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1. Prize Hands-on Project on Sustainability - Sustainable Transport in Honduras

Read the future scenarios of the group ‘Green Roads’ on the topic of urban transport in Honduras.

from Andrés Felipe Caballero (Colombia), Irma Yadira Gámez (Honduras), Robert Baumgartner (Peru)

Trend scenario for Honduras 2033: City of our children

(Block 1: 4 min. Oxygene part 2, Jean Michel Jarre: you hear 5 seconds from the start, volume decreases during first presenter announcement, volume goes up again between first and second announcement, background music fades away before second announcement).

[Entry music]

José: Good afternoon! I’m José Sierra and this is your one o’clock news on H.R.B.N. Radio.

[Music tune]

José: Today we are going to look at a topic that worries all Hondurans: the environment. Tegucigalpa is going through very hard times. Visibility at the capital’s airport has dropped to a radius of less than 1 kilometer due to air pollution, which is why all flights have been suspended until further notice, while visibility in the city is just a few meters. The Health Ministry’s spokesman, Marcelo Ruiz, said yesterday afternoon that the emergency situation is likely to continue until Tuesday. Experts added that there is a huge pollution cloud over the city that stretches up to the eastern and central parts of the country, which is why many roads have been closed and many flights suspended in these areas too. Air quality in Tegucigalpa has become one of the worst in the world, hand in hand with the city’s traffic! According to the latest report by the Minister of Health, Mata Lozano, respiratory diseases and traffic accidents are now among the city’s leading death causes. In a worldwide ranking of quality of life, Tegucigalpa ranked third from last due to violence, pollution, and hours lost in traffic jams; the last two places in the ranking went to Fukushima and Chernobyl, by the way. But let’s look at the weather forecast with María Rodríguez.

(Block 2: 15 sec.)

María: Good afternoon! Excellent news for today. What we have all been looking forward to for so long might well become true this afternoon: It may be possible to see the sun through the smog for a few minutes at around 4:35 p.m.! This would be the first sun sighting over Tegucigalpa for over two years! So, get your sunglasses and enjoy the show!

(Block 3: 15 sec. Oxygene part 2, Jean Michel Jarre. Background music)

[Music tune]

(Block 4: 3 sec.)

(Block 5: 7 min. Sounds of vehicles, horns and people protesting)

Helena: Hello, José. On Comunidad Europea Boulevard, near to Bancatlán Square, there has been a horrible multiple vehicle collision due to the poor visibility, which makes moving along this route impossible. At least 155 vehicles, including cars and buses, were involved in this accident. Thus, it looks like this is the worst multiple vehicle collision we have had since May last year, when 180 vehicles crashed into one another. We recommend looking for alternative routes, such as the ring road or Suyapa Boulevard. Construction works on La Paz Avenue continue, which is why two traffic lanes to the city’s east are closed. How is the traffic? Pretty slow. Lots of vehicles traveling in this sector and it will get worse in the later afternoon. Average speed at La Paz Avenue is 12 km/h. But let’s not forget the sun will be visible today at around 4:35 p.m., so many people are likely to go home earlier to enjoy the show with their families. Nobody wants to miss this! So, expect heavy traffic between 3 and 4 p.m. today. Oh, but what’s this? It looks like a demonstration at Juan Pablo the Second Boulevard. A huge crowd is gathered there and causing a traffic jam! Let’s get closer to see if we can interview someone. Better take another route. There are lots of people protesting here! And there is Armando Guerra, the popular leader of the NGO Clean Air. Mr. Armando: You are live on H.R.B.N. Radio. Can you tell our listeners what this demonstration is about?

Armando: We are here to demand from the Government that it take clear action against all this chaos. The streets can no longer keep up with so many cars. Many of us waste five hours a day in traffic, not to mention the toxic brew we are breathing! When I was a child, it was normal to see the sun and the blue sky over the city. There wasn’t any acid rain, which has already killed most plants in our parks and streets – the only remaining plants are artificial plants or plants that have been genetically modified to withstand the acid rain, it’s outrageous! And there are so many people who are getting sick because of this smog! I suffer from allergic conjunctivitis and several of my friends, all of them in their twenties, already suffer from bronchitis! And the worst: My own niece – she is only ten years old – has recently been diagnosed with lung cancer! How far do we want to let this go?

The social insurance doesn’t have the capacity to deal with so many cases of respiratory diseases, so many cases go untreated. I had hoped that this new Government would establish policies to reduce the use of gas and diesel, but they haven’t done anything and now we are living in a gas chamber! On the other hand, we emphatically demand that the Government do something against the lack of security in public transportation. There are too many homicides that go unpunished due mainly to corrupt police officers! We must all stand up together against this disgrace!

Helena: Thank you very much, Armando. These were statements by Armando Guerra, leader of the NGO Clean Air. Back to the studio with José Sierra.

(Block 6: 20 sec. Oxygene part 2, Jean Michel Jarre. Background music)

José: Thank you, Helena, for this important information. This is one thing we need more in Tegucigalpa and the rest of the country: proactive people who are aware of the disastrous traffic situation and who try to do something about it. Last, we have the comment of the day with Lorenzo Vargas. Good afternoon, Lorenzo! How are you?

(Block 7: 5 min. Oxygene part 2, Jean Michel Jarre. Background music)

Lorenzo: Very well, José. The comment of the day comes from London. The Proud Institute, a prestigious institution devoted to topics related to mobility, public security, and the environment, has just published three shocking facts about Tegucigalpa. First, in the last twenty years, traffic jams have caused an amazing 51 billion dollars of losses in productivity and further losses are expected. In this same period, traffic congestion in the metropolitan area has almost tripled. Second, Honduras has the highest homicide rates worldwide, with San Pedro de Sula and Tegucigalpa the deadliest cities, with about 200 homicides per 100,000 people and year. Third, the absence of public policies to minimize or replace hydrocarbons in the transport sector has cost a mind-blowing 2.5 billion dollars in the last 20 years.

In the meantime, our authorities keep ignoring the reports and fail to take the necessary measures. Energy crisis! Environmental crisis! Health crisis! Security crisis! Nobody does anything and nobody is responsible, except for the previous government! What do you think of this, José?

(Block 8: 15 sec. Music tune)

José: Well, Lorenzo! No comments! Thank you very much for your very appropriate contribution. Well, that was the one o'clock news. Join me at two for the latest headlines. I'm José Sierra and thank you for listening to H.R.B.N. Radio – and don’t forget your sunglasses this afternoon!

Target scenario for Honduras 2033: How did articulated buses end traffic congestion in Tegucigalpa?

From: Sam Gomes
Date: Wednesday, 20.Apr, 2033 23:51:16 -0600
To: Annika Hartmann 

Hi, Annie,

Thank you very much for your message! Tegucigalpa is unrecognizable! That city scourged by rampant crime, congested streets, polluted air and countless difficulties back in 2013 has definitely changed for the better. That first visit back then was a Latin American town submitted to all kinds of injustice and atrocities due to negligent governments, murderous criminals and demagogic politicians. What surprised me in those days was that, despite all these hardships, the inhabitants of Tegucigalpa showed a great will to succeed through creativity and resourcefulness that seemed and still seem to have no limits.

A hint of initiative can give rise to a lot of changes. Tegucigalpa is a clear example of this: Today there are many more green areas and tree-lined avenues than before; the authorities and citizens respect and protect public spaces and Honduran laws; people are less stressed and able to plan their urban trips using software that can be downloaded to smartphones and computers, providing reliable real-time information about road conditions and the best way to reach one’s destination.

Together, the local government, private sector, universities, NGOs and enthusiastic citizens have implemented permanent educational campaigns about the meaning of traffic rules, the environment, citizenship, road safety, citizen participation mechanisms, administrative decentralization, waste management, as well as timely public announcement of the city’s progress regarding mobility and the environment, backed by a single and inclusive urban planning office (instead of the ten to twenty excluding offices that used to fight each other twenty years ago).

Traffic congestion and deteriorated buildings on main roads have long become part of the past: There are far fewer cars, taxis and buses, the air we breathe is cleaner, and there are lots of city areas restricted to vehicle traffic and where shops are full (contrary to what shop owners used to fear).

Also, I’m really impressed with the integrated mass transport system. The city has state of the art high-capacity articulated buses that offer fast, comfortable and safe transport throughout the city. Unlike buses in other Latin American cities like Curitiba, Bogota or Lima, these buses have solar panels on their roofs, move silently and are used by people from all social classes, including rich citizens.

Do you remember how buses in Tegucigalpa used to be? They were shabby, awfully polluting, their passengers came almost exclusively from the lower social classes, and drivers had a terrible reputation because of their bad personal appearance, their recklessness and aggressiveness.

Now, I take the bus and can barely hide my surprise when the driver greets me politely or when I see the ergonomic seats or perceive the silent movement (the buses are electric now) and the absence of toxic gases filtering in from the street.

The bus stops are well equipped, roofed, to protect users from rain and sun. And they can be easily accessed even by disabled people. Moreover, they have been built with environmentally friendly and self-sustainable materials financed with public and private funds. Bus stations have even been equipped with surveillance cameras capable of recognizing faces, which has helped making public transport and the city in general much safer than before, finally putting an end to and reverting homicide rate development.

People used to spend two hours in horribly congested roads when they wanted to travel from the city center to the outskirts, remember? Now it takes 25 minutes at 30 kilometers per hour. Great, isn’t it?! Additionally to these articulated buses, there are regular buses and taxis that travel on complementary routes. There are far fewer than before and they have also improved immensely in every aspect.

Thanks also to a government plan that has promoted telework through tax incentives, it has been possible to significantly reduce vehicle traffic. A large share of work in the service sector (the one that can most easily be performed from home) is now performed by people who work at home and thus don’t need to go to an office every day. Strong public and private investment in a cutting-edge ultra-fast internet network has further boosted this development. Do you remember, Annie, who used to spend six hours a day in the traffic to get to his office at the bank? Now he works from home and can spend much more time with his family and friends.

Other things that have struck me very positively are the use of bicycles and the total absence of litter on streets. Nobody throws away anything in parks or streets – unlike what used to happen in the past. Talking with locals, they’ve told me that litter is very important for electric power generation and for the bus system. The buses are battery-driven and the batteries are charged with electricity from solar panels and from the combustion of organic garbage.

Whoever throws away garbage on streets or parks must pay a fine, perform several hours of community services (depending on the gravity of the infraction) and take a course about civic behavior and environment protection. In short, waste has definitely changed sides: Instead of harming the environment it now is the city’s best ally to fight climate change and environmental deterioration.

On the other hand, thanks to a dense net of bicycle lanes that covers all of Tegucigalpa, bicycles have achieved a leading role as means of transportation, similar to the one they have had in Europe for over two decades. Students, office workers, executives, and even leading politicians take the public bicycles at bicycle stations next to the larger bus stations, a service that is offered by the city at no charge, aiming to promote physical activity and reduce the traffic on the streets even further.

You really have to see this to believe it. The modern public transport system has truly changed the face of the city – I wish you can come visit me soon to appreciate the changes with your own eyes.

Take care,


Video Urban Transport in Honduras in 2033

More about the hands-on project on sustainability

November 2013

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