Urban Mobility and Social Equity in Latin America: Evidence, Concepts, Methods: Volume 12

Cover of Urban Mobility and Social Equity in Latin America: Evidence, Concepts, Methods

Table of contents

(14 chapters)

This chapter presents a critical examination of the interaction between concepts such as equity and accessibility in a framework of sustainable and inclusive urban development. The analysis compiles a series of reflections that build on previous research that focusses on the role of transport as enabler of opportunities for material and social capital, healthcare and leisure, which contribute to human development and well-being. The research discusses accessibility metrics for mandatory and non-mandatory travel in the context of current global agendas for social and development policies. It also introduces methodological reflections in relation to the analysis of accessibility indices from an equity perspective highlighting the role of equity metrics such as the Palma ratio and Lorenz curves. The authors link accessibility and urban development seeking to inform current approaches for policy development and assessment in a context of high manifested inequity. The research is set in the context of the Bogotá Metropolitan Region, a paradigmatic case of transport development and policy in the Global South. The findings seek to contribute to present transport policy and practice, providing relevant insights to support actions that redistribute accessibility to opportunities and questioning some of the paradigms of mainstream transport planning in cities like Bogotá, suggesting a more relevant role of transport policy as a potential engine of equity and social development.


This chapter describes gender differences in Montevideo through the study of daily mobility. Generally, mobility studies do not account for gender differences more than in a superficial way, distinguishing basic travel patterns by sex. However, different patterns and mobility behaviours can obscure situations of deeply entrenched gender inequality that have direct consequences on the opportunities that men and women are able to reach. To disentangle these inequalities, this work addresses some mainstream mobility indicators classified by gender but also some specific indicators, with special attention to care mobility as a factor that can restrain women’s ability to move. Moreover, a tour-based analysis is performed to shed light on gendered schedules and mobility patterns. Results show that women’s mode share comprises a larger proportion of transit trips, they travel shorter distances – investing more time – and they contribute in a greater proportion than men to care mobility, especially among the lower quintiles of income. While men’s commuting patterns have a defined ‘home-based work’ profile, women have a higher level of heterogeneity in their daily itineraries. Access to private motorised means of transport is a key variable in explaining the configuration of mobility patterns, and there is a persistent gender gap in this matter. The chapter concludes that, as several authors have reported, gender is a marker in terms of mobility. It sets specific conditions for urban life in general and mobility in particular that, in turn, may be the cause of further inequality.


Access can be understood as the spatial dimension of social inclusion and exclusion. It is from this understanding that the authors incorporate the gender perspective when analysing the possibilities of mobility in the city. This research focusses on a specific moment in the life cycle of men and women: childbirth and the presence of children in the household. The aim is to elucidate how much the presence of children in the household impacts the urban mobility of the people responsible for the household, comparing data of men and women responsible for households with or without cohabiting children. The authors used descriptive statistics and correlation analysis based on data from the Origin–Destination Survey 2012 of Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The authors analysed the travel motivations, the ratio of journeys by trips and the means of transportation used, in addition to some indicators of immobility. The results of the research show the impact of the presence of children in an unequal way considering the gender of those responsible for the household, with women in all scenarios carrying out a greater frequency of trips associated with care, but in a specific way according to their degree of schooling and their children’s ages.


According to the Colombian Labour Ministry, in 2015, 750,000 persons officially worked as household employees. Ninety-eight per cent of these employees are women who tend to live in Bogotá’s (southern) urban fringe and travel to the city’s wealthier north on a daily basis. Yet public transportation in the Colombian capital is subject to stratification. Besides overcrowding and delays, petty crime and sexual harassment, fringe areas remain underserved. Based on ethnographic data, in this chapter, the authors discuss findings from a 3-year research project on female household employees’ subjective experience of space. Specifically, the authors explore their capacity (motility) to be mobile. This perspective breaks with the limits of bounded categories such as ‘urban’, ‘neighbourhood’ or ‘class’, to highlight their situational and spatial mutability. Moreover, an investigation of motility includes people’s potential to move as well as their subjective experiences of mobility. The research shows how gender intersects with local labour regimes and infrastructure to negatively affect women’s mobility. Urban stratification is not only a question of locale of residence and access to services, but importantly (re)produced in the household employees’ subjective experience of their daily commute, which they describe as suffering. In their limited spare time, female household employees abstain from travelling, effectively curbing their active appropriation of urban space. The research thus illuminates how spatial, social and economic dimensions mutually interact to impact on the women’s lives and possibilities.


Sustainable transport is often defined according to energy efficiency and environmental impacts. With global approval during Habitat III, however, a set of Sustainable Development Goals have become the focus for human development until 2030, underlining the relevance of health, equity and other social issues.

These goals raise the challenge of achieving significant progress towards ‘transport justice’ in diverse societies and contexts. While exclusion occurs for different reasons, discrimination, based on cultural roles, combines with sexual harassment and other mobility barriers to limit women’s mobility. This makes gender an area of particular interest and potential insight for considering equity within sustainability and its social components.

Using data from Metropolitan Santiago to ground a conceptual exploration, this chapter examines the equity implications of women’s travel patterns and sustainable transport. Key findings underline the importance of considering non-work trip purposes and achieving better land-use combinations to accommodate care-oriented trips. Moreover, barriers linked to unsafe public transport environments limit women’s mobility and, therefore, their participation. Women account for a disproportionately high number of walking trips, a situation that can be interpreted as ‘greater sustainability’ in terms of energy use and emissions, but suggests significant inequalities in access. Environmental and economic sustainability gains may be achieved at a high social cost, unless specific measures are taken.


The research and practices associated to expand the use of active travel have shown extensive benefits on the overall assessment of well-being. However, cycling is still unequal considering age and gender. Therefore, further research is needed for contributing to the wider and more inclusive use of the bicycle for women.

The chapter aims to explore and differentiate the emotive and instrumental subjective well-being (SWB) factors that make cycling especially favourable for women, contributing to their general well-being. The chapter also inquiries about the factors that expand women’s opportunities as consequence of cycling.

The research is focussed in the context of Latin American cities, building on the experience of experts in Santiago, Bogotá, Buenos Aires and Mexico City. These cities have had a substantial increase in urban cycling, and yet low rates of cycling women when compared to men.

The nature of the research is qualitative as it considers semi-structured interviews with 21 women experts from non-governmental organisations, academia, government and cycling organisations. The questions have been framed under the concepts of the SWB, considering emotive and instrumental factors.

The findings show that self-esteem, freedom, empowerment and happiness are some of the emotive factors that have emerged from the analysis of interviews. On the side of instrumental factors, cycling emerges as relevant for women’s care role, entrance to the labour market and for strengthening social relationships leading to the promotion of social capital. Social factors have also emerged, mostly related to the advantages of socialisation, democracy and cycling as a political symbol.


Increasing physical activity can reduce obesity risk among adolescents. This study analyses how behaviours, ethnicity and various sociocultural characteristics may influence the likelihood of engaging in active commute and other healthy activities. The authors analyse data from the 2010 National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey. The sample included US Hispanic high school students from 9th to 12th grade. Quasi-Poisson regression was used to understand the association between 24 possible variables and the number of days physically active at least 60 minutes per day. This study will present findings by race and ethnicity: non-Hispanic whites and blacks, as well as Hispanics. The research findings uncover that walking is the most predominant physical activity among Hispanics, especially from school to home, which indicates engagement in active transportation. This study shows the need for tailoring physical activity and health programmes by race and ethnicity. Interventions that encourage active commute can be effective for adolescents to achieve physical activity guidelines – at least 60 minutes per day.


Transportation planning has conventionally examined mobility from the standpoint of the efficiency of transportation systems, based on trips as units of analysis, overlooking the social needs of excluded groups, such as children. Understanding children’s geographies provides insight into one of the basic social needs of children, intrinsically related to mobility: play. Disadvantages in mobility, along with other social conditions further limit children’s autonomy in their neighbourhood. This chapter proposes the term playability as a concept that intertwines both needs. A case study of neighbourhood analyses the playability needs of children from their perspective and that of the community. Findings suggest that, in a walkable, built environment, issues from criminal activity directly influence children’s playability, even more than automobile presence. Furthermore, community perspective on playability, as mostly limited to structured play in designated spaces and time, separates mobility from play and thus limits opportunities for social inclusion. A change in both, acknowledging children’s need for play and mobility, and their reciprocity, and incorporating measures to improve it, may provide a different framework for transportation and urban planning at the local level, one that seeks greater social inclusion of children.


Since the late 1980s, the Brazilian Psychiatric Reform, alongside the anti-asylum movement, has promoted a change in the way of treating people with mental suffering in the country. This process produced transformations in the flows and forms in which individuals with mental illnesses use the city, intending to make the city itself less unequal.

Taking into account that accessibility measures must consider individual, temporal, transportation and land-use elements as relevant, this study will focus on the relation between mobility and access, looking at subjects who were submitted to prolonged psychiatric hospitalisation and got discharged to live in the Residential Therapeutic Services – RTS, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. In order to do that, the study used focus groups, observation, shadowing and in-depth interviews as methodologies strategies.

The results of the study demonstrate that: (a) there are a variety of ways of accessing the city; (b) displacements outside the facilities are characterised by the proximity of the destinations and by being made, mostly, on foot; (c) there is a restriction regarding the use of public transport system; and (d) access to money is a determinant factor for the accomplishment of mobility practices in city spaces. However, it is also observed that the mobility and access to the city can exert an effect of autonomy by allowing governance of the subjects’ own time and destination.


Since the 1990s, several policy instruments have been produced in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, to improve accessibility to urban mobility systems, especially for people with disabilities. However, the city still faces important shortcomings in understanding the demands of the population with disabilities and in implementing an appropriate urban structure. The present work identifies mobility practices and demands for accessibility of this population based on a descriptive analysis of the city’s origin/destination survey (2012) and results of a focus group with representatives of the population with disabilities and public authorities. The analysis demonstrates that the demands of persons with reduced mobility are characterised first by a high level of immobility, comparing to people without disabilities, which has important consequences on access to urban goods, especially jobs and health and educational services. Second, mobility has a relevant role in producing forms of discrimination and exclusion. Third, in addition to the problems faced by the general population, people with reduced mobility also face greater challenges in using transport systems. Ultimately, this analysis points out that the main needs for people with disabilities are related to the problems of articulation between public places and transportation systems, both in terms of infrastructure and in terms of attitude and behaviour of service providers and other citizens.

Cover of Urban Mobility and Social Equity in Latin America: Evidence, Concepts, Methods
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Transport and Sustainability
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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