Belo Horizonte, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro announced co-winners of the 2015 Sustainable Transport Award
Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo - Co-winners of the 2015 Sustainable Transport Award

The Brazilian cities of Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo were honored with the 2015 Sustainable Transport Award, recognizing profound vision and leadership in sustainable urban mobility.

The winners of the 2015 Sustainable Transport Award have been announced! Organized by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), the Sustainable Transportation Award (STA) recognizes outstanding vision and innovation in sustainable transport over the past year. Announced today at an awards ceremony in Washington, DC, three Brazilian cities are being jointly recognized for their achievements improving urban mobility: Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo.

ITDP awards the STA in partnership with other members of the sustainable transport steering committee, which includes EMBARQ, producer of TheCityFix. The award has been given annually since 2005, and has honored 12 cities for their work improving mobility for all citizens, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and improving safety and access for cyclists and pedestrians in public spaces.

Other 2015 finalists included Bhopal, India; Brasília, Brazil; Cape Town, South Africa; Gurgaon, India; Hensinki, Finland; Iloili City, Philippines; Milan, Italy; Surat, India; and Toluca, Mexico.

This year’s recipients mark an encouraging trend in sustainable transport across Brazil, and demonstrate best practices in urban mobility to inspire cities worldwide.

Learn more about how these three Brazilian cities transformed urban mobility in 2014:

Belo Horizonte

Belo Horizonte: Co-winner of the 2015 Sustainable Transport Award

Belo Horizonte implemented a new urban mobility plan and bus rapid transit (BRT) system in 2014, helping it become a co-recipient of the 2015 Sustainable Transport Award. Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. The photo above, taken in the center of this state capital, shows that with political will and serious work, cities can become more pleasant, safe, and people-oriented places. Ahead of its time, Belo Horizonte was the first Brazilian city to develop a mobility plan – the PlanMob-BH – that was aligned to the National Urban Mobility Policy. The plan outlines improvements for the next 20 years and encourages public participation through tools like the Centre for Mobility, a platform that allows citizens to voice their demands for urban mobility.

Private car ownership remains a major challenge in Belo Horizonte, the sixth-largest city in Brazil. Car ownership has risen 7.3% in seven years, while travel by public transport grew by only 3.2% in the same time. In response, the PlanMob-BH also outlines the future expansion of transport and sustainable urban development.

In March 2014, the city opened the first line of its bus rapid transit (BRT), the MOVE system. It was developed over four years using international best practices with technical support from EMBARQ Brasil. Today, it carries 480,000 passengers daily on two corridors, Cristiano Machado and Antônio Carlos. The system has reduced average travel time by 40%, and when completed, it will extend 23.1 km (14.4 miles) and carry more than 500,000 beneficiaries.

In addition to BRT, PlanMob-BH also calls for revitalized public space around transit stops based on the concept of transit-oriented development (TOD). In addition, Belo Horizonte is building a cycling network that will have 320 km (199 miles) of bike paths, of which 27 km (17 miles) have been completed. Through these changes, the city has come to life and the local economy has gained strength.

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro: Co-winner of the 2015 Sustainable Transport Award

Rio has made great strides reducing traffic congestion, improving road safety, and implementing high quality public transit, garnering it recognition as a co-winner of the 205 Sustainable Transport Award. Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil.

The iconic city overlooked by Christ the Redeemer now has a network of BRT corridors benefiting 400,000 people every day. Together, the TransOeste and the TransCarioca systems have 95 km (59 miles) of dedicated routes. Once completed, the BRT network will also feature the TransOlímpica and TransBrasil routes, which will carry about one million people. EMBARQ Brasil provided technical support for Rio’s BRT implementation, and performed simulations on three corridors that paved the way for Rio’s selection as the host of the 2016 Olympic Games by the International Olympic Committee.

Next year, the city aims to provide more than 60% of the population with access to a complete network of public transport, from BRT to rail systems. All systems will be integrated through a single electronic payment card. These steps will promote greater social equality by providing increased access to jobs, healthcare, education, and entertainment. In addition to public transport, an important asset for sustainable cities are bike networks and bike infrastructure. In this spirit, Rio is expected to complete 450 km (280 miles) of bike paths by next year.

Rio has also created the Municipal Council of Transportation, a body made up of government and civil society that will develop, propose, and supervise the implementation of mobility policies.

São Paulo

São Paulo: Co-winner of the 2015 Sustainable Transport Award

São Paulo, Brazil was selected as a co-recipient of the 2015 Sustainable Transport Award for its progress implementing dedicated bus lanes, building cycling culture, and expanding public spaces. Photo by Fabio Arante/City Hall.

A combination of huge investment in quality public transport, renewed focus on the urban environment, and a new open data policy puts São Paulo among the leading global cities taking innovative steps to increase efficiency and livability.

The city’s accomplishments in 2014 include the introduction of MobiLab, a platform for entrepreneurs and researchers to leverage open data for solutions, applications, and technologies to meet urban mobility needs. Complementing this, the city initiated Operação da liçença para o ônibus (“Make way for the bus”), resulting in the addition of 320 km (199 miles) of dedicated bus lanes helping to reduce travel time. These dedicated lanes are estimated to shorten time spent traveling by 40 minutes each day, giving people an additional 20 hours per month to live, not commute. This is especially important as the majority of São Paulo’s residents travel by public transport.

The city also released a new master plan prioritizing sustainable mobility and urban development. This new plan firmly embeds the city’s shift toward transit-oriented development (TOD), encouraging mixed land uses, better pedestrian infrastructure, and active ground floors. Finally, the city expanded its network of bike lanes, and has set the ambitious goal of completing 400 km (249 miles) of bike lanes by the end of 2015. In an exclusive interview with TheCityFix Brasil, the city’s Transportation Secretary claimed that the city has implemented 10 km of new bike paths per week.


To learn more about the Sustainable Transport Award, visit

This article was originally published in Portuguese on TheCityFix Brasil.

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