The following is a translation of exclusive interviews with Curitiba's transport innovators from Southern Brazil.
"During the past few decades most city planners around the
world," said Architect Carlos Ceneviva, "prepared for growth
by analyzing traffic volume; so larger streets, avenues, and
overpasses were built to alleviate traffic problems." However,
we know now that Curitiba creator's team, including him, took a different approach. In 1972,
the team closed down their busiest streets, dedicating more
spaces for people. As Hitoshi Nakamura states, "The philosophy
was to have cars, but never be dominated by them." The
creators of Curitiba's public transportation system planned
for people to drive fewer cars and enjoy the city.
Curitiba has over one hundred-year of history of public
transportation. The first system was a tram pulled by a mule
during the imperial time in 1887. From 1910, Curitiba grew
faster; so in 1912 an electrical tram replaced the mule-tracked. In 1928, the first bus begun circulating through the city streets.
Soon after the system became so successful that private companies started
exploring the business. Mayor Ney Braga proposed legislature
to control it. His plan was to create an organized system, and so, the Selective Zones was born and still exists to this day.
In 1974, the existing system did not meet the city's growing
demands. Under his first term, Mayor Jaime Lerner's team of architects and civil engineers implemented the Trinary
Road System and its dedicated Bus Lanes , which is known in
the United States and around the world as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). First of its
kind in the world designed by Architect Rafael Dely. In 1979,
Lerner established the Rede Integrada de Transporte (RIT),
which consists of an integrated system where citizens pay
one ticket to go anywhere in the city within the terminal circuit. In 1980, the articulated
bus replaced the smaller Express buses in the dedicated lanes,
increasing the capacity of the system. In March of 1991, the
Tube Stations and Speedy Bus (Ligeirinho) appeared in Curitiba's
The Speedy Bus, designed to travel long distances without
stop, and Tube Station that made possible embarkation and
debarkation at level with fare collected outside the bus,
increased the number of people using the system. Most users
were car owners who found public transportation reliable,
easier, and less expensive than driving a car. In 1992, the Biarticulated buses, a short
train on tires (They are twenty-five meters long and have
five doors transporting up to 270 passengers), became another
In 1980, the city of Strasbourg, France put out a public awareness
campaign in favor of public transportation showing three images
to make the public aware of the number of buses, cars and
trams needed to transport 215 people. At that time, 174 cars
were needed, three buses, and one tram. Today, just one of
Curitiba's Biarticulated bus carries 270 passengers. If the
system were adopted world-wide, imagine how much less gas,
pollution, and traffic congestions there would be. Imagine
cities around the Greater Monterey and San Francisco Bay connected
with Speedy Buses, making travel and commuting easy, fast,
inexpensive, and less polluting. Perhaps we could eliminate
more ugly overpasses in San Francisco and San Jose. The cities
would be much more pleasant to look at and live in.
The City of Curitiba Transportation System has been adopted, partially, in many cities around the world; including many US cities, such as: Los Angeles, Seattle, Honolulu, Boulder, Houston, and others. However, the system is not as efficient as in Curitiba because, according to Jaime Lerner, the system must be fully adopted, which has not been occurring. Partially as it has been adopted, it does not work. So far, only the City of Bogotá, Colombia, has entirely adopted the system and it became also a model for other cities as Curitiba Transportation System is. The system was also successfully tested in New York City, but the city authorities has not yet gotten into agreement with Curitiba to launch the system permanently.
"The Biarticulated Buses and its dedicated lanes are like an above ground subway system," said Architect Carlos Ceneviva, "with the advantage of lower installation cost per square kilometer." For example, it costs US$100 million per square kilometer to install a subway system versus US$ 3 to 8 million, depending on street development, to install the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. The BRT is a less expensive solution and a comparable competitor to the subway system, thus to invest in more expensive public transportation system is not a smart decision. Curitiba's Public Transportation System is self-sufficient. It pays for itself completely; no subsidize government money is needed at all. It is a privately owned, profitable running business, regulated by the city. It is a clean, safe, efficient, inexpensive, yet profitable business.
To reduce consumption has become an important factor for human survival. Reduction of automobile running on streets will decrease emission of CO2 helping decrease global warming risks and traffic jam. There will be no reason for oil’s wars as well. However, alternative renewable fuels such as the Brazilian alcohol (Ethanol) and other biodiesel to come to the market that are less polluting than gasoline would help with less emission, but it will not help us reduce traffic congestion. The world has to reduce the number of cars running or traffic will be more and more unbearable. Inexpensive and fast public transportation is the convenient solution.