ADB Funding Study of Sustainable Urban Transport in Asia

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - ADB is beginning a set of field studies of select cities around Asia to help develop blueprints for sustainable urban transport systems in the region.

Backed by an ADB technical assistance grant of US$1 million, the studies will identify effective investment programs to support efficient transport systems and innovative financing options that can meet future needs.

The studies will be undertaken by a team of international specialists in Bangladesh, People's Republic of China, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

The project is being conducted against the background of a region whose cities are increasingly under strain from the fast pace of urbanization.

While a large portion of the region's urban population relies heavily on public transport for its daily activities, transport systems in most cities are not yet adequately developed and investments have been limited and piecemeal. Meanwhile, increases in the number and use of vehicles surpass the available road space, adding to congestion, poor road discipline, and air pollution.

“Efficient transport systems contribute to urban economic growth, boosting incomes and decreasing urban poverty,” says Eunkyung Kwon, an ADB Principal Transport Specialist.

“However, most urban transport systems around Asia do not take the poor into account. This is actually worsening the situation for many of the region's urban poor, who have to travel longer distances on clogged roads. As a result, they find it even harder to break out of the cycle of poverty and are exposed to dangers on the road and air pollution.”

Among the biggest issues facing Asia's cities are poor traffic management, unregulated operation of private buses, unplanned road networks, weak coordination, and inefficient institutional frameworks.

Several international and bilateral institutions and donor countries are actively involved in improving urban transport infrastructure and services in the region. The studies and activities undertaken by these are expected to promote a good grasp of best practices, issues, and constraints regarding urban transport.

The ADB funded team, taking this previous and ongoing work into account as well as ADB's experiences in the sector, will conduct extensive consultations with national and municipal governments, local stakeholders, and other donors for the study.

“Experience shows that piecemeal approaches to sustainable urban development are not likely to succeed and that investments need to be supported by reforms, capacity building, and innovative financing mechanisms,” Ms. Kwon adds.

 “Also, key social and environmental concerns have to be integrated into transport planning to ensure that the benefits are felt by the poor. Therefore, Asian cities need to urgently establish a development framework that will link effective environmental management, social development, and poverty reduction.”

The study is due for completion around April 2008, with the results to be distributed through publications, country workshops and seminars.