Implications for Shared Urban Mobility for Latin American Countries
Transportation is arguably experiencing its most transformative revolution since the introduction of the automobile. Concerns over climate change and equity are converging with dramatic technological advances. Although these changes – including shared mobility, automation, and electrification – are rapidly altering the mobility landscape, predictions about the future of transportation are complex, nuanced, and widely debated.
Shared mobility—the shared use of a vehicle, bicycle, or scooter—is an innovative transportation strategy that enables users to have short-term access to a transportation mode on an as-needed basis. Furthermore, the convergence of on-demand shared, electric, and automated technology can make autos more cost effective, efficient, and convenient—especially when shared. Shared mobility has the potential to reduce mobility costs and congestion by encouraging less private vehicle reliance and use and more multi-modal transportation including active modes, such as bikesharing and scooter sharing. In this blog, I explore some current, emerging, and potential trends that could impact the future of urban mobility in Latin America.
At present, Latin America is experiencing the progressive desertion of older areas in which many residents are moving into more modern neighborhoods. This is resulting in rapid and somewhat disorganized urbanization, which is leaving the poorest lower-income groups in outlying areas with limited or no services. As in other regions of the world, past land use and transportation policies have fostered sprawl. Latin American countries are now trying to reverse this trend.
There are a number of Latin American trends that are important to consider in exploring the future of urban mobility. These include density, demographics, land use and the built environment, economics and equity, and a growing middle class who have purchasing power and often desire car ownership.
Density: Between 1980 and 2010, the urban population in Latin America has doubled in size, and the urban footprint has increased seven fold. How will density affect travel times and costs, congestion, safety, and environmental impacts?
Demographics: Latin American nations reflect a mixed demographic picture. There is a relatively younger population, on average, in Central America and the Caribbean. In contrast, there is a progressively aging population in South America (for example, Chile and Brazil). How will the demand for mobility services differ among these diverse populations? What are the opportunities and obstacles?
Land-Use Trends: Recent land-use trends include: 1) increased densities, 2) repopulation and regeneration of the central areas of cities, 3) new housing that is better located, 4) mixed housing models for mixed income groups, and 5) mixed land uses that integrate both housing and employment. Naturally, emerging mobility trends, like shared mobility and automation, will be affected by these developments. How can changes in land use improve or exacerbate accessibility in the future?
Economic and Equity: Nearly one-quarter of Latin Americans residing in cities are still living in slums, and many people live a great distance from their jobs. For instance, in Mexico, the average resident spends about 50 minutes commuting to work, some up to three hours. How can these commuting trends be addressed in the future? What role might shared mobility and active transportation modes play in reducing congestion and taming the demand for private vehicles?
Growing Middle Class and Purchasing Power: Over the last 10 years, the middle class has nearly doubled in size in Latin American countries, reaching approximately one-third of the population. Many families dream of owning a private vehicle, and some countries are promoting an automobile purchase. What role can shared and automated mobility play in taming the demand for private vehicle ownership and use in the future?
In light of these socio-demographic changes, technological developments, and the tremendous growth in cities, it is critical that Latin American countries explore innovative strategies to tame the demand for private vehicle ownership. Active transportation and shared mobility, including automated and electric vehicles, can provide cities with a range of options. Nevertheless, it is important to note that more infrastructure investment is needed to support the growth of active transportation modes. Finally, it is critical that cities foster transportation equity to provide equivalent access for all travelers in Latin America, particularly as we envision the future of mobility in this region.
*Susan Shaheen, PhD. Transportation Sustainability Research Center. University of California, Berkeley. Susan is a pioneer and thought leader in future mobility strategies. She was among the first to observe, research, and write about changing dynamics in shared mobility and the likely scenarios through which automated vehicles will gain prominence. She was the first Honda Distinguished Scholar in Transportation at the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis from 2000 to 2012. She served as the Policy and Behavioral Research Program Leader at California Partners for Advanced Transit and Highways from 2003 to 2007, and as a special assistant to the Director’s Office of the California Department of Transportation from 2001 to 2004. She has a Ph.D. in ecology, focusing on the energy and environmental aspects of transportation, from UC Davis and a M.S. in public policy analysis from the University of Rochester. After completing her master’s degree, she worked as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. From 2000 to 2001, she was a post-doctoral researcher at UC Berkeley. She has authored 62 journal articles, over 120 reports and proceedings articles, 11 book chapters, and co-edited two books. She has also served as a guest editor for Transport Policy, Energies, and the International Journal of Sustainable Transportation (IJST). Her research projects on carsharing, smart parking, and older mobility have received national awards. She is a member of the ITS Program Advisory Committee to the U.S. DOT Secretary (2014 to Present) and the Mobile Source Technical Review Subcommittee to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act Advisory Committee (2016 to Present). She is chair of the subcommittee for Shared-Use Vehicle Public Transport Systems of TRB (2013 to present).