Cities are hubs and drivers of social and economic activities. Within cities, urban transport systems are the wheels of economic growth by providing mobility to the population and supporting the movement of goods. With economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region, the demand for urban transport is expected to double between 2015 and 2050. Both achieving the sustainability goals and increasing the quality of life within cities are largely dependent on how mobility services are provided and managed. Yet, in many Asian cities, only 34 to 38 per cent of the public currently have access to public transport. Moreover, urban mobility is challenged by a high level of congestion and pollution, high rates of traffic accidents, low levels of accessibility to the most vulnerable populations and a skewed distribution of resources. For instance, in 2019, many Asian cities experienced severe traffic congestion, with a 19 to 71 per cent increase in overall travel times, compared to a free-flow situation.
Furthermore, urban transport is facing increasing concerns related to social issues, such as lack of accessibility, lack of universal design, traffic safety and personal security concerns, and affordability, to name a few. Given the presence of these social issues in urban transport, it will be difficult to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. It is thus imperative that we address social concerns to develop barrier-free accessibility and innovative mobility services to ensure an equitable socio-economic development in the urban regions. Specifically, accessible public transport planning catering to the needs of women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons, and provision of quality mobility services are growing concerns in many cities considering the population distribution in the Asia and Pacific region.
Delivering accessible design and inclusive urban transport systems through innovative technologies will be an important means of improving transport sustainability and general well-being. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has therefore developed and launched a project in August 2022 to enhance the capacity of policy makers and planners to plan for and operate more accessible, socially inclusive and innovative urban transport systems by integrating active mobility and utilization of emerging technologies in selected Asian cities and countries. ESCAP will be conducting four national workshops as part of the project for the target countries, namely, Azerbaijan, Laos People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), Mongolia, and Nepal. The second workshop in the series will take place in Vientiane, PDR.
The objective of the national workshop is to provide tailored support to enhance the capacity building of relevant officials to plan for more accessible, socially inclusive, and innovative urban transport systems through implementing suitable changes in data collection, policy design and implementation. The regional guidelines developed by ESCAP will be used as a reference to structure the discussions in the workshop.