Sustainable transport may not be the first thing people associate with Brazil—a country that typically calls up images of soccer, samba and coffee. But that may be about to change.
With an additional 2.98 million visitors expected to flock to South America’s largest country for the 2014 World Cup, urban planners are seizing what they see as a golden opportunity to upgrade sustainable transport systems in the 12 host cities. And in this nation of buses, that means special attention to state-of-the-art bus rapid transit (BRT) systems, which provide faster, more efficient service than ordinary bus lines. Federal, state and local governments in Brazil have already committed nearly $6.5 billion in urban transit investments for the purpose, a figure that’s expected to increase with private investments.
For more insight into Brazil’s approach to sustainable transport and in particular to BRT systems, Smart+Connected Communities Institute spoke with Toni Lindau, Ph.D., director of the Center for Sustainable Transport in Brazil (CTS-Brasil), which is part of EMBARQ [the producer of this blog]—a global network of sustainable transport centers designed to improve quality of life in cities.
What are the main challenges facing Brazil from a sustainable transport perspective as it prepares to host the 2014 World Cup?
Toni Lindau: Brazil’s government would say we are well on our way to a sustainable transportation system. Brazil is very proud of its ethanol program where gas purchased at the pump is about 25 percent ethanol from sugar cane. We are also much less dependent on cars than the United States, where public transportation accounts for only about 5 percent of urban travel. In Brazil, half of all motorized urban travel occurs on public transport, the vast majority of it buses. We are probably the bus nation of the world. Yes, buses pollute because they still run mostly on diesel, but society is now demanding much cleaner fuels like biodiesel, natural gas, clean diesel and eventually hydrogen beginning to come online.
That said, the World Cup is a great opportunity to upgrade our bus systems, and to move from ordinary, privately operated bus lines to BRTs, which Brazil has pioneered. We have corridors that run more than 100 buses per hour at the peak direction, and many of the buses are empty because there are too many lines overlapping and competing with each other. BRT systems provide optimized services with articulated or double-articulated buses that can handle about 15,000 passengers per hour, per lane, per direction. This is one of the main things we’re working on for the World Cup.
What are some of the main transportation projects taking place?
Toni Lindau: Brazil is planning nearly 300 miles of BRT corridors for the 12 World Cup cities. In Rio de Janeiro, the major World Cup venue, CTS-Brasil is supporting some very significant changes, including at least 75 miles of BRT corridors and about 185 miles of improvements in bus routes, such as bus lanes, better signaling, better user information, rationalization of bus lines and so on. And, of course, these BRT projects will remain after the World Cup and after the Olympic Games in 2016. There’s no point in planning systems that will not survive after these events.
To read the full interview, click here.