TEPIC, Mexico (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The world’s transport networks are lagging behind booming demand, and countries risk missing key development goals if access to jobs, markets and healthcare is jeopardized, the World Bank, United Nations and other agencies said on Thursday.
Pulling in private-sector investment and providing clear guidelines are essential to help governments prioritize safe, well-connected and clean transport, and avoid reliance on haphazard informal networks, said the Sustainable Mobility for All coalition of some 50 international organizations.
“Meeting growing aspirations for mobility has the potential to improve the lives and livelihoods of billions of people,” it said in a report.
“But the future of mobility can also go in another direction: it can engender gross inequalities in economic and social advancement, promote fossil fuel use, degrade the environment, and add to the number of deaths from transport-related accidents and air pollution,” it added.
Report co-author Nancy Vandycke, an economic adviser at the World Bank, warned that the cost of mobility of people and goods is rising in terms of congestion, air pollution and accidents, and could eventually outweigh the benefits.
“Transport currently is not on track to support a future that is sustainable,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
By 2030, passenger traffic could grow 50 percent from 2015 levels, with the number of cars set to double to 1.2 billion, while freight volumes could rocket 70 percent, according to the Global Mobility Report 2017, which urged universal access to affordable transport.
With urban populations growing faster than transport networks, cities need new equitable, integrated systems, it said, highlighting Latin America’s struggle with congestion and pollution despite investment in mass transport systems.
Better road and transport infrastructure in rural areas have boosted farmers’ access to markets, and strengthened food security, job prospects and access to education and healthcare, said the report.
Investing in transport in Africa could potentially make the continent “self-sufficient” in food, creating a $1 trillion regional market by 2030, according to the report. It said 70 percent of Africans living in rural areas - 450 million people - currently lack transport connectivity.
Despite the needs, not enough funding is going into transport, said Vandycke. “It’s a sector that has no attraction for donors... and little attraction in terms of private-sector financing,” she said.
With up to half of all traffic deaths in cities, the report recommended promoting safer ways of traveling such as rail and mass rapid transit systems, while making cars, motorbikes and bicycles less dangerous.
More than 1.3 million people are killed and millions injured every year in road accidents, the main cause of death for people aged 15 to 29, the report noted.
Low safety standards often hit the poorest hard, with transport-related deaths and injuries knocking up to 5 percent off the gross domestic product of some developing nations.
Countries must also do more to improve transport safety and access for women, and cater for elderly and disabled people, the report said.
Private cars and motorbikes contribute more than a fifth of energy-related global greenhouse gas emissions, it noted, urging a shift to more efficient public transport and freight systems.
While only 18 percent of people in the world have been on a plane, the report said climate-changing emissions from air travel are likely to grow as demand doubles over the next 20 years.
Reporting by Sophie Hares. Editing by Megan Rowling.