World Bank’s Engagement With Transport In Cities: The Early Years

In the late 1960s, the World Bank turned its attention to cities in developing countries, spurred by unprecedented rates of urbanization, massive urban poverty, chaotic spatial expansion, emerging motorization, generally poor infrastructure, and a lack of funding and institutional capacity available to cities to deal with these problems. Urban transport was quickly added to the urban agenda, with two different problems to tackle: access to employment and services; and traffic congestion in central areas and on arterial road corridors. Starting in 1972, the urban transport lending program produced one to two projects per year. A pioneering strategy document, Urban Transport Sector Paper, was published in 1975 to guide the lending program. The strategy focused on the relation between poverty and transport, recommending a spatially-extensive, low-cost, and price-based response to access and traffic problems; improvements in provision of public transport services; and coordination between land use and transport planning. This study looks at the project practice in light of the strategy as declared in the sector paper. The main focus is on the first decade of the urban transport lending program (1972–82). By and large, this batch of projects adhered to the strategy, except there was little effort to engage with land use planning. Project investments included roads in slum areas, improvements of radial corridors and central area road networks, fleet and facilities for city- and state-owned public transport operators, and select investments in major road and urban rail projects. On the policy side, projects strove to improve cost recovery of public-owned transport operators, facilitate the private provision of public transport services, designate street space for exclusive use of buses, and introduce congestion charges. In the institutional dimension, projects assisted in setting up traffic management units and some form of metropolitan transport planning entities. Investment outcomes varied. Some projects were highly successful, notably the two projects in Brazil that focused on roads in slums and bus priority. Others were highly disappointing, as in Tehran, where the government went into major road building rather than pursue traffic management and public transport improvements championed by the project. Project policy initiatives produced mixed results with less than complete achievement of cost recovery in public transport services and a failure to introduce congestion charges. Improved regulation of privately provided public transport had several bright spots (e.g., Kuala Lumpur, Calcutta), but also persistent failures (e.g., Kingston). Efforts to set up traffic management units in the city government gave some very good results (e.g., Tunis), but the creation and nurture of metropolitan transport planning institutions turned out to be far more difficult. Overall, these pioneering efforts in both strategy and practice were well-conceived and executed and played a catalytic role in most client cities. Weak aspects include overselling traffic management as a substitute (rather than a complement) to road investments, together with failing to evolve a constructive approach to urban road network development in rapidly growing cities. There were no attempts to tackle urban road funding as a part of the national road funding setup. Instead, over-optimistically, several projects attempted to introduce sophisticated price instruments such as congestion charging, which proved a long shot in the weak policy and institutional environments found in many client cities.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Appendices; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 194p

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Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01695859
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Feb 21 2019 5:17PM