Friday, January 17, 2014

Public transportation, democracy and equity

The former mayor of Bogotá, Enrique Peñalosa, has an interesting TED talk on the need for public transportation. He (rightly) argues that improvement in bus and bicycle lines not only benefit the poor but also strengthen equity between individuals. Urban development and public transportation is one of the paradoxical areas in development: the social costs (even without considering the environmental implications) of private transport are much higher: cars are costly, roads are costly, infrastructure building also leads to corruption. Yet at the end public transportation is concentrated in rich country cities and is seen as a luxury that should only come when countries are richer. This is particularly problematic in middle income countries like those in Latin America, where roads are over-crowded but investment in public transportation does not always increase. Public transport is one more area in which state weaknesses are more significant than income levels to explain current problems.

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