The grant will fund the project, “An Equity, Ecosystems and Engaged Approach to Informal Transport and Shared Mobility,” to establish seven living labs across Asia, Latin America and Africa.

October 12, 2023           

Media Contact  
Megan Perrero, Partnerships & Engagement Specialist
[email protected]

The Global Network for Popular Transport (GNPT), a project of the Shared-Use Mobility Center (SUMC), is a member of the winning research consortium for the Volvo Research and Educational Foundations’ (VREF) three-year, $1.7 million International Research Program in Informal and Shared Mobility in low- and middle-income countries.

The project, “An Equity, Ecosystems and Engaged Approach to Informal Transport and Shared Mobility,” offers a collaborative, grassroots approach to knowledge creation by establishing seven living labs in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. These labs seek insights into how operational, financial, regulatory, and governance changes enhance shared mobility services. The consortium aims to improve access, services, working conditions, emissions reductions, and public health. 

The project will fill the knowledge and data gaps for rickshaws, mini buses and other forms of information transportation. These transportation options hold a significant role in equitably meeting transportation needs, supporting economies and decarbonizing the transportation sector. GNPT defines informal transportation as the privately provided, publicly serving local transportation services and systems.

“This program presents a great opportunity to strengthen our network by learning from each other, studying the similarities and differences of popular transport in different cities and countries, exchanging experiences and generating valuable insights to contribute to the understanding, recognition, and integration of popular transport into policy and planning around the world,” said Andrea San Gil León, executive director, GNPT.

Led by Columbia University’s Climate School’s Center for Sustainable Urban Development, the consortium comprises four research centers in the United States, South Africa, Colombia, and Thailand; researchers in Ghana and the UK; and four non-governmental organizations based in the United States, China, India, and Costa Rica. The labs will be located in Accra, Ghana; Bangkok,Thailand; Beijing, China; Bogotá, Colombia; Cape Town, South Africa; Kumasi, Ghana; Mumbai, India; and Metro San José, Costa Rica. 

The consortium also counts on support from its associated partners: the Department of Transport of the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (Ghana), the City of Cape Town’s Urban Mobility Directorate, and Loop Woodstock. 

VREF’s Informal and Shared Mobility Program is an initiative to fund research and education on informal transportation and shared mobility in low- and middle-income countries. Through the International Research Program and its other programs, VREF funds work in knowledge building, establishing communities of learning, and nurturing the next generation of scholars focused on the future of sustainable and equitable mobility.

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GNPT is a global network of researchers, consultants, advocates, companies, agencies and institutions committed to changing how the world sees popular (a.k.a. “informal”) transportation. Learn more at



SUMC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, public interest organization and international thought leader working to replace car-centric transportation with people-focused shared mobility to fight climate change, promote equity, and strengthen community. Learn more at