Jordan: Increasing Public Transport Demands Call for Inclusive Solutions

Amman  – For inclusive growth and employment, Jordan’s residents, including women and the youth, need efficient, reliable, safe, and cost-effective public transport. The estimated cost to Jordan of transport-related inefficiencies was about US$3 billion a year, or at least 6% of GDP, without counting its impact on women’s participation in the labor force. Investments in public transport are enablers to enhancing the sector. These investments should align with reforms to ensure their success, expand their benefits, and enable economic growth and inclusion.

Jordan Public Transport Diagnostic and Recommendations, a new World Bank report released today, identifies the challenges and constraints standing in the way of an accessible, effective, safe, affordable, gender sensitive and sustainable public transport system. The report examines their consequences and provides practical advice based on Jordan’s transport system analysis and good global practices in public transport.

Women make up only one-third of the passengers on public transport in Jordan, and less than 50% use public transport. Poor public transport makes it harder for women and young people without cars to work. Women’s low participation in the country’s labor market means Jordan’s economy can lose about US$65 million a year in productivity by 2030.

Demand for mobility investments has been increasing over the past 15 years in Jordan, whose growing population is concentrated mainly in Amman. However, higher demand has not been adequately met by the improved quality of public transport, resulting in low ridership and a shift to the use of private vehicles. Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from Jordan’s transport sector are estimated to have increased to over 11,000 Gg of CO2 a year over the same time frame, costing the economy a staggering US$500 million to US$1,000 million per year.

“Improving the public transport system in Jordan could bring about large gains in human capital, especially for Jordanian women, and gains for the environment and economy,” said Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Mashreq Regional Director. “Jordan is in a position to create an accessible, reliable, affordable, gender sensitive and green public transport system that provides everyone access to services and job opportunities and contributes to decarbonization.”

Some of the key challenges facing the sector include: (i) poor coverage and the low frequency of public transport; (ii) the lack of the integration of services and fares, leading to long commuting times and high transport costs; (iii) the low quality of services, which tend to be unreliable and perceived as unsafe, especially by women; and (iv) the lack of universal accessibility. Operationally and institutionally, the public transport system is also fragmented.

The Government of Jordan has launched various initiatives to improve the transport sector. In 2017, a new law laid out a framework for reforms, and pilot projects and other efforts are underway. The Government of Jordan introduced a Code of Conduct in 2019, the first-ever of its nature in the sector, aimed at setting standards for the public behavior of passengers, drivers, and operators—designed for the good of all users, but particularly for women and girls.

“Transport is a vital sector for the Kingdom’s economy and an important component of the daily life of Jordanians,” said H.E. Eng. Wajih Azaizeh, Minister of Transport. “Enhancing Public transport is a key priority as part of our updated long-term strategy, aimed at satisfying the transport demand within a framework of social, economic, financial and environmental sustainability to support the economic development of the country fully.”

More effort is needed to optimize bus systems and extend the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network in Amman and other areas as cities grow. The report has six top recommendations: (i) consolidating bus operators; (ii) integrating tariffs and operations; (iii) implementing Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS); (iv) developing a traffic demand management program that includes managing parking, restricting cars, and introducing congestion charges; (v) developing a Road Safety National Plan, as well as pedestrian and cycling masterplans; and (vi) coupling investments in public transport projects with urban renewal and development.

Reforming public transport is essential for green growth and inclusion. Investments in public transport, such as the BRT, can enhance the sector and should be coupled with reforms to ensure their success and expand the benefits to everyone.

The report was launched today during a regional workshop on Improved Gender-Responsive Public Transport for All in the Mashreq in Amman, that brought together representatives from the public sector, private sector, academia civil society organizations from Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan. The workshop discussed the findings and recommendations of the Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq public transport diagnostics, with a particular focus on gender considerations in public transport. The workshop also highlighted the main challenges related to public transport in the three countries and the opportunities to enhance the public transport systems in each of them, building on international experience and lessons learned, and focusing on gender in public transport.