Why Havana? Why now?

A lack of resources to maintain or recapitalise Havana’s public transport system has left its citizens with severe problems with moving around the urban area, not only affecting access to public services and damaging work productivity, but also hampering citizens’ (and also visitors’) access to the wealth of cultural amenities that the city has to offer. Moreover, the famous old vehicles that still run on Havana’s streets impose a high cost on the city’s population in terms of pollution, while dilapidated infrastructure contributes to the risk of road injuries and deaths. But the low level of motorised transport, together with official policy, also gives Havana a unique opportunity to develop a sustainable model of urban mobility for the future.

As Cuba embarks on a new stage of economic development, this opportunity needs to be seized urgently, to avoid the mistakes made in other cities that have created new problems of congestion, pollution and social exclusion.

The Havana planning and transport authorities have a strong commitment to public transport, public health and climate change mitigation, all of which they are keen to prioritise in their long-term strategy for urban mobility. They are also interested in learning from international experience, to benefit from the lessons learned — from both the problems and the many successful innovations — around the world.

A group of academics based at the Architecture and Town Planning faculty of CUJAE, Havana’s technical university, have therefore established an international project, in collaboration with multidisciplinary team at UCL, to support the development of a vision, and policy design, for sustainable and equitable mobility for Havana. The Cuban and UK teams believe that, building on this collaboration, Havana could not only improve the quality of life for Havana’s citizens but also make its own contribution to the global debate on policies for urban transport and mobility, by demonstrating the possibilities for an alternative approach to urban mobility.