Appropriate infrastructure and decent urban, interurban and international transport services that move passengers and cargo in a timely, reliable, efficient and sustainable fashion are not only a basic need but are also essential for economic development. Because of its very nature, the transport market is a highly imperfect one with many externalities. Public intervention in transport markets is therefore a necessity, particularly in Latin America, where growing motorization and unsatisfactory modal distribution are creating significant congestion along with enormous social and environmental costs and a high accident rate. To address the issue, major cities in the region have made significant transport system design and planning decisions. But most of those decisions have attempted to address two overlapping issues at once: expanding capacity to handle private automobile traffic while extending, expanding or upgrading mass transit systems. Both initiatives are praiseworthy and involve substantial investments, but the lack of a clear, consensus-based, integrated vision that is sustainable over the long run has put the two alternatives at odds with each other and, in the end, worsened the problem they were meant to solve.
This phenomenon is called policy convergence/divergence; it reveals the lack of integrated public policy for urban mobility where the failure to take coordinated, consistent action over time leads to complex dilemmas when prioritizing investments and makes it impossible to coordinate existing initiatives (both public and private), thus hampering sustainable development. A co-modal approach to urban mobility is therefore proposed. This issue of the FAL bulletin looks at these issues, using Santiago, Chile as a case study.
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