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TOD NAMA Delivers National Policy Roadmap for Colombia

Updated: Jan 28, 2021

The technical phase of the Colombia TOD NAMA has come to a close, with CIUDAT firmly established to move forward on its own, providing technical and financial assistance for TOD projects. But projects need a context of supportive policy to prosper, and the legacy of CCAP’s involvement and the technical phase is setting a path toward that. This year, the NAMA Support Project developed a comprehensive national roadmap for strategic policy change that will help TOD flourish in the coming decades. No other country has prepared such an articulation of a national TOD policy framework to intregrate transport, land use and housing and reduce GHGs. Successful implementation of these recommendations will provide the regulatory framework, incentives and market support to scale up and replicate TOD neighborhoods in cities across Colombia.


Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) is an urban development model that joins urban planning and mobility to improve people’s quality of life and facilitate their access to goods and the services offered by the city. The TOD model develops neighborhoods around stations and main corridors of public transport. It aims to decrease the usage of inefficient passenger transport modes and reduce the global and local negative impacts in the environment (i.e., GHG emissions, noise, and air pollutant emissions). Through the creation of safe and public spaces, with high-quality design, appropriate densities and a mix of land uses and activities, TOD creates many social and economic benefits for sustainable development.

Figure 1: The nature and dimensions of TOD


The plan behind the policy task of the NAMA was that as the pilot projects in cities advanced, CIUDAT would learn from them about policy, market and technical barriers to TOD and develop recommendations to address them. As the pilot studies were moving forward CIUDAT worked closely with local and national government agencies and held stakeholder workshops to generate and vet new ideas about TOD policy. In 2018, CCAP prepared a Matrix for Potential Policy Tools for Transit Oriented Development in Colombia to inform development of national recommendations.

To help CIUDAT, CCAP hired the SigmaDespacio consortium in 2019 to study barriers and consolidate recommendations for national Transit Oriented Development Policy Guidelines in Colombia. They concluded that the problem was not regulatory barriers, nor an absence of guidance about low-carbon, sustainable urban development and transportation planning, hindering the implementation of these projects. There were simply no strong incentives for TOD development.

A TOD policy must first coordinate the planning process in Colombian cities by integrating and coordinating urban growth and sustainable modes of transportation systems (public transport, walking and cycling). Two examples of the currently existing policies that start to do this are the Colombia National Development Plan 2018-2022 (PND) and the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) for reduction of GHG. The proposed policy recommendations are fully aligned with these existing policies. Taken as a whole they articulate a coordinated set of objectives:

Figure 2: Objectives of the TOD policy Proposal

However, existing implementation policies are scattered, poorly articulated and rely upon sectoral approaches that hinder the coordination of national and local entities. Moreover, the overall vision of what a TOD project should be is varied and poorly articulated, making it difficult to design and implement these types of projects.

National TOD Policy Proposal

Starting from this realization, CIUDAT and SIGMA-Despacio worked to develop a focused set of public policy recommendations that contribute to the transformation of urban development models in Colombian cities. They crafted unified guidelines that offer an inter-sectoral policy framework, with a clear and consistent understanding of TOD that translates into concrete and coordinated actions by the national government, starting with the transport, housing and environment sectors, but ultimately linking to other sectors. The figure below shows the strategic policy recommendation model. Although each element could be implemented independently at the ministry level, it is important that they be articulated and formulated in an overall policy paper or, ideally, through a CONPES document.

Figure 3: Overall structure of the National TOD policy recommendations delivered by the TC component of the TOD NAMA

The basic recommendations provide that the national government should advance the following five strategies:

  • Support a dedicated TOD Unit (Unidad DOTS in Spanish) within government, providing technical assistance for planning, design, finance and evaluation of TOD projects.

  • Create and maintain a TOD project bank that keeps a database of qualified, prioritized TOD projects in the pipeline for funding and implementation.

  • Phase in changes to the co-financing scheme for public transport systems and social housing that would generate powerful incentives and commitments to TOD financing by the national government and territorial entities.

  • Investigate additional strategies to attract private investment.

  • Summarize the guidance and coordinate the changes by proposing a DOTS CONPES (TOD national policy document) for approval by the government.

Financial Incentives for National co-finance

Strong financial incentives for the public sector are the first leg of the strategic recommendations. By making the percentage of national support for local mobility projects contingent upon TOD design, the recommendations send a strong message to cities that the nation is serious about TOD. National share of transport projects varies by current law between 40% and 70%. The recommendations phase in a change such that in the mid-term, the higher percentage goes to TOD-based projects, and in the long term, only TOD-supportive projects can receive national funding.

Figure 4: Recommended phasing of co-financing changes for transport and housing projects

Another similar incentive is proposed for private sector development. Special financing through development banks, as well as direct or rediscounted credit lines for projects would be offered according to the degree of TOD components included. The application of value-capture mechanisms to finance projects could also be considered. The TOD Unit would be responsible for selecting, certifying, and endorsing TOD projects for special finance options.

TOD Unit

The second part of the recommendations is to formalize a technical group within the national government to lead, coordinate, and assess various aspects of TOD policy and process. This TOD Unit will not actually formulate policy — that is the responsibility of each ministry that is involved in TOD policy (e.g., Ministries of Transport, Environment, and Housing), and can be coordinated through the CIUDAT Board (Executive Committee). The role and functions of this unit are explained in the following table:

Figure 5: functions of the TOD Unit

The creation of this technical team and its location inside the National Government will be determined either by the members of CIUDAT’S Executive Committee or the CONPES council. They would choose between two options. The first option is for the TOD Unit’s functions to continue to be conducted by CIUDAT, which is currently implementing the Colombia TOD NAMA, and is housed within Findeter’s unit on Integrated Urban Management (GUI within International Banking), taking advantage of their institutional experience. The second option would be the creation of the TOD Unit inside another area of the National Government, which would coordinate with and complement CIUDAT’s efforts.

Project Bank

Currently, there is no register of projects within Colombia that include TOD elements. Creation of a TOD Project Bank would enable identification and the coordination, design and implementation of projects that fit the technical, legal, and financial conditions of the TOD model. The Project Bank would be maintained by the TOD Unit.

Figure 6: Implementing the Project Bank

Monitoring and Evaluation and MRV

Monitoring and Evaluation tools allow for the tracking of progress in the execution of TOD projects and policies and the impacts of their implementation to guide sustainable urban planning and improve performance outcomes. The MRV (Monitoring, Reporting and Verification) system serves to track GHG emission reductions from specific interventions or projects. (Details on the M&E and MRV toolkit can be found on the CCAP and CIUDAT websites.) The TOD Unit, using the Project Bank will maintain records to support both M&E and MRV processes.

Figure 7: Phase in of the Monitoring and Evaluation system

National Roadmap for TOD Policy Change

The critical path to achieving these proposed policy changes has been mapped out by CIUDAT and their consultants. The journey starts with a new CONPES to codify and guide the steps of the process of change.

Figure 8: The Roadmap for Policy Change

Moving Forward

Sigma-Despacio delivered the policy reports in multiple stages, which were reviewed by CIUDAT’s staff, Advisory Committee and CCAP. Throughout the process, national and local stakeholders were consulted. Urban policy in Colombia was not standing still during this time. While the CIUDAT consultant study was still in progress, a separate CONPES document (3991) was approved for the National Policy on Urban and Regional Mobility. That CONPES focuses on strategies, including TOD, to guide the development of mobility measures and improve the social, environmental and economic well-being of cities. It contains a mobility vision that includes all the actors in the system, with actions to strengthen the institutional capacity of national and territorial entities, and addresses financial mechanisms to implement changes.

Although Colombia’s new National Policy on Urban and Regional Mobility is a step in the right direction, CIUDAT’s policy recommendations complement these changes by more fully incorporating housing policy and strengthening the financial support of TOD projects. The Ministries are considering the additional measures that were included in the DOTS CONPES drafted by the NAMA team. The Housing Ministry has stated that they will use the DOTS CONPES as input to their next CONPES on systems of cities. Other Ministries are supportive of TOD principles and are considering how to integrate the recommendations with their policy priorities going forward.

As Colombia’s urban policy evolves, and new TOD projects, such as Bogota’s impressive Portal de las Américas neighborhood, are implemented across the country, Colombia’s TOD future looks bright. The M&E toolkit will be a key mechanism to support the many opportunities to evaluate and learn from these transformative changes. CIUDAT will continue to play an ever-increasing role in harmonizing and innovating TOD policy ideas, and guiding Colombia to a new 21st Century model of sustainable and equitable prosperity.


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