IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Urban transport systems in Latin America and the Caribbean: lessons and challenges


  • Patricia Yañez-Pagans

    (IDB Invest)

  • Daniel Martinez

    (Inter-American Development Bank)

  • Oscar A. Mitnik

    (Inter-American Development Bank)

  • Lynn Scholl

    (Inter-American Development Bank)

  • Antonia Vazquez

    (Universidad de San Andrés
    Yale University)


This paper discusses the transportation challenges that urban areas in Latin America and the Caribbean face and reviews the causal evidence on the impact brought by different urban transport system interventions implemented around the world. The objective is to highlight the main lessons learned and identify knowledge gaps to guide the design and evaluation of future transport investments. The review highlights that causal studies have been concentrated in certain areas and that an important number have been carried out in developed countries. Empirical challenges due to the non-random placement of these interventions and their possible effects over the entire transport network might explain the reduced amount of causal evaluations. A large part of the literature has focused on the impact of transport systems on housing values, finding overall increases in prices and rents, but with results highly dependent on the quality and perceived permanency of the system. Few studies have explored socioeconomic effects, and those available have emphasized employment access. There are almost no studies exploring displacement effects, which should be further examined to better understand the social inclusion role of transport systems. New avenues of research are emerging that exploit non-traditional sources of data, such as big data and satellite information. Moreover, studies looking at ways to improve the operational efficiency of systems and those seeking to promote behavioral changes in transport users offer great potential to generate learning that is useful for the public and private actors involved.

Suggested Citation

  • Patricia Yañez-Pagans & Daniel Martinez & Oscar A. Mitnik & Lynn Scholl & Antonia Vazquez, 2019. "Urban transport systems in Latin America and the Caribbean: lessons and challenges," Latin American Economic Review, Springer;Centro de Investigaciòn y Docencia Económica (CIDE), vol. 28(1), pages 1-25, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:laecrv:v:28:y:2019:i:1:d:10.1186_s40503-019-0079-z
    DOI: 10.1186/s40503-019-0079-z

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Abstract
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lucas W. Davis, 2008. "The Effect of Driving Restrictions on Air Quality in Mexico City," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(1), pages 38-81, February.
    2. repec:wbk:wboper:3022 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Gabriel M. Ahlfeldt & Stephen J. Redding & Daniel M. Sturm & Nikolaus Wolf, 2015. "The Economics of Density: Evidence From the Berlin Wall," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 83, pages 2127-2189, November.
    4. Thomas W. Sanchez & Qing Shen & Zhong-Ren Peng, 2004. "Transit Mobility, Jobs Access and Low-income Labour Participation in US Metropolitan Areas," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 41(7), pages 1313-1331, June.
    5. Loukaitou-Sideris, Anastasia Loukaitou, 2008. "How Safe Is the Ride? Evaluation of Design and Policy Responses to Women’s Fear of Victimization and Crime," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt2zg5x2sb, University of California Transportation Center.
    6. Justin Tyndall, 2017. "Waiting for the R train: Public transportation and employment," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 54(2), pages 520-537, February.
    7. Juan Carlos Mendieta & Jorge Andrés Perdomo, 2007. "Especificación y estimación de un modelo de precios hedónico espacial para evaluar el impacto de Transmilenio sobre el valor de la propiedad en Bogotá," Documentos CEDE 004280, Universidad de los Andes - CEDE.
    8. Bel, Germà & Holst, Maximilian, 2018. "Evaluation of the impact of Bus Rapid Transit on air pollution in Mexico City," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 209-220.
    9. Baum-Snow, Nathaniel & Kahn, Matthew E., 2000. "The effects of new public projects to expand urban rail transit," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(2), pages 241-263, August.
    10. Patacchini, Eleonora & Zenou, Yves, 2005. "Spatial mismatch, transport mode and search decisions in England," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(1), pages 62-90, July.
    11. Cervero, Robert & Kang, Chang Deok, 2011. "Bus rapid transit impacts on land uses and land values in Seoul, Korea," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 102-116, January.
    12. Gibbons, Stephen & Machin, Stephen, 2005. "Valuing rail access using transport innovations," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 148-169, January.
    13. Munoz-Raskin, Ramon, 2010. "Walking accessibility to bus rapid transit: Does it affect property values? The case of Bogotá, Colombia," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 72-84, March.
    14. Gonzalez-Navarro, Marco & Turner, Matthew A., 2018. "Subways and urban growth: Evidence from earth," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 85-106.
    15. Aiga Stokenberga, 2014. "Does Bus Rapid Transit Influence Urban Land Development and Property Values: A Review of the Literature," Transport Reviews, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(3), pages 276-296, May.
    16. Juan Pablo Bocarejo & Ingrid Portilla & David Meléndez, 2016. "Social fragmentation as a consequence of implementing a Bus Rapid Transit system in the city of Bogotá," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 53(8), pages 1617-1634, June.
    17. Florian, Michael & Gaudry, Marc & Lardinois, Christian, 1988. "A two-dimensional framework for the understanding of transportation planning models," Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, Elsevier, vol. 22(6), pages 411-419, December.
    18. Calfee, John & Winston, Clifford, 1998. "The value of automobile travel time: implications for congestion policy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 83-102, July.
    19. Paul E. Carrillo & Arun S. Malik & Yiseon Yoo, 2016. "Driving restrictions that work? Quito's Pico y Placa Program," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 49(4), pages 1536-1568, November.
    20. Jelena Simićević & Nada Milosavljević & Vladimir Djoric, 2016. "Gender differences in travel behaviour and willingness to adopt sustainable behaviour," Transportation Planning and Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 39(5), pages 527-537, July.
    21. Gallego, Francisco & Montero, Juan-Pablo & Salas, Christian, 2013. "The effect of transport policies on car use: Evidence from Latin American cities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 47-62.
    22. Deepti Goel & Sonam Gupta, 2017. "The Effect of Metro Expansions on Air Pollution in Delhi," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 31(1), pages 271-294.
    23. Patricio E. Pérez & Francisco J. Martínez & Juan de Dios Ortúzar, 2003. "Microeconomic Formulation and Estimation of a Residential Location Choice Model: Implications for the Value of Time," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(4), pages 771-789, November.
    24. Ghebreegziabiher Debrezion & Eric Pels & Piet Rietveld, 2007. "The Impact of Railway Stations on Residential and Commercial Property Value: A Meta-analysis," The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, Springer, vol. 35(2), pages 161-180, August.
    25. Eboli, Laura & Mazzulla, G., 2008. "Willingness-to-pay of public transport users for improvement in service quality," European Transport \ Trasporti Europei, ISTIEE, Institute for the Study of Transport within the European Economic Integration, issue 38, pages 107-118.
    26. Carolien Beckx & Luc Int Panis & Jean Vankerkom & Davy Janssens & Geert Wets & Theo Arentze, 2009. "An Integrated Activity-Based Modelling Framework to Assess Vehicle Emissions: Approach and Application," Environment and Planning B, , vol. 36(6), pages 1086-1102, December.
    27. Harry J. Holzer & John M. Quigley & Steven Raphael, 2003. "Public transit and the spatial distribution of minority employment: Evidence from a natural experiment," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(3), pages 415-441.
    28. Bocarejo S., Juan Pablo & Oviedo H., Daniel Ricardo, 2012. "Transport accessibility and social inequities: a tool for identification of mobility needs and evaluation of transport investments," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 142-154.
    29. Canavire-Bacarreza, Gustavo & Duque, Juan Carlos & Urrego, Joaquin A., 2016. "Moving Citizens and Deterring Criminals: Innovation in Public Transport Facilities," Research Department working papers 978, CAF Development Bank Of Latinamerica.
    30. Deepti Goel & Sonam Gupta, 2013. "Delhi Metro and Air Pollution," Working papers 229, Centre for Development Economics, Delhi School of Economics.
    31. Bocarejo, Juan Pablo & Portilla, Ingrid Joanna & Velásquez, Juan Miguel & Cruz, Mónica Natalia & Peña, Andrés & Oviedo, Daniel Ricardo, 2014. "An innovative transit system and its impact on low income users: the case of the Metrocable in Medellín," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 49-61.
    32. Medda, Francesca, 2012. "Land value capture finance for transport accessibility: a review," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 25(C), pages 154-161.
    33. Bocarejo, Juan Pablo & Portilla, Ingrid & Pérez, Maria Angélica, 2013. "Impact of Transmilenio on density, land use, and land value in Bogotá," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 78-86.
    34. Augusto de la Torre & Pablo Fajnzylber & John Nash, 2009. "Low Carbon, High Growth : Latin American Responses to Climate Change - An Overview," World Bank Publications - Books, The World Bank Group, number 3022.
    35. Markose, Sheri & Alentorn, Amadeo & Koesrindartoto, Deddy & Allen, Peter & Blythe, Phil & Grosso, Sergio, 2007. "A smart market for passenger road transport (SMPRT) congestion: An application of computational mechanism design," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 2001-2032, June.
    36. John F. Kain, 1968. "Housing Segregation, Negro Employment, and Metropolitan Decentralization," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(2), pages 175-197.
    37. Zhang, Wei & Lin Lawell, C.-Y. Cynthia & Umanskaya, Victoria I., 2017. "The effects of license plate-based driving restrictions on air quality: Theory and empirical evidence," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 181-220.
    38. Peter Brand & Julio D. Dávila, 2011. "Mobility innovation at the urban margins," City, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(6), pages 647-661, December.
    39. Asensio, Javier & Matas, Anna, 2008. "Commuters' valuation of travel time variability," Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review, Elsevier, vol. 44(6), pages 1074-1085, November.
    40. Phillips, David C., 2014. "Getting to work: Experimental evidence on job search and transportation costs," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 72-82.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Jackson Sekasi & Mauro Luiz Martens, 2021. "Assessing the Contributions of Urban Light Rail Transit to the Sustainable Development of Addis Ababa," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 13(10), pages 1-22, May.
    2. Muhammad Aamir Basheer & Luuk Boelens & Rob van der Bijl, 2020. "Bus Rapid Transit System: A Study of Sustainable Land-Use Transformation, Urban Density and Economic Impacts," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 12(8), pages 1-22, April.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Yanez-Pagans, Patricia & Martinez, Daniel & Mitnik, Oscar A. & Scholl, Lynn & Vazquez, Antonia, 2018. "Urban Transport Systems in Latin America and the Caribbean: Challenges and Lessons Learned," IZA Discussion Papers 11812, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Martinez, Sebastian & Sanchez, Raul & Yañez, Patricia, 2018. "Getting a Lift: The Impact of Aerial Cable Cars in La Paz, Bolivia," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 36, Inter-American Development Bank.
    3. Rhiannon Jerch & Panle Jia Barwick & Shanjun Li & Jing Wu, 2020. "Road Rationing Policies and Housing Markets," DETU Working Papers 2004, Department of Economics, Temple University.
    4. Pasha, Obed & Wyczalkowski, Chris & Sohrabian, Dro & Lendel, Iryna, 2020. "Transit effects on poverty, employment, and rent in Cuyahoga County, Ohio," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 33-41.
    5. Davis, Lucas W., 2021. "Estimating the price elasticity of demand for subways: Evidence from Mexico," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(C).
    6. Claudia N. Berg & Uwe Deichmann & Yishen Liu & Harris Selod, 2017. "Transport Policies and Development," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 53(4), pages 465-480, April.
    7. Seungwoo Chin & Matthew E. Kahn & Hyungsik Roger Moon, 2020. "Estimating the Gains from New Rail Transit Investment: A Machine Learning Tree Approach," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 48(3), pages 886-914, September.
    8. Johnson, Daniel & Ercolani, Marco & Mackie, Peter, 2017. "Econometric analysis of the link between public transport accessibility and employment," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 1-9.
    9. Yang, Linchuan & Chu, Xiaoling & Gou, Zhonghua & Yang, Hongtai & Lu, Yi & Huang, Wencheng, 2020. "Accessibility and proximity effects of bus rapid transit on housing prices: Heterogeneity across price quantiles and space," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 88(C).
    10. Tyndall, Justin, 2021. "The local labour market effects of light rail transit," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 124(C).
    11. Ahlfeldt, Gabriel M. & Nitsch, Volker & Wendland, Nicolai, 2019. "Ease vs. noise: Long-run changes in the value of transport (dis)amenities," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 98(C).
    12. Dubé, Jean & Andrianary, Eugénie & Assad-Déry, François & Poupart, Janie & Simard, Justine, 2018. "Exploring difference in value uplift resulting from new bus rapid transit routes within a medium size metropolitan area," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 258-269.
    13. Filippova, Olga & Sheng, Mingyue, 2020. "Impact of bus rapid transit on residential property prices in Auckland, New Zealand," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 86(C).
    14. Mitra, Suman K. & Saphores, Jean-Daniel M., 2016. "The value of transportation accessibility in a least developed country city – The case of Rajshahi City, Bangladesh," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 184-200.
    15. Borck, Rainald, 2019. "Public transport and urban pollution," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 356-366.
    16. Zhang, Min & Yen, Barbara T.H. & Mulley, Corinne & Sipe, Neil, 2020. "An investigation of the open-system Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network and property values: The case of Brisbane, Australia," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 16-34.
    17. Rivera, Nathaly M., 2017. "The Effectiveness of Temporary Driving Restrictions: Evidence from Air Pollution, Vehicle Flows, and Mass-Transit Users in Santiago," 2017 Annual Meeting, July 30-August 1, Chicago, Illinois 259182, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    18. Yen, Barbara T.H. & Mulley, Corinne & Shearer, Heather & Burke, Matthew, 2018. "Announcement, construction or delivery: When does value uplift occur for residential properties? Evidence from the Gold Coast Light Rail system in Australia," Land Use Policy, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 412-422.
    19. Zhang, Min & Yen, Barbara T.H., 2020. "The impact of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on land and property values: A meta-analysis," Land Use Policy, Elsevier, vol. 96(C).
    20. Arnon Barak, 2019. "The Effect of Public Transit on Employment in Israel's Arab Society," Bank of Israel Working Papers 2019.03, Bank of Israel.

    More about this item


    Urban transport systems; Latin America and the Caribbean; Impact evaluation;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • R15 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Econometric and Input-Output Models; Other Methods
    • R42 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics - - - Government and Private Investment Analysis; Road Maintenance; Transportation Planning


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:spr:laecrv:v:28:y:2019:i:1:d:10.1186_s40503-019-0079-z. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Sonal Shukla or Springer Nature Abstracting and Indexing (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.