Walking across borders: exploring challenges to walkability in the Global South

Project Leader: Joseph Ferreira
Dept of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA,


  • Rounaq Basu, MIT, USA
  • Arnab Jana, IIT Bombay,Mumbai, India
  • Ahana Sarkar, IIT Bombay,Mumbai, India
  • Roberto Ponce-Lopez, Center for the Future of Cities, TEC de Monterrey, Mexico
  • Nelida Astrid Escobedo Ruiz, School of Architecture, Art and Design, TEC de Monterrey, Mexico


Climate change and public health concerns are increasingly necessitating more attention to non-auto modes of transport. By improving walking infrastructure and enhancing the pedestrian experience, we can not only increase walking trips but also transit ridership. The literature on walkability perceptions and barriers is relatively nascent in the Global South, but has been growing recently. Equity and gendered safety challenges will set us back in achieving our climate targets and transitioning our urban transportation systems away from the auto, unless we protect and value the needs of vulnerable groups who are dependent on walking and public transit.

The objectives of this project are to identify critical needs and barriers for pedestrians in transit catchment areas and inform the design of better infrastructure that improves pedestrian experiences for all residents. We address the following research questions. To what extent can emerging big data sources, such as Google Street View, aid in assessing walkability in the Global South? What are the key determinants of walking around different types of rail transit stations? Which challenges and barriers impede walking as a mode of transport and negatively affect pedestrian experiences, especially for women? We choose four diverse rail transit stations – two each in Mumbai, IN and Monterrey, MX – and examine pedestrian infrastructure in their catchment areas.

We also intend to explore determinants of walking propensity and identify challenges and barriers around walking, especially for women. Our research will contribute to a nascent, but growing, knowledge pool of walkability challenges in the Global South that go beyond infrastructure issues to also look at gendered perceptions of safety. We also outline ways in which this project can contribute to better research, teaching, mentoring, outreach, and policy and practice outcomes across international borders, and facilitate Global North-South knowledge exchange.