As more people move to cities, congested roads, expensive commutes, and lack of reliable transport options are disrupting urban economies and affecting quality of life. People’s ability to reach their jobs, schools, cultural activities and marketplaces is an important economic driver for cities. Estimates of the value of time lost in congestion already range between 2 and 5% of GDP in Asia and up to 10% of GDP in Beijing and São Paulo. With many infrastructure projects focused on building roads and bridges that bring more vehicles onto already packed streets, new research from World Resources Institute finds that more accessible cities with transport options available to all residents stand the best chance of thriving in coming decades.

WRI’s new working paper, From Mobility to Access for All: Expanding Urban Transportation Choices in the Global South, launching at the International Transport Forum summit, uses a novel approach to identify which residents are under-served in terms of transport. The working paper, which is part of the World Resources Report, Towards a More Equal City, finds that restricted access afflicts both low-income communities scattered throughout cities (the “stranded” under-served) and low- to medium-income people living in suburbs and peripheral settlements who use private cars, motorcycles, and informal transport on long, congested commutes (the “mobile” under-served). In Johannesburg, the average resident has access to 49% of jobs within 60 minutes of travel time by any mode, and in Mexico City, the average resident has access to just 37% of jobs. Very few residents in both cities – between 7 and 9% – have both high access to jobs and low mobility costs.

WRI recommends two broad shifts: better transport options that connect under-served people to jobs and opportunities, and a focus on reducing the amount of time and money everyone spends commuting in cities.

Join Anjali Mahendra, Director of Research at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities and co-author, for the launch of From Mobility to Access for All: Expanding Urban Transportation Choices in the Global South. Remarks from Director of Urban Mobility Sergio Avelleda and discussion will follow.