With 80% of its population living in cities, Latin America is the most urbanized region in the developing world. This rate will grow to around 85% over the next 10 years, according to forecasts from entities such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

In general, Latin America's large cities have expanded with little planning of public spaces, favoring the car over public transport. To discourage increased vehicle use, ease congestion and improve urban transport, governments are focusing their efforts on building new subways, or metros, and expanding existing lines.

To a lesser extent, so-called Bus Rapid Transit systems (BRTs) are being expanded too, while light rail lines and cable cars are also being built.

Sao Paulo skyline. (Credit: AFP)

During the present decade, new metros have been built in cities including Panama City and Lima, while subway projects are underway in Bogotá and Quito, which are at different stages of development due to their complexity or the economic situation in each country. At present, there are major metro networks operating in Latin America's largest cities, such as Mexico City, São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Caracas and Santiago.These developments are a promising sign for the future of subways. According to a report by the IDB, Latin American countries are on track to invest around US$40 billion in 20 metro construction or expansion projects by 2025. The largest initiatives are the Bogotá metro (US$7.50 billion), lines 3 and 6 of the Lima metro (about US$5.50 billion each), line 3 of the Panama City metro (US$2.80 billion) and the second stage of the Quito metro (US$1.50 billion).

Some of the works under construction include lines 3 and 6 of the Santiago subway, the extension of line 2 of the São Paulo metro, the final section of line 1 of the Panama City metro, line 2 of the Lima subway, the expansion of line H in Buenos Aires and the first phase of the Quito metro.

Figure: Forecast of Urban and Rural Population in Latin America through 2050

Figure: Booming Regions


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