By Jorge L. Mora
Implementing efficient, affordable, and sustainable transportation systems in developing cities is challenging. The construction of an expensive subway system can help alleviate the needs of users of public transportation, but it does not solve the mobility needs of a heavily populated city. Making people the priority is essential for cities like Quito (Ecuador’s capital) when trying to improve its current transportation network that can directly benefit its citizens. Unfortunately, the interest in improving the quality of life for citizens is sometimes overshadowed by the economic potential of a new project, which tends to make people’s needs a secondary priority.
First, one of the key elements for the growth and development of a city is to have a functional and well organized transportation system. One of the best cases of comprehensive urban planning is the city of Curitiba, Brazil. Here, urban planners address the needs of the city and constantly try to improve and control the city’s growth. If the city of Quito looks at Curitiba as a role model, the increasing traffic and traveling time for passengers will reduce significantly. Quito is 40 kilometers long and 6 kilometers wide, which gives the city a geographical advantage that makes it easier to replicate Curitiba’s approach regarding transportation due to a similar population size of almost 2 million people. By adhering to this model, the city of Quito will contribute to help reduce stress levels on people and allow its citizens to spend more time with their families at home.
Second, implementing factors such as mobility, sustainability, and the region’s transportation needs when planning urban growth are important for success. These three components often lead to a happier population, while making the city cleaner and less polluted. Currently, according to the Ecuadorian government, there are a total of 450,000 cars that fill Quito’s streets daily, creating vehicular congestion that only hampers current public transit. Further, due to gaps in the system for vehicle regulations, an approximate 15% of those cars do not comply with the minimum requirements for legal circulation. The lack of supervision by the local authorities allow for these vehicles to continue to add corrosive emissions in an already emission saturated city. If Quito opts to follow the Curitiba model, the city will need to restructure its current Trole-Bus system and how it operates. When first implemented, the Trole-Bus provided a temporary solution on how to transport people faster and better by using bigger busses. However, the constant growth of the city and the constant inflow of migrants create inefficiencies in the current public transportation network.
Third, guaranteeing affordability to citizens is a key component for the success of new transportation projects in Quito. Price fluctuation in public transportation services have always represented a problem for families that live in poverty, especially due to the city’s drastic income equality problem. The regularization of prices for users is essential when trying to provide a good public transportation network. The economic challenges faced by the poor in Quito go from not having access to jobs due to the country’s economic problems to having access to an ineffective urban transportation system. As the city grows, the need for solutions that address the needs of low-income individuals and challenges of urban development are extremely important. Following Curitiba’s approach can help Quito reduce poverty levels in the slums, while also incentivizing people to clean their neighborhoods by creating local urban farms, for example, to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to the people involved. This win-win approach makes for people to participate and become more involved with sustainable initiatives that will have an overall positive environmental impact for the city.
The city of Curitiba serves as the perfect example that growth is possible especially when people are considered the number one priority. Quito is an ideal candidate to follow this model of growth, in which simple adjustments to its current existing system can help improve the city on multiple fronts. The city’s potential for growth is enormous. Infrastructural updates to the city’s bus terminals can uplift the image of the city, while also increasing its efficiency. The majority of the needed infrastructure already exists, making improvements much easier. Express avenue lanes help the Trole-Bus circulate, but it is also important to implement stricter traffic control laws that will dissuade drivers from using these lanes irresponsibly. Quito has a good chance to improve how people use public transportation in Ecuador and at some point can become the role model to other major Ecuadorian cities such as Guayaquil and Cuenca.
Jorge L. Mora is a M.S. Candidate in Global Affairs at New York University’s School of Professional Studies