held November 6-17 in Bonn, Germany, hosted by the government of Fiji.


Among the PPMC's objectives for COP23 are "to increase synergy between the transport work in the climate process and delivery of the SDGs, the New Urban Agenda and other Global Agendas on sustainable development with relevance for transport in a manner that helps to realize the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda motto, 'Leave no one Behind.'"


Transport stakeholders, organized in the PPMC, strongly believe that it is key that individual sectors, including the transport sector, will play an increasingly active role in discussions in the UNFCCC over the next three years to help ensure that the gap between the political “well-below 2 degrees” target and committed actions by all stakeholders (Parties, cities and regions and private sector) is reduced as quickly as possible.


This will require the transport sector to show greater leadership on what pathways to take and to demonstrate commitment from key stakeholders.


The PPMC is taking a leadership role through is Global Macro Roadmap: An Actionable Vision on Decarbonized and Resilient Transport,<> which covers a 2020-2050+ timeline. It identifies eight areas of action with short-, medium-, and long term milestones for the decarbonization of the transport sector.


The Global Macro Roadmap will focus on identifying a balanced package of actions taking into account the main sustainable transport paradigm which combines "Avoid (reduce unnecessary travel through land use planning or logistics redesign and halting counterproductive regulation that incentivizes travel by individual motorized vehicles), Shift (shift movement of goods and people to the most efficient modes, by scaling up good practices) and Improve (improve environmental performance of fuels and powertrains, intermodality and transport management)."


In its Global Macro Roadmap, the PPMC is upbeat, saying, "The manner in which the UNFCCC process is unfolding, with a strong focus on increased ambition level and acknowledgement of the need for long-term strategies provide the Transport sector with a well-positioned platform to inform countries through the Global Macro-Roadmap on possible pathways to transform the transport sector and to scale up ambition."


Conferences Keep Transport Moves on Track


The New Urban Agenda aims to do something different from earlier UN-Habitat agreements. It views cities as living, breathing organisms. Previous efforts to create sustainable cities have looked at poverty, sanitation, climate change, transportation and infrastructure as separate issues.


To get the New Urban Agenda moving after a short period of stagnation right after the Habitat III conference in Quito, more conferences are in the works.


One year after Habitat III, the Cities Conference, set for October 2-6 in Santiago, Chile, focuses on the implementation of the holistic New Urban Agenda in Latin America and the Caribbean for inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities.


The Cities Conference will be held at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) in Santiago, one of the five regional commissions of the United Nations.


In order to build on the commitments adopted at Habitat III, the Cities Conference focuses on the strategic aspects and mechanisms for the implementation and monitoring of the New Urban Agenda in Latin America and the Caribbean.


On the last two days in Santiago, the focus will be on the Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative (TUMI), an ambitious initiative launched at HABITAT-III in Quito with many partners, such as multi-lateral development banks, associations of cities, German federal aid and development agencies, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, ICLEI, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and UN-Habitat.


TUMI combines the expertise and knowledge of all its partners and supports cities in developing countries and emerging economies in implementing sustainable urban mobility projects. That combination came to the fore in the first TUMI conference, held this past spring.


From May 31 through June 2, more than 80 transport officials engaged in a conference run by TUMI alongside the International Transport Summit 2017 in Leipzig, Germany, highlighting the relevance and the potential of stronger collaboration on urban mobility governance in African cities.


“Transport as usual is not an option,” said Dr. Tania Rödiger-Vorwerk, deputy director general for strategy and policy planning of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, in her opening address.


"Inadequate infrastructure and services hinder economic development of cities and countries around the world every day. Africa alone loses two percent of its economic potential each year. While trying to enhance quality, safety and affordability of sustainable mobility options for their citizens, transport officials are often confronted with the need to think out of the box and create wide coalitions, even with initially opposing stakeholders."


Many ambitious mobility projects are in preparation in Sub-Saharan cities. Addis Ababa, Daressalam and Cape Town have proven the potential for urban transformation through bus rapid transit, light rail systems and non-motorized transport infrastructure.


To succeed, mobility projects need to be well framed within local policies and citizen needs. They must include the right stakeholders and technical and political capacity for transport built up must be ensured.


The need for strong political leadership and institutions was highlighted as the key to sustainable infrastructure solutions during the conference.


Throughout the meetings, past and upcoming, participants are looking forward to the upcoming World Urban Forum in 2018, with the view that this current reporting period will be critical to implementation of the New Urban Agenda.


Mesoamerica’s Transportation Agenda Earns Support


To support development in intermodal transport, cargo logistics, and urban mobility, the Inter-American Development Bank will provide a total of US$800,000 through technical cooperation grants of $400,000 each for the Strategic Program for Infrastructure Development and the Strategic Program for Integration Development.


The beneficiaries will be Mesoamerican Project member nations: Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and the Dominican Republic.


The Pacific Corridor component will fund an operational study and investment plans to identify and prioritize high-impact transport and logistics projects in the corridor countries, with special emphasis on the Northern Triangle nations - Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.


The operation’s goal is to contribute to the Mesoamerican region’s logistics development through studies and action plans aimed at generating regional transportation and logistics strategies.


The project is planning to promote regional investment plans; support the transformation of the Pacific Corridor, which is part of the Inter-American Network of Mesoamerican Roads running from Puebla, Mexico, to Panama City; and foster the implementation of National Logistics Plans.


Transportation projects can facilitate intraregional trade, says Gina Montiel, the IDB’s manager of the Central America, Mexico, Panama, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.


Maximizing logistics performance and infrastructure investments in the region is still a key pending subject on the road to buttress Mesoamerica’s and Central America’s competitiveness," said Montiel.


This support is aimed at offering planning and prioritization instruments for strategic transport and logistics infrastructure to boost connectivity and improve logistics performance and border management in the region.


The project, expected to be completed in 24 months, will receive an additional US$120,000 in counterpart funds, taking the grand total to US$920,000.


Joburg to Invest Billions in Bus Rapid Transit


The City of Johannesburg and public transport operators have signed a the landmark Negotiation Framework Agreement which will open the way for starting negotiations on the city’s R2.2 billion planned investment into the expansion of the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) and it will affect public transport operators.


Rea Vaya buses lined up near the soccer stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa. 2010
(Photo by AfricanGoals2010)


The agreement was signed earlier this month by the Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba and the representatives of different public transport operators for the transformation of public transport between the Joburg Central Business District; Alexandra; Sandton; Midrand and Ivory Park at Marks Parks Sports Club in Emmarentia, Johannesburg.


This expansion will be through the planned introduction of the third phase of the BRT which will contribute significantly to the movement of people who work and live in the City of Johannesburg," said Mayor Mashaba.


"One of the biggest obstacles to employment is the inability of people to access efficient transport," the mayor said. "The introduction of the third phase of BRT will make it easier for many of our residents, particularly those from our previously forgotten communities, to connect to needed economic opportunities."


The City of Johannesburg is planning for a rollout of integrated public transport, integrating the existing bus rapid transit system Rea Vaya; Metrobus; provincial subsidized services and mini-bus taxis.


We are also increasing our investment in improving our road infrastructure - with a focus on improving traffic light functioning through our joints policy rollout and increasing the deployment of JMPD [Johannesburg Metro Police Dept.] to reduce congestion at traffic hot spots,” explained Mayor Mashaba.


The negotiation agenda includes developing and signing agreements on the establishment of a Bus Operating Company made up of shareholders who were public transport operators operating on the route of the Rea Vaya, and empowerment opportunities for previously disadvantaged operators.


The signing of the agreement is a major milestone in implementing an integrated public transport plan which will contribute not only to improved quality public transport for all residents but will also promote the economic empowerment of the mini bus taxi industry,” said Transport Councilor Nonhlanhla Makhuba.


We can now work at full steam to rollout the next phase of Rea Vaya which will bring safe, reliable and affordable public transport between Alexandra, Sandton and the Inner City with dedicated trunk routes along Louis Botha and Katherine Streets by October 2018," she added.


The City of Johannesburg is also continuing to upgrade, maintain and build new taxi rank and public transport interchanges including the new Johannesburg International Transport Interchange for cross border and long distance trips.


The City of Johannesburg recently launched a dedicated public transport lane, known as the Sandton Public Transport Loop, that includes stops and shelters with bus information for passengers.


Analyzing Transport Innovation With TRIMIS


The European Commission has launched an online tool to help analyze the effectiveness of transport innovation in delivering the European Union’s energy and transport strategy


The Transport Research and Innovation Monitoring and Information System, or TRIMIS, maps and analyses research trends and innovation capacities across Europe's transport sector.


TRIMIS supports transport policy makers and researchers by helping to identify innovations with the greatest promise for the future, and aid policy makers to focus on areas where public intervention can create the highest added value.


Transport research projects are arranged within the seven Strategic Transport Research and Innovation Agenda (STRIA) roadmaps that were adopted in the "Europe on the Move" package in May. These cover: cooperative, connected and automated transport; transport electrification; vehicle design and manufacturing; low-emission alternative energy for transport; network and traffic management systems; smart mobility and services; and infrastructure.


TRIMIS will monitor the effectiveness of research funded at EU or Member State level by assessing how research projects contribute to a clean, connected and competitive European transport system.


The TRIMIS platform, developed and implemented by the JRC on behalf of Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport, is an evolution of the Transport Research & Innovation Portal, which it replaces, and incorporates the TRIP database of over 10,000 EU and national transport research projects.


TRIMIS is designed as an open-access information and knowledge management system. In the core of it is a database of transport projects and programs, as well as transport technologies and innovations.


This will help gather and disseminate information on the status of research and innovation and ensure a systematic horizon scanning.


TRIMIS will include modules for mapping and analysis of new and emerging transport technologies, R&I investments and capacities, with the aim to assess their impact on the EU transport system, including current developments and future implications.


In this way, it will support the implementation of the STRIA roadmaps, by monitoring progress against a set of relevant key performance indicators and scoreboards for each roadmap.


Finally, TRIMIS will act as a general source of information and data on transport research and innovation, communicating progress and issues to be addressed to policy makers, Member States experts and authorities, research organizations, as well as to the industrial and financial communities.


The seven Strategic Transport Research and Innovation Agenda (STRIA) Roadmaps aim for a more integrated and effective transport system across Europe, and to make better use of innovation and new technology in transport.


By Sunny Lewis – Environment News Service