Transportation provides vital support to the economic and social development of Latin America cities, but current growth patterns and trends are not sustainable. While non-motorized and public transport modes have the largest shares in passenger transport, there is a strong increase in ownership and use of cars and motorcycles. In Latin America in 2010 there were 2.5 new motor vehicle registrations for every new child being born.
Motorization results in congestion, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, motorization increases the use of fossil fuels and results in reduction of physical activity, which in turn increases obesity and related illnesses. Costs of negative externalities are estimated to be around 18% of the average income of 15 selected cities in the region. There is a direct relation between fatalities and air pollution with automobile use, so curbing motorization might prove beneficial for the society at large.
There is considerable evidence from Latin America that it is possible to modify motorization trends. This can be done through reallocation of resources already dedicated to transportation to emphasize the provision of access for people and goods rather than maximizing transport activity. Mainstreaming sustainable transport will benefit from cooperation among countries – as it was agreed in the Bogotá Declaration (Foro de Transporte Sostenible de América Latina, 2011). It will also require improved information and institutions, and support from the international community, through focused financial instruments, development assistance and technical cooperation.