top of page
  • Writer's pictureJuhi

Resilient Transport for Resilient Cities: The What?

Mariane Jang has over fifteen years' international experience in urban policy, governance, sustainable development, and program management. She has spoken and published a number of articles and reports on sustainable urban development and resilient transport, and her experience spans consultancy, non-profit and academic organisations.

Most recently, Mariane led 100 Resilient Cities' (100RC) work on the intersection of transport & land use, governance, and urban resilience for cities across the network. In that capacity, she built up global partnerships with academic, non-profit, and for-profit organisations, and conducted research and engagement with partners and city stakeholders to develop the concept of “resilient transport”. She led expert workshops to provide recommendations to cities on specific transport/land use problems through a multidisciplinary lens, and connected partners and resources to cities in an effort to help cities find innovative solutions to their resilience challenges.

She previously led research on transport, land use planning, and urban development at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, where she co-authored a set of metrics for benchmarking transit-oriented developments that was endorsed by UN-Habitat, the TOD Standard. She has also worked for global design and engineering consultancy Arup, LSE Cities at the London School of Economics, and as a Fellow for the NYC Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability. She has a BA in Social and Political Sciences from the University of Cambridge, and a MSc from the London School of Economics. She sits on the board of Outer Seed Shadow, a non-profit that creates and supports public spaces in underserved communities in New York City.


Priti and I introduced the concept of resilient cities in our first blog and podcast, and this week we were delighted to talk to someone who has been at the heart of work on resilient cities: Mariane Jang.

Resilient city or climate resilience?

Often in sustainability, there is an assumption that resilience refers to climate resilience, synonymous with climate adaptation (adapting to climate change). According to the Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions:

Climate resilience is the ability to anticipate, prepare for, and respond to hazardous events, trends, or disturbances related to climate. Improving climate resilience involves assessing how climate change will create new, or alter current, climate-related risks, and taking steps to better cope with these risks.

Climate resilience is often associated with acute events – like heavy downpours, hurricanes, or wildfires – that will become more frequent or intense as the climate changes. However, good resilience planning also accounts for chronic events, like rising sea levels, worsening air quality, and population migration. Businesses and governments alike are planning now for the environment and economy they will face in the future.

However, Mariane suggests that resilience in an urban context should take a broader view. Mariane defines resilient cities as those that are planning for, investing in, and implementing policies, programmes and initiatives that address the risks and vulnerabilities that their city faces today and could face in the future. These risks would, of course, include risks from climate change.

This means that cities need to think in systems, in a more multi-disciplinary and integrated way about policies and initiatives. Resilient cities also:

  • Gather knowledge and information about known and unknown risks and vulnerabilities, like natural or man-made disasters or longer term issues that arise within society such as racial inequality, homelessness and lack of green space.

  • Engage with their citizens, including all different communities, and with their regional and national governments and collaborate across agencies and departments to understand how best to be prepared for for these disasters, or crises (such as race riots).

  • Examine their governance structures and ensure that they are able to meet the cities' changing needs.

  • Consider how the investments that they make today can not only prepare them for the next disaster but but also simultaneously deliver multiple benefits to address the city's ongoing issues, such as lack of affordable housing or congestion.

Measuring City Resilience

There are various ways to measure city resilience, including this framework developed by the OECD (see below):

Mariane recommends the City Resilience Index (CRI): a set of 100RC tools and approaches developed by Arup (the global design and engineering firm where Mariane and I worked almost 15 years ago), with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, for cities to explore and evaluate their resilience (see below).

The CRI Assessment is designed to create a resilience baseline and enables cities to measure and monitor the multiple factors that contribute to their resilience. Its primary purpose is to diagnose strengths and weaknesses and measure relative performance over time.

The CRI can be used to either perform a Rapid Resilience Review or to assess baseline resilience performance. The data collection process includes 156 qualitative and questions on 24 topics to create a city's resilience profile and assessment.

Designing a resilient transport system

Similar to considering how to make a city resilient, Mariane points out that transport needs to be considered through a systems lens i.e. as a system that enables mobility, not just how much things cost to run or how efficient they are. Transport systems are comprised of multiple modes (car, cable car, subway, train etc) and have multiple networks and assets (bicycle lanes, stations etc).

Resilient transport systems recognise the interdependencies between the transport infrastructure and other city systems such as water, energy, waste, economy, health, education etc. They understand the risks to the transport system, whether natural, such as earthquakes or flooding or man-made risks, such as ageing infrastructure. The biggest opportunities are when undertaking new projects or retrofitting infrastructure, to take a systems view considering current and future 'stresses' to the transport system and try to ensure that projects will deliver multiple benefits to ensure value for investment.

Building Back Better doesn't mean more roads

Post-Covid-19, Mariane points out we can learn from how other urban transit systems, such as the MTR system in Hong Kong, dealt with SARS. It cost a lot to keep the trains running and disinfect them, but it rebounded after the crisis passed. She reminds us that public transport systems are the backbone of any good public transport system, and are disproportionately used by those on lower incomes who can't afford to live in city centres. As grassroots organisations like Gen Zero point out, we need equitable and low-carbon transport infrastructure and evidence shows that building more roads actually creates congestion so it's not a great option for 'building back better'.

"When building back infrastructure, cities need to not only be prepared for the next disaster but also must consider what what other kinds of disasters might occur and what other kind of benefits could you build in?" - Mariane Jang

City resilience in NZ

Finally, in New Zealand we have great examples of resilient cities which have been through, and recovered from earthquakes, storms and sadly, terrorism.

Christchurch put in place the Resilience Greater Christchurch Plan" supported by the Mayor. The Plan describes how Christchurch can build resilience through four goals, each with related programmes and actions:

  • We are connected communities living in adaptable places

  • We are a community that participates in shaping our future

  • We are prosperous by sustaining the vitality of the natural environment, fostering innovation and attracting people

  • We understand our risks to be better prepared for future challenges

"We know that we will encounter future challenges. This is not simply about preparing our infrastructure or our built environment and it’s not about bouncing back to the way things used to be. For us, resilience will be about understanding the risks and challenges we face and developing ways to adapt and co-create a new normal. The strength of our resilience lies in us, not just as individuals, but as communities and whānau." - Greater Christchurch Partnership

Wellington also has a Resilience Strategy:

Its Chief Resilience Officer - Mike Mendonça - says it all:

"...resilience can be a state of mind and an attitude that embraces adaptability and positivity. We Kiwis pride ourselves on these things.”

Resilience and transport are massive topics and we can't do justice to them both in one blog. There are many questions, sometimes more than there are answers, like where does wellbeing of citizens figure in a resilient city. This is the first of many deep dives we will be doing into specific topics such as transport, energy, waste etc.

Read Mariane's 100RC White Paper on Resilient Transport

Check out the 100RC archive of resilient cities around the world

Get in touch with any ideas or comments:

159 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page