The United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-HABITAT, is the United Nations agency for human settlements. It is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all. UN-HABITAT works on the ground with cities and communities towards the goal of sustainable urbanisation. Simultaneously it promotes development and dissemination of knowledge and international cooperation on the issue of urbanisation.
As cities can be economically and socially vibrant and environmentally sustainable if they have well- functioning mobility systems that connect people to jobs and services and to other people, promoting urban mobility is amongst the key priorities of UN-HABITAT. Due to rapid urbanisation, population growth, the lack of planning and increasing reliance on personal vehicles, urban mobility in most developing country cities present a growing challenge with increasing traffic congestion, pollution, safety issues and inaccessible and unreliable mobility options, particularly for the poor.
Promoting efficient and affordable Public Transport is the best possible option for most cities. However, to reduce travel times and make travel more safe and convenient for commuters, Public Transport systems need to be integrated with other feeder systems. Such feeder systems can depend on walking, cycling, other non-motorised transport and also cars and motor cycles. Urban planning is key to achieving this integration and inter-modality and thus Seamless Transport. For example, through proper planning, cities can ensure that residential neighbourhoods are connected to metro and bus stations with proper footpaths and cycling tracks. Providing adequate parking facilities at transit nodes also encourages such integration and inter-modality. There is a need for city planners to see the role of the street in a new light- streets can serve as vibrant urban spaces and as well as feeders to public transport systems that are safe to be used by cyclists, walkers and other NMT users.
Various soft measures can also be used to support seamless transport and improve the overall efficiency of public transport system. For example, through GPS and mobile phone technology, commuters can receive information on arrival times of buses and plan their trips accordingly and save on waiting time. Ticketing systems that work across different modes e.g. between suburban rail and city bus transport and between metro and bus transport can promote inter-modality.
UN-HABITAT’s urban mobility initiatives such as the “ Promoting Sustainable Transport Solutions for East African Cities” aims to facilitate market transformation for sustainable mobility in urban areas and seeks to address seamlessness by integrating different modes of transport e.g. mini- busses and non-motorised transport with Bus Rapid Transport. Similar initiatives are also being developed for West Africa and Asia.
UN-HABITAT gives a high priority to exchange of knowledge and encourages partners to network, exchange knowledge, discuss issues and share opportunities related to sustainable urbanization worldwide through the URBAN GATEWAY: www.urbangateway.org
Mr Andre Dzikus, UN-HABITAT