The 10-member Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has a population of more than 630 million. ASEAN has grown to become the sixth-largest economy in the world. It is projected to further grow by 5.2% every year over the next decade. The region’s demographic – 60% of its population is below 35 years of age – and economic growth is leading to rapid urbanisation. By 2025, 75% of ASEAN’s population is expected to live in urban areas. A lot of this growth is expected in medium-sized urban centres. Such centres between 200,000 and 2 million – Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Nong Khai, and Can Tho are SMMR project partners.

With rapid urbanisation, transport challenges increase, such as congestion, pollution and social inequality in access to mobility. The lost time and higher transport cost of traffic congestion cost Asian economies 2-5% of their GDP.

The urban sprawl beyond administrative city limits adds a further level of complexity to the economic and environmental challenges on a metropolitan scale. Lack of coordination between different governmental bodies leads to bottlenecks in infrastructure and weak transport services, which in turn stimulates private car ownership. It is estimated that sales of passenger cars in ASEAN will double between 2015 and 2025 to over 3 million vehicles sold per year. This will put additional pressure on the already congested cities.