The government of Costa Rica could save up to $70 billion in infrastructure expenditures from now until 2050 by following the advice of the International Energy Agency (IEA). A recent research study by that agency, which was reported by Leticia Vindas Quiros of business weekly El Financiero, explains that Costa Rica has clear options in three major transportation categories:

  1. Trips that can be avoided
  2. More efficient modes of transportation
  3. Taking advantage of emission-free technology

Commuter-Train-by-Alan-Dayley-594x446The report by the IEA gives clear examples based on 30 cities around the world that have vastly improved their transportation systems and saved lots of money in the process. One such example is Belgrade in Serbia, which managed to triple its train ridership, which in turn cleared highways from traffic jams. This is very promising for Costa Rica, since the ongoing reactivation of the urban train system serving the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM in Spanish) is the only transportation initiative that has worked thus far.

Other initiatives such as bus services that would run across urban sectors succumbed to silly bureaucratic games and monetary interests that either supported or opposed the project. This is a shame for Costa Rica, since the IEA explains that New York and Seoul are two major cities where bus services have seen increased efficiency.

Bicycle lane projects for downtown San Jose have also stalled, not so much due to bureaucracy but because the growing number of vehicles entering the capital city of Costa Rica leave no room for improvements. The old capital of Cartago, on the other hand, is emerging as a model city where bike riders have their own lanes and train riders are enthusiastic about their new transportation option.

What about a comprehensive plan to rezone the GAM and transportation therein? Once again, bureaucracy, indecision and corruption got in the way. The proposals for Regional Urban Planning of the GAM (PRUGAM in Spanish) and the Territorial Organization of the GAM (POTGAM) were discarded after almost 11 million euros were spent on nothing. Urban planners and academics criticized the plans and mocked the spending, and now Costa Rica is waiting for the GAM Plan 2013 to be unveiled at the end of the year.

Until then, Costa Rica has the IEA research study and its potential savings to consider.