8 November 2014

Paratransit: a key element in a dual system

In most cities of the global south, two types of public transport exist: institutional and paratransit. They operate according to very different models and co-exist in a complex relationship that varies from one context to another.

Paratransit, often referred to as ‘informal’ or even ‘illegal’ transport, operates on the fringe of the institutional transport system. It is most often described as a poorly organised and inefficient sector in terms of operations (route duplication, excessive length of routes, surplus supply of vehicles on certain routes, etc.), and it is considered partly responsible for road accidents, traffic congestion and air pollution.

Nonetheless, it fulfils a type of demand that generally can only be met by the paratransit sector. Paratransit plays a crucial role in the public transport systems of the Global South and it presents two undeniable advantages: the low cost for public authorities and service flexibility.

The present document will provide a review of the recent literature and seek to characterise the different models of paratransit, illustrated in specific examples of cities with highly contrasted realities. The conclusion identifies key elements which warrant more in-depth analysis.