ECPA Senior Fellow Jeff Soule reports from Guatemala

Monday, August 05, 2013

By Jeffrey Soule, ECPA Senior Fellow, FAICP

ECPA Senior Fellow Jeff Soule is currently traveling through Guatemala to participate in meetings and events on energy-efficient transportation systems. Soule works as the Director of Outreach and International Programs at theAmerican Planning Association and will be representing the Sustainable Communities in Central America and the Caribbean Initiative. Below, Soule comments on his first day in Guatemala:


Our first day on this ECPA mission was very fruitful with the preparation and assistance of Juan Cruz Monticelli, of the Department of Sustainable Development for the Organization of American States (OAS) and Partners for the Americas. We met with the Dean and faculty of the Rafael Landivar University, Department of Architecture, to discuss cooperation on a variety of initiatives they are undertaking to expand their research and program development.

The Department has a variety of programs aimed at engaging students, faculty and communities in both cultural conservation as well as ecological and sustainable urbanization. We discussed faculty exchange ideas and opportunities for the University to provide knowledge and practical assistance in comprehensive approaches to quality of life and social aspects of design. Our ECPA academic network under the American Planning Association’s (APA) cooperation with the State Department can provide a way for the University to engage other Universities and faculty, along with a platform for sharing the results of their ongoing work. Special thanks to Dean Ovidio Morales Calderon for arranging the discussion.

Mayor Alvaro Arzu

In the afternoon, we had a presentation by the City’s Director of Urban Mobility, Alessandra Lossau and General manager Jorge Francisco Palacios Aldana on Guatemala City’s Trans metro and Trans Urbano initiative. While many have heard of the BRT programs in Colombia and Brazil, little attention has been paid to date to Guatemala City’s impressive program. Designed comprehensively to plan for transit, land use and overall economic development using strategic incentives and private sector partners, the system accommodates over 250,000 riders daily. With dedicated lanes, police and transit agency customer service staff, the system demonstrates many features that combine the best aspects of BRT, feeder bus routes and management of private transport providers. Their comprehensive plan looks out to 2040 to a metropolitan system that focuses on rider needs along with growth management and density components.

Already successful, the program has been accomplished with modest funding, recycled equipment and low fares. Among Latin American examples, it must be counted one of the most successful since it began service in 2007. Strong leadership and support from Mayor Alvaro Arzu along with a talented local staff have been critical the factors for the concept and implementation. The legal framework and political savvy demonstrated in engaging and cooperating with the local drivers and transit companies to form a progressive base for improved energy efficiency through transit options should be reviewed and considered by cities throughout Latin America as a way forward.

Tomorrow we will begin our conference on transportation and land use as key elements of a sustainable and energy efficient urbanization framework.

This blog was originally posted by Partners of the Americas, here.