Sergio Avelleda on How São Paulo Is Incorporating New Mobility into Its Transport Network

What city has more Uber riders than any other in the world? It’s not New York or Mexico City but São Paulo. Recent research found ride-hailing was the most frequent mode of transport for 5 percent of the metropolitan population of more than 12 million. In a city where the daily average commute time is two hours anything that helps people move around is a boon.

However, ride-hailing services have not been universally positive for cities. Some research on the entry of these “new mobility” companies into U.S. cities shows that they are increasing the number of cars on the street and moving more people from active and public modes of transport to private modes. This has raised alarm in the public sector about the long-term impact of these services on efforts to reduce congestion and increase sustainability and public health.

In 2016, São Paulo became the first city in Brazil to regulate ride-hailing, and the city enacted several unique measures to help shape the impact of these services.

“We authorized these companies to operate in São Paulo under some rules,” says Sergio Avelleda, who was Secretary of Mobility and Transport for the city from 2017 to 2018 and now heads WRI Ross Center’s mobility work.

First, the city instituted a progressive tax on ride-hailing services. Companies pay 0.10 BRL (about $0.03) per kilometer driven as a base rate for the use of public space. But, in order to discourage simply flooding the streets with as many drivers as possible, this rate increases if companies account for more than 36,000 kilometers driven in any hour of the day.

“At the same time we created some discounts to [encourage] these companies to reach some public goals,” says Avelleda. Incentives include discounts for women drivers, discounts for trips starting outside downtown, discounts for trips outside peak hours, and discounts for electric or hybrid cars.

São Paulo’s regulations also include requirements for vehicles, drivers and the service itself. All cars used for ride-hailing should be less than eight years old, drivers must pass through a 16-hour training course, and apps must include mechanisms for driver feedback and electronic payment. Since ride-hailing generates a huge volume of data, all operating companies are required to share data on trips with the municipality so it can be used in planning.

All requirements from the São Paulo regulation can be found in the New Mobility Regulatory Database, developed by WRI Ross Center. This is the first database of its kind that focuses on mapping and analyzing how cities from the global south are regulating these services, and all policies – by federal, state and city level – from Brazil, China, India and Mexico are included. The database counts more than 90 mapped regulations categorized by 21 different indicators.

Francisco Minella Pasqual is an Urban Mobility Intern at WRI Brasil with a focus on new sustainable mobility and its regulations