It will come as no surprise to many, that in most Latin American cities the main mode of mobility is private cars. Less than 10% of public space is saved exclusively for pedestrians and non-motorized transport, in the form of secure bike paths or sidewalks. In Latin America, as elsewhere in the world, this inevitably leads to mobility inequality.
The World Bank points out that a good mobility policy is absent in the main urban centers of Latin America, revealing a worrying mobility inequality. For example, in Buenos Aires 44,500 kilometers of roads are for vehicles, while only 140 kilometers (0.31%) are for pedestrians; Mexico City has 100 out of 63,700 (0.15%); Bogota (3.9% of roads for pedestrians) and Rio de Janeiro (2.2%) do not fare any better.
What is mobility inequality?
At the heart of this mobility inequality in Latin America lays the unavailability of diverse modes of transportation. Residents of affluent urban areas have more modes of transport and infrastructure at their disposal, including access roads for motorized vehicles and abundant parking spaces.
Urban areas of lower socio-economic levels often lack diverse mobility options. Those modes which exist there are relatively expensive, inefficient, and unregulated. The result is increased mobility inequality based on socioeconomic levels.
A good example is the metropolitan area of Mexico City, which is surrounded by the less affluent State of Mexico. Around 46% of public transport trips inside Mexico City are done by residents of the State of Mexico, who commute to their city jobs. Those commuters pay the City’s public transport fares, but also additional fares of the State which are twice as expensive. In addition, the State of Mexico offers less options of transportation, and those available can relatively unsafe.
Tech against mobility inequality
More and more cities in Latin America are rethinking their mobility, as part of improving the quality of life for their residents. Measures are taken to improve public transport and control the growth of motorized transport, which causes air pollution and other problems.
That is the case of metro system in Santiago, the capital of Chile. The system uses innovative software tools, such as PTV Vissim and PTV Viswalk, to model the behavior of traffic and passengers in two recently-constructed lines. The lines improve connectivity to parts of the city, giving residents more transportation choices and reducing mobility inequality.
Other cities are now focusing their attention on areas outside the business or tourism hubs, which were often overlooked in terms of mobility. They use technology, such as simulation software, to analyze new and sustainable modes of mobility. These new modes, such as cable cars, improve mobility in areas that are farthest from workplaces, lack accessibility, and are more vulnerable.
In this way, more residents have mobility options that are cheaper, safer, and sustainable. In other words, mobility inequality is reduced.