United Nations Environment Programme

Transported to the future

Once-notorious Medellin is becoming a city based on trust, with mobility designed for people, not vehicles.
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The city we dream about is secure, equitable and sustainable; a city with opportunities, in which people feel calm and where a vision of the future always exists. In short, we are building a city of trust.

Remarkably, Medellin is now a global reference point for urban planning, efficient governance and social inclusion; moreover, the city has undergone a major transformation to get there. We owe this success to our people, and to working with different sectors of society: public, private and academic.

Medellin has come a long way, but still has far to go. Those who pay more to use public transport are those who have less, and that is a factor in social inequity. This anomaly can be reduced by integrating the transport system and making it more efficient. Our city now has such a system, composed of: a Metro with two rail lines; three lines of Metrocable (cable car) with two more under construction; a bus rapid transport system, Metroplús; and a free bicycle system, EnCicla.

This integrated transport system is a pioneer in Colombia, but we are also working to give priority to pedestrians. We want mobility for people, but we cannot force them to stop using private cars without providing them with alternatives. So our task is to optimize public transport through Medellin's Public Transport project, applying unified fares and implementing a card payment system on the buses. We are also increasing the number of sidewalks, to make pedestrians secure, and improving signs in order to avoid accidents.

The city will invest a great part of its economic resources in sustainable mobility through its Development Plan 2016-2019: "Medellin counts on you". Constructing a new tram route on Avenue 80, an area with a high concentration of schools and universities, is part of this programme. This light rail will enable students to spend less money and time getting from one place to another, will increase the impact of the Metro system and is planned to be developed in stages. The route - 13.5 km long, with 19 stations - will have an initial demand of 160,000 passengers per day. Part of the necessary resources will be raised through public-private partnerships.

We are also implementing comprehensive strategies to reduce emissions from the vehicles in Medellin's public transport system, contributing to the commitments made at COP21 in Paris last December, where Colombia pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent from what is projected for 2030. The city intends to increase the number of public transport vehicles running on clean technology from 700 to 1,500.

We have started creating 84 kilometres of bus lanes, which will reduce travel time and improve vehicular flow. Digital signs will be installed to allow passengers to know the routes, estimated times of arrival and the status of the traffic flow. We are also constructing another Metrocable line in the Picacho sector, 35,000 square metres of sidewalks, and 80 new kilometres of bike paths.

Medellin will continue to advance, but not only with works made of concrete: this is a collaborative work with the citizenry. Their responsibility is essential if cities are to continue on the path of sustainability. Without citizen culture, sustainable mobility is not possible. Major infrastructure and transport works are useless if there is no commitment and respect when they are used.

Cities are for people. Road safety programmes and improving air quality are priorities for Medellin. So one of our main objectives is to reduce emissions of particulate pollutants by 393 tons in five years. In order to meet this goal, 394 polluting buses will be taken out of circulation and another 2,900 will be modernized to run on electricity or natural gas.

Each achievement brings a greater challenge. Medellin has received numerous awards for its social and urban transformation and innovation - and for being one of the most resilient cities in the world. Our challenge is now to maintain and improve good practices to give our people a better quality of life. The city we dream about is secure, equitable and sustainable; a city with opportunities, in which people feel calm and where a vision of the future always exists. In short, we are building a city of trust.