Mobility in Latin America

Mobility in Latin America

Much of the developing world currently relies on informal or semi-formal private transport services that are often operated with little to no regulations related to emissions or safety. Multiple cities in Latin America have attempted to alter the dangerous and emissions-heavy practices of informal transit by providing controlled, centralized public transit services, such as bus rapid transit and light rail, which have the potential to increase safety and reliability and decrease emissions. While many robust studies on the benefits and shortcomings of different transit modes have been completed, the impacts of transit development in slums (also referred to as “informal settlements”) remains distinctly limited and inconclusive to date.

Within this context, the impact of replacing informal services with publicly owned and maintained centralized systems (multimodal or otherwise) has not been studied with sufficient academic rigor. As Latin American cities continue to grow and look to incorporate and upgrade slum neighborhoods and transit modes, existing examples of such shifts can can help us to learn how these transitions affect all residents of the affected cities.

With support from the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program and the Toyota Mobility Foundation, PhD student Elyse O’Callaghan Lewis is conducting a field research project in four Latin American cities to determine and quantify how centralized transit systems compared to informal transit systems affect life quality for those living in informal settlements. The ultimate goal is to identify relationships between transit and informal settlements in order to ensure that residents of these communities have the access to goods, services, and opportunities necessary to improve quality of life.