Transforming Transportation (#TTDC15) is the annual conference co-organized by EMBARQ, the sustainable urban transport arm of the World Resources Institute’s (WRI) WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, and the World Bank. This year’s conference focuses on Smart Cities for Shared Prosperity, and takes place on January 15 and 16, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Over the past two days, we have heard from over 100 speakers from countries worldwide during the annual Transforming Transportation 2015 conference. Their messages will help shape the global urban transport agenda, and have shifted the conversation on smart cities towards people-oriented, connected cities. Mexico City Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera illustrated the importance of designing mobility laws that prioritize cycling, pedestrians, and public transport without fear of disrupting the status quo. Kevin Austin, Vincent Kobesen, and many more discussed the need to integrate land use and transport planning for more accessible cities. Janette Sadik-Khan showed how better urban design can save lives on city streets. Arvind Singhatiya explained how businesses can benefit from connected city infrastructure while also filling gaps in public services. Rosário Macario demonstrated how building public support for new policies can revolutionize urban mobility. These and other words of wisdom will resonate throughout the year as we continue efforts to scale up sustainable urban mobility.
These are only a fraction of the ideas shared at Transforming Transportation. In the final panel, global leaders in sustainable transport highlighted some of their takeaways for the present and future of urban mobility. These were their parting messages:
Cities are where the action is
A consistent theme of the conference was the need to respond to rapid global urbanization. While emerging cities face a range of transport challenges, they are also forums for incubating solutions. For example, cities are making bold, tangible commitments to reduce climate impacts, leveraging by new global tools to measure progress. Ani Dasgupta, global director, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, referenced the importance of the UN Climate Summit in New York City last September. There, 228 cities signed on to the Compact of Mayors and committed to measuring, reporting, and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.
While national change occurs slowly, cities are comparatively nimble and innovative. Jorge Kogan, senior transport specialist for CAF Development Bank of Latin America, argued that “we have a conflict. Energetic cities have to deal with lazy national governments.” Dasgupta described that “though agreements are global, pretty much all action is local.” In this vein, Holger Dalkmann, director of EMBARQ, World Resources Institute, emphasized that global processes like the UN Decade of Action on Road Safety are slow to deliver change on the ground, while city leaders have more capacity to take swift action.
Capitalizing on 2015 with a new urban model
“2015 is a year that we can unleash our passion for sustainable transport at an unprecedented scale,” said Cornie Huizenga, secretary general of the Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport – SloCaT. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and COP21 climate talks in Paris create a unique opportunity to position cities and transport at the forefront of the global agenda and to create an equitable, low-carbon future. To support the SDGs, José Luis Irigoyen, director of the Transport and ICT Global Practice for the World Bank, called on the transport community to put forward “a robust framework for transport that is measurable and credible. We have a limited timeframe. This is the year.”
Speakers emphasized that the urban transport community needs to have a strong, unified voice. Urgent problems like climate change and global poverty require urgent responses. “Over the years, we have been practicing our arguments. We need to come forward with them now,” Huizenga said.
Felipe Calderón began Transforming Transportation with the message that climate action can go hand in hand with economic growth. This idea resonated throughout the conference, as speakers emphasized that sustainable transport has a number of co-benefits – one being economic growth.
“We need to show how public transport is part of creating growth and jobs,” said Alain Flausch, secretary general for the International Association of Public Transport – UITP. “When you build a transport corridor, you have the capacity to create wealth… and when you have the means for creating wealth, you become relevant to decision makers.”
There has never been a more exciting time to guide cities towards sustainable development. The 12th annual Transforming Transportation conference serves as a call to action, and a jumping-off point for what will be a crucial year for the future of our cities.