Urban Challenges in Latin America – Making public transport safe for all
9 December 2019 - Gabriela Rodriguez

“Even though our urban challenges are diverse and extensive in context and culture, the shared similarities are far greater. That’s why the view of an expert in urban mobility from Sao Paul, can be of great value for the social issues around a Stockholm subway station…” – a participating social innovator at the kick-off event in Medellín. 


Urban Challenges is a two-year cross-country collaboration involving representatives from Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Sweden. The goal is to create safer public transportation with a focus on people in vulnerable situations: women, children, people with disabilities and the elderly.

Impact Hub Stockholm is working in collaboration with the Swedish Institute and Business Sweden to manage six social innovation projects that will arise in the selected cities: Barranquilla, Bogotá, Naucalpan de Juárez (State of Mexico), Fortaleza, Brasilia and Stockholm. 

The focus is on Sustainable Development Goal target 11.2, to make public transport more developed in Latin America to ensure safe and secure environments in and around public transport hubs; with particular attention to equality and the needs of those in more vulnerable conditions. 

The implementation will involve the collaboration of experts across fields; from government, academia, non-profit organizations and the private sector. They come from all corners of the participating countries and they will work for two years to find solutions to the issues identified in order to increase security in the chosen areas.

The kick-off for the initiative took place with a two-day workshop on November 21-22, 2019, hosted by partnering Impact Hub in Medellin, Colombia.

The launch of the initiative saw the participation of 70+ people, which included the ‘case-owners’ from the participating countries that presented the real-world challenges relating to safety and security in public transport. These case-owners were government representatives of the selected cities, with the capability to act upon these issues. Approximately 40 problem-solvers – experts in their fields – were invited to co-create possible solutions during the two-day workshop. 


Participants gathered at Impact Hub Medellin

The six case topics were:

  • Abuse and sexual harassment at specific bus stations in Bogotá;
  • Motorcyclists who want to offer illegal transport services, damage and vandalize public buses in Barranquilla’s stations;
  • A chaotic transit station in the city of Naucalpan de Juárez, in the state of Mexico, leading to a slow flow of travelers and increase in crime levels;
  • High incidence of travelers being robbed at bus stops along a bus line in the city of Fortaleza, Brazil;
  • Inadequate walkways and poor infrastructure in the city of Brasilia, creating an unsafe environment that prevents women from walking and using public transport;
  • The open drug trade in and around the commuter train traffic in Stockholm creating an unsafe environment for travelers.


The projects focus on specific issues so that the solutions can be developed within the stipulated two-year period.

During the last day of the event, the solutions presented are now being planned to be put into action. The six projects are expected to be developed and implemented within the timeframe. It will be fundamental that the teams leading each project use the local knowledge and support made available to them. 

The multilateral mentorship and the methodology support from the Impact Hub Latin American Network, will enable the understanding of the local culture and identify the particular necessities of the field.

Impact Hub Stockholm will be overviewing the development of the project. The Swedish Institute, throughout its duration, will fund the initiative until December 2021.


In early 2019, a survey was conducted by The Swedish Institute in which respondents from Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and Sweden answered questions about their everyday life and the local environment. A majority of the respondents stated that safety is the main problem area and that they experience great insecurity in public transport. Based on this study, the project was created. Other partners involved in the project include Business Sweden, KTH, UN-Habitat, and Gather.



Gabriela Rodriguez is the Project Manager for ‘Urban Challenges in Latin America – Making Public Transport Safe for All’, a collaboration of Impact Hub Stockholm with the Swedish Institute.