Our Health and Road Safety Team trekked south to Rio de Janeiro last month, to inspect the recently opened Transoeste BRT. EMBARQ has been working closely with Rio’s BRT authority since the project’s inception, conducting road safety audits and inspections and conducting operational simulations of the proposed corridors.
Transoeste, the first of four bus rapid transit lines that will criss cross Rio in preparation for the Olympics (including TransCarioca, TransOlimpica and TransBrasil) provides a new connection for commuters between Barra da Tijuca – a neighborhood in the south of Rio and the location of the 2016 Olympic Village – and the western suburb of Santa Cruz. However, some safety issues have been observed, particularly on a 12 km stretch of the 40 km transitway along Avenida das Americas. Pedestrians crossing mid-block are the main safety concern, with several serious crashes already recorded. Despite that crashes involving the BRT are frequently covered by the local media, the inherent flaws of the corridor exist in the roadway’s pedestrian amenities. Av. das Americas is a 90 meter wide arterial with as many as 12 lanes in some locations, and a speed limit of 80-kilometers per hour; all of which is incompatible with a safe environment for pedestrians.
Though cutting across this river-of-vehicles is obviously dangerous, there is an incentive for pedestrians to take the risk. Crossing this 90 meter stretch -about the length of a soccer field- using the existing signalized crosswalks and can take up to 8 minutes, due to excessively long wait times at existing crosswalks. The City of Rio has taken action to ameliorate these inherent flaws. The EMBARQ team conducted a road safety inspection along this perilous stretch. The teams, after a weeklong site visit followed by three weeks of working on crafting recommendations, concluded that signalized crossings should be provided in areas with a high demand for pedestrian crossings and that signal configurations need to be improved. Such improvements can reduce the 8 minute journey across Av. das Americas to 80 seconds. This, paired with speed reductions along the length of the corridor will help minimize conflicts between pedestrian and traffic, while adding less than 3 minutes to the total travel times on the BRT. A full report of these recommendations will be available by month’s end.