The quality of life for residents of Latin American cities has been improved through citizen engagement and advocacy in the areas of public transportation and the expansion and transformation of public spaces.
Thanks to the work of Observatorio La Paz Cómo Vamos, public transportation has substantially improved in La Paz, Bolivia. This citizen network was an important advocate for PumaKatari, the new integrated mass transit system in the city, which is administered by the newly created Municipal Transportation Service.
The process that led to this achievement included gathering strategic information via citizen perception surveys between 2011 and 2013 and creating a multi-sector working group with transportation providers, the municipal government, and residents. The results included a report titled “El peor momento del transporte y el mejor momento para cambiarlo” (“When transportation is at its worst is the best time to change it”), which summarized the concerns of the city government, the national government, and city residents.
The 2014 perception survey shows that citizens have seen an improvement in the customer service provided by bus drivers, safety, the collection of fares, timetables, respect for citizens, and the work of the transportation police. Over 90% of the public supports the new public transportation system.
There has also been progress in civic participation and advocacy in Peru, most notably in the transformation of public spaces into gathering places and areas for cultural expression. In Lima, aparklet (mini-park) was established in the Miraflores district. The parklet features structures built using recycled materials and is an inviting place for the public to stop and take a break from the often frenetic pace of urban life.
In addition, the Santa Cruz neighborhood of Medellín, Colombia held a placemaking event, which is a multifaceted approach to the planning, design, and management of public spaces and consists of a series of activities to promote the arts and improve the infrastructure of the neighborhood.
Each of these cases involved collaboration among neighborhood residents, local organizations, business leaders, academic institutions, and local governments. These experiences in La Paz, Lima, and Medellín are laying the groundwork for public policies that can replicate and scale these types of initiatives to make cities more sustainable.