International Transport Forum

Challenges and Future Opportunities: Improving Informal Public Transport in Developing Countries: TRB Workshop

In developing cities, particularly small-to-medium size ones, “informal” public transport or “paratransit” is the main means of personal transportation. The informal public transport sector provides irreplaceable and usually affordable mobility and access, particularly for the poor. It is also a significant source of employment, particularly for migrants from rural areas without the skills or connections to get other jobs. At the same time, the sector suffers from many problems. The “good and the bad” aspects of informal public transport and the changing context have led to a number of questions.

  • What are the informal public transport sector’s service patterns, operations and business models that cause the issues noted above?

  • What are the advantages of informal public transport in a developing city context?

  • In the future, what is the best role/function of informal public transport or paratransit as one in a family of transit modes?

  • How can the public sector ensure the sustainability of public transit financially and strategically in the new world of social distancing and health requirements?

  • How can the sector be improved through legal, regulatory, and other government-initiated actions?

  • What is the potential for various communications and information digital technologies to address the sector’s shortcomings?

The objective of this workshop is to explore the these questions in view of the changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic and new technologies.

The workshop will begin with a “background” presentation on the myths and realities of “informal” public transport, including critical definitions. Next, 4 case-studies (30 minutes each) will be presented with time for discussion and Q/A for each. The presentation and discussion of case studies will be followed by an interactive panel discussion that will synthesize lessons learned from the case studies presented (and others) along with suggestions for follow up capacity building activities.

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