Metropolitan Governance for Sustainable Mobility


Land use and mobility interactions in the modern metropolis manifest themselves in two competing, age-old, forces: centripetal forces pulling us together into agglomerations in the first place, and centrifugal forces pushing us ever further into the metropolitan hinterland. Thus, mobility plays a fundamental part in urbanization and metropolitanization processes. Furthermore, mobility also serves as the core metric in defining metropolitan areas, helping identify “functional urban areas”.

This chapter aims to elucidate some of the challenges to governing the metropolis for sustainable mobility, defined by the author as the capability “to provide non-declining accessibility in time” (Zegras 2011). The paper analyzes mobility governance interrelating theories with concrete examples from the United States, Portugal and Mexico, offering a glimpse of the complexity and posing central yet still unresolved questions. In whose ultimate interest is metropolitan mobility and who should pay for it? How related are the form of governance with the quality of the governance outcome? By what “outcomes” can we compare metropolitan mobility performance? Which outcomes matter: mode shares, emissions, financial sustainability, social rate of return, congestion? Can these be meaningfully compared across metropolises?

The chapter concludes noting a contradiction: despite the finance system is a critical factor in determining metropolitan mobility governance, formal metropolitan mobility finance systems rarely exist. It is argued that using money to move the metropolis in the “right direction” offers hope, largely unfilled to date, to improve accessibility and make it sustainable.


Christopher Zegras is Associate Professor of Transportation and Urban Planning in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT, where he teaches classes on integrated land use-transportation planning, quantitative methods, and transportation finance. He is the Lead Principal Investigator for the Future Urban Mobility research group, sponsored by the Singapore MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, and is MIT Lead of Transportation Systems under the MIT Portugal Program. He has consulted widely for a diverse range of organizations, including the International Energy Agency, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Canadian, German, U.S., and Peruvian Governments, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. He serves on the Boston BRT Study Group and the MIT Transportation and Parking Committee. Prior to becoming a professor, he worked for the International Institute for Energy Conservation in Washington, D.C. and Santiago de Chile and for MIT’s Laboratory for Energy and the Environment. Zegras holds a BA in economics and Spanish from Tufts University, a Master’s Degree in city planning, a Masters of Science in transportation from MIT, and a Ph.D. in urban and regional planning, also from MIT.