Launch of Urban Transportation Research Center for Latin American & Caribbean Cities

March 20, 2019
A new Resource Center for Digital Urban Transport in Latin America has been founded, with the support of the Inter-American Development Bank and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. The Resource Center, which will be run through a collaboration between World Resources Institute Mexico (WRI Mexico), Massachusetts Institute for Technology’s Civic Data Design Lab, and Columbia University’s Earth Institute, will support the development of open digital urban transport data for and with Latin American and Caribbean cities.

For many parts of the world, urban data is scarce. The World Bank estimates that 35% of the world’s largest cities and 92% of the largest low and middle-income cities do not have complete transportation maps. Data-driven insights about passenger journeys also tends to be incomplete or non-existent. This lack of information with quality standards impacts citizens’ ability to navigate cities and to access jobs - especially for the poor.

Some public transport is deemed “informal,” creating challenges to collecting data -- especially in a manner that protects privacy and in a format that is accessible for civic, social and government sectors. The new Resource Center will help address a critical gap for city transit operators, local governments, non-profit and civic organizations, start-ups, and researchers who strive to improve mobility services for their communities.

The Resource Center aims to responsibly spread and scale data-building efforts through an open platform for collaborative learning through the provision of access to tools and anonymized data, case studies, and co-produced learning materials. The Center will build a strong knowledge network on policy, data and mobility with a focus on cities that have made the least progress in this field in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Improved public transport and its effective integration into land-use planning are also key to generating access to economic opportunities and services that cities provide. We need public transport systems data to monitor development targets, plan better for integrated public transport and urban development, and ensure transparency, participation, and innovation in the delivery of urban services. Overall, the Resource Center’s efforts contribute to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 to “make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” and to target 11.2, which calls for “safe, affordable, accessible, and sustainable transport systems for all.”

The Latin American and Caribbean Resource Center complements other regional efforts such as the Africa-focused, funded by the French Development Agency (AFD) and the World Bank.

This new Resource Center will break new ground in improving the collection and application of urban transportation data to add capacity to cities everywhere.