Themes for the Improvement of
Urban Transport in the Developing World
A Report for
Lisa Kane, Honorary Research Associate
University of Cape Town, South Africa
Chapter Page No
Executive Summary i
1. Introduction 1
2. Structure of this Report 2
3. The Literature Review 3
4. Results of the Review 6
4.1 Defining Success 6
4.2 Structure of the Review 7
4.3 Political and Policy Environment Improvement Theme 7
4.4 Organisational Issues in the Institutional Environment
Improvement Theme 9
4.5 Human Capacity Issues in the Institutional Environment
Improvement Theme 11
4.6 Regulatory Issues in the Institutional Environment
Improvement Theme 12
4.7 Funding Environment Improvement Theme 14
5. Discussion and Conclusions 19
5.1 Discussion of Review Method 19
5.2 Comparison with other Research Findings 19
6. Recommendations: From CODATU’s Past, Defining its Scientific
6.1 Introduction 21
6.2 Recommendations for Further Research 21
6.3 Recommendations to the CODATU Executive Committee 21
6.4 Ten Recommendations to the CODATU Technical Committees 23
7. Acknowledgements 24
8. References 25
This report is the result of a literature review undertaken between November 1999 and July
2000 on behalf of CODATU. The focus of the review was non-technological aspects of
urban transport: the political and policy environment; the institutional environment
(organisational issues; human capacity issues; regulatory issues) and the funding
environment. Case-studies across the developing world were studied and features commonly
considered to be worthy of change were collated, and presented as ‘improvement themes’.
As a result of the review it was possible to make recommendations for further work in this
field, but also recommendations for consideration by the CODATU Executive and Technical
Committees. These are given below.
Summary of Improvement Themes for Urban Transport in the
Political and Policy Environment
A number of authors have noted the importance of the political dimension of transport
planning, that is, the need to take note of differences in and the influence of power, both in the
developing world and in the developed world. The consensus in this work is that
transportation planning is an inherently political exercise, and that ignoring the political
dimension is perilous and unlikely to lead to success in the long run. Several writers have
noted the need for a concrete, clearly articulated and communicated set of policy goals for
developing countries, and where these have been in place some success has been noted.
Generally, however, the review found that even where policies were in place, there was often
a lack of political will for their implementation, or else the policy changed too frequently for
it to be effectively implementable. Although political issues were often noted in the literature
as important, methods for dealing with politicians or key role players, were very limited.
Other case studies suggest that unless all key role players are involved with the transport
planning decision-making process then there are likely to be problems. Despite this point
being made, there is a surprising absence of discussion of citizenry involvement in the
planning process in the urban transport planning literature examined for this review. The one
clear exception to this trend is in South Africa. Nevertheless, methods for involving key
decision-makers, and the public, in the transport planning process are poorly defined and only
In summary, we can conclude that :
urban transport planning is an inherently political exercise, and this needs to be
accounted for in the planning process.
lack of political will can be a problem, and so consensus building and participation
strategies form a key part of the planning process.
policy goals need to be concrete, clear, well communicated, and adapted through an
on-going monitoring process.
there are few existing guidelines to help transport planners in achieving the above.
Institutional Environment – Organisational Issues
The need for institutional change in developing countries is a strong theme throughout the
literature. Vasconcellos (1996) views institutional issues as one of the key problems facing
the development of urban transport and in his review of twelve cities in Sub-Saharan Africa
undertaken for the World Bank and the United Nations, Bultynck noted weakness or non-
existence of supervisory and co-ordinating structures in the urban transport sector. The
United Nations included the reform of institutional structures as one of their objectives for the
1990s, and the World Bank have given a high profile to institutional reform in their projects.
Calls for institutional change are largely in response to widespread fragmentation in the
functions and roles of agencies responsible for transport, and the apparent lack of co-
ordination between those agencies. Not surprisingly, then, the call for Transport Authorities is
widespread. A metropolitan Transport Authority implies some level of decentralisation of
functions, and some writers are specific in their reference to this. One model suggested for
the transport authority separates an elected, representative political body – who define goals
and ask fundamental questions about policy direction – from an executive body – who
manage the implementation of the decisions. Although Metropolitan Transport Authorities
and the integration of transport-related organisations are not commonplace, there are clear,
practical moves in some countries in that direction. These vary widely in their scope and
level of apparent success but two themes are evident: the development of specialist units,
often comprising professionals and interested employees of state; and the instigation of inter-
ministerial or inter-sectoral committees.
Institutional Environment – Human Capacity Issues
The particular importance of building human capacity is mentioned several times in the
papers reviewed, with one theme being a focus on the training of local staff, and the criticism
of the use of consultants or expatriates. Generally speaking transport planning approaches
have been imported from the developed world, and have been implemented with some
refinement for local conditions. However, a number of authors have questioned the validity
of using this approach. The task, therefore, is not as simple as training local staff in
established techniques. In parallel with the training, there needs to be a re-evaluation of
methods used for planning in the developing world, in order to ensure that the problems and
solutions considered are appropriate.
In summary, we conclude that :
there are widespread calls for institutional change, and particularly for greater co-
ordination between, and integration of, agencies for urban transport.
many suggest decentralised transport authorities should be adopted, but examples of
these are not generally evident.
however, there are clear practical moves towards political and technical liaison in
In summary, we can conclude that :
The development of local human capacity in urban transport institutions, through
targeted training, is vital.
Conventional planning processes are inappropriate to developing world conditions and
need to be re-evaluated.
Institutional Environment – Regulatory Issues
Clearly organisational structure is only one element of the institutional environment which
may effect the successful operation of urban transport. Another key dimension is the
regulatory environment which controls the public transport sector in particular, and the
effectiveness of the enforcement of those regulations. The record of implementation of de-
regulated transport in the developing world is generally poor. However, despite the
unsatisfactory result of de-regulation, commentators suggest that a return to nationalised
service provision is not the answer, rather there needs to be a system with private sector
efficiency and public sector values. In such a system route allocation encourages healthy
competition, and government has the infrastructure for management, supervision and
enforcement in place. The need for stronger enforcement of regulations is widely recognised
and the lack of it is given as one reason for the entry into the urban transport market of
informal operators. The informal sector has particular problems which are not found in the
developed world. A balance is called for, between the instigation of appropriate regulatory
frameworks by the authorities; enforcement of those regulations; credibility to the public
transport operators; and involvement by the public in defining service levels.
One of the most commonly raised reasons for failure in urban transport found in this review
was the lack of sufficient, or reliable funding sources. This crisis in funding of urban transport
has grown in recent times, and in response governments have moved towards
commercialisation or privatisation. Pre-dating this governmental response has been the rise
of informal transport in developing countries. The informal sector does not generally cost the
government money, but in terms of funding considerations, it is important to note the nature
of informal operators, that is emergent entrepreneurs outside the formal business framework.
This means that investment in informal transport is seen as risky, and little institutional
money is available for upgrading of those services. Despite the rise of the informal sector,
which does not cost government money to fund, and the move towards the privatisation of the
state sector, it is argued that, as long as accessibility is a state responsibility, then government
will need to take some financial responsibility for providing it. The subsidy system, however,
can lead to poor productivity and large subsidies are less and less feasible in an environment
of constrained public sector finances. The answer, therefore, seems to be a mixture of
regulation of the private sector, with well controlled targeted subsidies for some services.
Generally speaking urban transport funding systems are funded by a combination of fare-box
revenue (which does not cover operating costs in most cases) and subsidies from either state
or local government. Common ways in which transport systems contribute to government
income are through fuel taxes, vehicle transfer taxes, vehicle licensing taxes, parking charges
In summary we can conclude that :
the issue of regulation in the urban transport sector is difficult, and as yet largely
unresolved in the developing world.
solutions from the developed world are not necessarily transferable.
the informal sector has particular problems which are not found in the developed world.
a balance is called for, between instigation of appropriate regulatory frameworks by the
authorities; enforcement of those regulations; credibility to the operators; and
involvement by the public in defining service levels.
and levies on public transport interchanges. Three alternative sources are also available:
international donors, public-private sector partnerships and innovative approaches. However,
a key problem remains the reluctance of governments to earmark funding for improvements.
In response to the funding crisis some have called for an increased emphasis on ‘low-cost’
measures such as traffic management or infrastructure for non-motorised modes.
Traditional methods of transport planning have tended to neglect funding matters, relegating
them to one aspect of an evaluation framework, which often comes towards the end of the
planning process. In practice this can lead to a lot of wasted effort by transport planners, who
design projects or schemes which are bound for failure due to lack of available resources. By
contrast, the successful Curitiba model of planning recognises financial constraints early in
the planning process and the need for planning which explicitly spell out fund requirements
are also called for elsewhere.
‘Recommendations for further research’ and ‘Recommendations to the CODATU Committee’
are given here in an abbreviated form. For complete details see pages 21 and 22 of the full
Recommendations for further research
1. The current project should be enhanced through a more extensive literature review, in
order to confirm findings.
2. Other researchers should be used to extend the review beyond the English papers
used, and then a forum created for the transfer of findings.
3. Ongoing monitoring of promising policy initiatives should be undertaken and
In summary, we can conclude that :
the funding dilemma has been identified by many authors, and appears as a key
problem throughout the developing world.
there are a range of options available for raising finance in the sector, but to date
governments have been reluctant to earmark funding for improvements.
in light of this there has been a search for alternative funding. Overseas donors are
one possible source, as are the private sector, but private finance initiatives should not
be seen as a panacea, as they require some support from government.
if public transport improvement is being sought, then the government support will be
required beyond construction and into the operation phase.
Finally, we can conclude that :
the issue of funding deserves more attention by urban transport planners.
traditional planning methods have tended to neglect funding matters and this can lead
to wasted efforts.
low-cost measures are also worthy of more attention.
Recommendations to the CODATU Executive Committee
The initial intention of the review was not to offer recommendations on the strategic direction
of CODATU. Nevertheless, given the number of CODATU papers reviewed, the following
are offered as a starting point for discussion.
1. CODATU needs to enhance its dissemination of conference papers, via increased
web publishing or sales at reduced rates.
2. Summaries of key trends in the conference proceedings are required.
3. CODATU should act as a link to information for researchers from the developing
4. CODATU should act as a link between researchers in the developing world and
5. CODATU should act as a facilitator, by encouraging information dissemination by
other relevant bodies.
Ten Recommendations to the CODATU Technical-Committees
1. More attention needs to be given to political issues in urban transport, including the
apparent lack of political will to implement projects or programmes in this sector.
2. More clarity is required on the roles and responsibilities of agencies in transport, and in
the definition and communication of policy goals. Those working in urban transport need
assistance in order that they can assist with this process.
3. At present there is an absence of experience in public participation in urban transport
planning, which may be one reason for problems in implementation. Again, those in
urban transport need to become more skilled in consensus building, and the development
of relationships with systems operators and users.
4. The need for institutional change is a strong theme, and institutional fragmentation and
lack of co-ordination or integration is criticised. More attention is required in this area.
Case-studies where Transport Authorities, or strong co-ordination have been implemented
could be valuable.
5. There needs to be greater emphasis placed on the development of local staff to undertake
urban transport work through well-targeted local training and the very careful use of
consultants and expatriate staff.
6. Successful models of effective public transport regulation, and enforcement of that
regulation, are not common and where they exist need to be publicised.
7. In particular, methods for integrating the informal sector into the formal sector are
required, as this is a particularly problematic area.
8. Feasible ways of addressing the funding crisis need to be found and it would be valuable
to publicise case studies from developing countries where earmarking of funding has lead
to substantial improvements, in order to convince decision-makers of its necessity.
Public-private sector partnerships appear to be a growing tool for assisting with funding,
and more information is needed on this area.
9. Generally, the methods used for planning in the developing world are inappropriate and
new approaches need to be defined. In particular, transport planning methods in which
funding and resource considerations are considered in the early stages, and which include
on-going feedback and monitoring, should be explored.
10. Low-cost measures for urban transport appear to be one positive method for improving
urban transport in developing countries. They deserve a much higher profile and