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Final Evaluation and Learning Exercise Report of Colombia Transit-Oriented Development is Now Available

August 16, 2021
new bus lanes in Colombian street
Image: © Rodrigo Diaz / NAMA Facility

New bike lanes, cable cars and bus rapid transit systems like the TransMilenio are spreading. The Transit Oriented Development (TOD) NAMA combines these measures with urban development to make Colombian cities more liveable and sustainable.

The Colombia NAMA Support Project “Transit-Oriented Development (Colombia TOD for short)” seeks to address the main barriers preventing urban development in Colombia from becoming more aligned with TOD principles. While this ELE was intended to cover both components of the Support Project, Technical Cooperation (TC) and Financial Cooperation (FC), the FC ended up facing serious delays due to unforeseen complications.

As such, AMBERO and Oxford Policy Management undertook a final evaluation and learning exercise (ELE) on the progress of the TC alone, between July and October 2020. The exercise asks if the NSP has achieved its results, whether it has started to trigger transformational change, and what learnings the NAMA Facility and the broader climate community might glean from the Support Project’s work.

Some of the ELE’s main findings include: 

  • Strong and consistent evidence of alignment of the Support Project with national priorities and needs. Interviews with city officials revealed that Colombian cities (e.g. Pasto, Manizales, Medellin, Bogota) are increasingly adopting sustainability goals, which the Support Project has helped to define and pursue.
  • The creation and continuity of CIUDAT, a centre for the promotion of Transit Oriented Development housed within the Colombian development bank Findeter, was a substantial achievement. In the longer term, there is strong evidence that the Support Project will enable CIUDAT to naturally become Colombia’s national coordinating unit for transport sector NAMAs. The major strength of this young institution is that it is able to operate with lower budgetary and sectoral constraints than the ministries. However, it remains to be seen whether it will have the drive and technical capacity to lead a TOD agenda and to promote large-scale expansion and replication.
  • The political coordination worked less well than the technical one, with lower frequency of the Board of Directors’ meetings than expected and variable success throughout the Support Project in keeping the national ministries engaged.
  • The Support Project contributed to improving the understanding of the TOD concept among national NSP stakeholders and city officials directly involved in the NSP pilots’ selection and pre- feasibility process. However, the TOD concept was not widely understood by Colombian national and city officials who did not work directly on the Support Project pilots, nor by the members of concerned communities.
  • The Support Project appeared to lack the flexibility to tailor the financial instruments (subsidised interest loans) for TOD pilots to the city conditions and needs (e.g. budget constraints, project size, admin costs, etc.).
  • Generally, private developers are still more attracted by investments in suburban developments than in city centre renewal TOD projects.

The evaluators of the ELE derived lessons learnt and accompanying recommendations for future Support Projects in smallholder agriculture along the following themes: 

  • Significance of and need for wider stakeholder engagement (bottom-up push of TOD): Community engagement should be duly planned and executed to maximise ownership while minimising resistance in initial discussions.
  • Need for higher buy-in by national political actors (top-down push of TOD), which could be driven by a charismatic and politically well-connected leader within CIUDAT: The National Government should be visibly and consistently committed to the Support Project, including in adopting a national TOD policy framework and in reviewing regional and urban development contributions to ensure that they promote the TOD coordinated approach both horizontally across sectors, and vertically, among the national and local tiers of government..
  • Importance of flexibility in the financial and technical design of TOD projects: Having a financial portfolio that acknowledges the particular needs of the cities and developers according to the budget constraints, project size, risk profiles, administrative costs and participation of public and private partners could have improved the amount of TOD initiatives delivered under the Support Project.
  • Strategic clarity and regulatory stability are a crucial factor for Transit-oriented Development: TOD and urban renewal efforts require regulatory stability to facilitate the involvement of private developers. An example is Medellin, where the municipalities and the metropolitan organisations are committed to designing and implementing more integrated urban policies and improvements along the mass transit system’s corridors, and have also become valuable partners for private led urban transformation efforts like the “Perpetuo Socorro” area.
  • Innovation takes time, but politics quite often will not wait: The regular application of Political Economy Analysis could help the Support Project Team identify national and local champions, political constraints and opportunities that can help in the mitigation of systemic risks, such as the possibility that short-term focused politicians will not maintain commitments to efforts that are unlikely to pay off politically.

Following the main findings and recommendations of the ELE, the TSU has compiled a management response to address the key points that were raised.

Read more about the Colombian Transit-Oriented Development Project.

Read the full Colombia “Transit-Oriented Development” ELE report and the management response in the Knowledge & Learning Hub.

Find out about NAMA’s working definition of Transformational Change.

The NAMA Facility supports NAMA Support Projects (NSPs) that effect sector-wide shifts toward sustainable, irreversible, carbon-neutral pathways in developing countries and emerging economies. All NSPs in implementation are subject to a mid-term and to a final evaluation and learning exercise (ELE). These ELEs are part of the NAMA Facility’s working approach to catalyse transformational change through incremental monitoring processes that allow fearless learning.

The NAMA Facility commissioned AMBERO and Oxford Policy Management to conduct the ELEs. The exercise is based on a theoretical framework, which involves a document review, participatory workshops, and stakeholder interviews to collect evidence about NSPs’ results and lessons. It is analysed using a theory-based approach centered on the use of contribution analysis reinforced by elements of process tracing. The ELEs seek to address the following questions:

– Has the NSP achieved its results?

– Has the NSP started to trigger transformational change?

– What was learnt from the NSP so far?