Busses, Business, and Brazil

Los Angeles, Seattle, Seoul, San Diego, Detroit, and Bogotá are all trying to revamp their bus systems. But they are not looking to any of the world’s most famous cities for inspiration. Instead it’s Curitiba, a city of 1.7 million in southern Brazil.[1]

City planning for a better mobility

Curitiba’s transportation system did not become the envy of the world overnight. It is the result of decades of city planning and ingenious leadership. The first step was re-zoning the metropolis. An earlier plan for the city focused the economic centre of the city around the old downtown area and widened a few main streets to allow for more cars. But in the 1970’s the city closed down the downtown city blocks to cars and reserved them for pedestrians. Then, instead of centralizing the retail area, it expanded retail zoning along parallel corridors. Both of these changes unclogged the centre city and encouraged growth.

Business Mobility in 90 seconds

At the same time as the re-zoning project, Curitiba’s city leaders contemplated a new mass transit system. Light rail and subway systems were out of the question because of their high price tag and long construction period. Instead, the city planners chose to make a bus system that could rival any subway system, and the resulting Rede Integrada de Transporte (RIT) or Integrated Transport Network does. Curitiba’s RIT has four distinguishing features: an unparalleled frequency, unique bus stops, a single flat rate, and a bus hierarchy.

The bus system allows for business mobility with some bus lines arriving at the stations as frequently as every 90 seconds. The city can handle such frequency because it already has lanes reserved for busses. But more importantly, passengers can board and exit the busses quickly and efficiently thanks to the system’s unique bus stations. Each station is a transparent tube and is designed with all of the advantages a normal subway platform has. Passengers pay their fare as they enter the station, not the bus, thereby limiting congestion. The station is also raised off the ground, and when a bus pulls up, a platform is extended to the station allowing pedestrians, strollers, and wheelchairs to effortlessly board the bus. Today, the busses serve around 1,3 million passengers.[2] Each passenger pays about 30 Euro cents for a bus ride no matter if she is a businesswoman living in the city centre or if he is a factory worker who lives on the other side of the city and needs to transfer twice. The bus hierarchy has three levels. One kind of bus winds through individual neighbourhoods, another connects the neighbourhoods to circumferential routes around the city, and the final type of bus drives up and down the five major corridors that lead in and out of the city centre.

Busses for future business mobility

Curitiba’s RIT may be a paradigm to many other transportation systems, but in recent years several problems have arisen. Despite the rapid availability and flat rate, ridership has been declining within the city and residents are asking for car permits at two-and-a-half times the birth rate.[3] But the city has developed the bus system over three decades and it does not plan to give up now. The only question is: what can it do better? Please find more pictures on the bus lines and stations here: http://pinterest.com/pin/54254370480488176/ http://pinterest.com/pin/5699936998801841/ http://pinterest.com/pin/52354414388396584/

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