Sida course Urban Transport:
A functioning transport system is like the blood circulation of a society. Absence of efficient public transport, growing mass car use and failing infrastructures threaten both development and the environment and also the health and safety of the population of Third World cities. Sida’s international training programme “Urban Transport” is given at Lund University and helps developing countries around the world to identify problems and devise strategies for solving them.
It is rush hour in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and hundreds of thousands of people are in motion, on the way home from work and school. Traffic is almost stationary on the main roads that lead into and out of the city with its population of a million. Cyclists and pedestrians dash across, jeopardizing their lives. Cars drive on the pavements because the road is blocked by street vendors and the buses cannot get through.
Many of the 28 participants in the 2007 Urban Transport programme have the same problems in their respective countries and they nod in recognition when Festo Mwanyika from Tanzania describes the challenges facing him and his colleagues.
It is the last day but one of the four weeks of the programme held at the Lund University’s Faculty of Engineering in August and September. It has been very intensive, with lectures alternating with study visits and work by the students.
Bengt Holmberg, Professor of Traffic Engineering at LTH, is responsible for the programme. Under his guidance the participants have produced their own ideas for projects which they will later implement in their respective countries. However they do not involve instant miracle solutions but rather long-term work whose effects may only become visible after several years.
This year’s participants come from Africa, South America and Asia. As the countries present their project proposals the picture of the depth and extent of the transport problems of developing countries becomes clearer. Several countries have no coherent town planning strategy. One obstacle is the unclear division of responsibility between the authorities concerned. The infrastructure is underdimensioned for the ever growing traffic and poorly maintained because finances are poor. Compliance with traffic legislation is lacking, as are resources for monitoring compliance and enforcing sanctions.
Showing that change is possible
One of Urban Transport’s most important tasks is therefore to give new knowledge and impulses and to show that change is possible.
For Ajith Ratnayake, engineer at the town planning office in Colombo in Sri Lanka, the visit to Sweden has led him to think on new lines. The country’s project will concern a group of road users who today are marginalized to the border of invisibility, namely elderly and disabled people.
”We have a particular responsibility to the weak; today there is no respect for their needs. It involves people with congenital disabilities, those with visual impairments and those with motor handicaps. Big campaigns take time and cost a lot but much can be done even with less extensive measures such as repairing pavements, painting road and street markings and putting up traffic lights.
“What has impressed me here in Sweden is the access to facilities enjoyed by elderly and disabled persons. With us there are no places for the disabled on buses and trains and no toilets for them either. Here a disabled person can move around in the community like anyone else, whereas in Sri Lanka they are often kept hidden in their homes.”
Lina Sierra Gutiérrez is working for the Ministry of Transport in Colombia on a project that is to provide seven large cities with express buses. Two projects are in progress; the rest are at the planning stage.
“Our biggest problem is the rapidly growing number of private cars and the traffic jams that this is causing. We must invest in public transport and make it more attractive to use it. Today our express bus routes do not cover the demand and above all there is a need for coordination with local buses, which are often privately owned in Colombia.
“I feel that I have learned a lot from the training programme and that it has been interesting to see how the transport systems are designed, how space is created for pedestrian and bicycle lanes, for example. I get ideas of areas that could be improved in Colombia even if they have to be adapted to our ideas and conditions.”
During the period of the project the participants receive help from their tutors at Lund University and can keep in touch with the others in the group by means of an e-learning platform on the internet.
Six months later a final seminar is held in one of the participating countries where reports on the projects are presented and discussed. The host country this time will be Colombia.
Last modified 10 Sep 2010
Human and traffic congestion along Apapa-Oshodi Express Way in Lagos,
Nigeria. The city population, estimated at approximately fifteen million
people people, continues to grow quickly despite the city's very slow
Credit:© 2006 Kunle Ajayi/Daily Independent, Courtesy of Photoshare
Ajith Ratnayake, engineer at the town planning office in Colombo in Sri Lanka, has been inspired by his visit to Sweden to work on access for elderly and physically disabled persons.
In a large number of developing countries buses and trams have no adaptations at all for disabled persons. They have to stay at home or solve their transport problems using whatever means are available, even if they involve great danger to life and limb.
Lina Sierra Gutiérrez works for the Ministry of Transport in Colombia on the development of systems for express buses, Collaboration and a lack of coordination with the many private actors who own feeder buses is one big problem.