The United Nations had their conference on housing and sustainable urban development in Quito this October, which had the aim of discussing how to improve urban development in cities around the world. The New Urban Agenda outlines the next steps with which to tackle the Grand Challenge of sustainable urban development. This is an extremely important issue, especially when we consider the number of people that are moving from rural to urban areas every year. Urban areas are exploding in size, and it is crucial that we properly manage them. IF poorly managed, these urban centers could have detrimental effects on society and on the environment. Managing this growth is so important, and in fact, by the year 2050, the number of people living in urban areas will double.
Urban development affects every aspect of a person’s daily life, from education to health care, economy, food security, and sanitation, just to name a few. The ideas laid out in this Urban Agenda have a lot to do with my own capstone project, which was about sustainable urban transport in São Paulo, Brazil. Public transportation is one of the main challenges that hose focusing on improving urban sustainability focus on. That’s mainly because public transportation is in many ways the backbone of an urban center, and is what allows a city to develop and thrive. Half the battle of development is providing access to the different centers of urban activity, like schools, the workplace, hospitals, and more. Without access to these places, or with poor urban transport infrastructure where commutes to these places can take hours, one cannot live a sustainable and healthy lifestyle, and more importantly, it makes it more difficult for everyone to contribute their skills and talents to the development of the city.
There are many different ways to improve urban transport, whether that be through actual construction of more public transportation networks, or through restructuring new urban development around pre-existing transit stations to increase accessibility (especially for the urban poor, who are the most often excluded from urban activity.)