By Luis Lozano-Paredes, September 24, 2013
Siemens and C40, the cities Climate Leadership Group, recently announced the ten winners of the inaugural City Climate Leadership Awards, which are given to different cities around the world that demonstrate “excellence in urban sustainability and leadership in the fight against climate change.”
For me it wasn’t a surprise that Bogotá, Colombia won the award for Urban Transportation, even considering the problems that have challenged the city’s transportation system recently.
The Bus Rapid Transit system, “TransMilenio,” launched in 2000, has reached almost 75% of the city and its metropolitan area is near ten million inhabitants. Future projects involve replacing all of the bus fleet with hybrid and electric vehicles and an even more ambitious plan involves the replacement of the entire taxi fleet with electric cars, while completing the transportation system of the city with new “Metro” lines.
However, one may ask, can there be a true social change within cities of the developing world (with all the social and economic problems that those cities confront), by only improving the efficiency with which people move from ‘A’ to ‘B’?
The answer is, for cities like Bogotá, that yes, there can be.
Transportation, especially public transportation, is a marker of democracy and social equality. As former mayor of Bogotá Enrique Peñalosa said many times: “True democracy is when the city shows by its urban design that a person on a $10 bike or who pays a $2 ticket is equally important to that in a $20,000 car.” Peñalosa also declared that “a developed city isn’t one where the poor have cars but one where the rich use public transit,” making the issue more popular than ever.
Improved transportation can improve the quality of life for the lower and middle classes by making it easier and more comfortable for them to get to work. Additionally, the quality of urban design that develops along new projects helps the city’s evolution into a new identity.
Do you think investing in transportation is a good start for changing a city? Or should social change come from some other place?