Pedestrians x Urban Development vs BRT X Cars

Isn’t this the truth all planners and urban designers are hiding from  – we are in love with our cars and the motor industry is doing everything in its power to sell more – Europe’s fate depends on it – Isn’t that what makes Germany able to pay for all its poor lazy cousins in the South? Cape Town’s much vaunted BRT system no doubt helps a bit of congestion – but at what astronomical price?


This is my debut on Urban Times and after thinking much about what kind of issues I would like to propose in this very first publication, I realized that nothing could express my future contribution here better than a ‘urbanist’ discussion involving pedestrians and urban development.

I’m Brazilian. I came from the “new world”, more exactly, from the “most developed city” in Brazil in terms of the quality of life. Curitiba is well known between architects and urbanists all around the world because of its supposedly innovative transportation system. This is nothing but a special bus lane, wherein bi-articulated buses circulate carrying almost 1 million passengers per day. These buses are powered by gasoline. They cross the city from its two principal axes: north-south and east-west. Commuters are formed mainly by workers and students that don’t have a driving license yet.

In Curitiba, there are no metro or trams. Electric vehicles are far from making an appearance on the streets and even bio-diesel, the ecological fuel produced in the country, is not filling up all the bus tanks (very few vehicles use this kind of gas). But this same proud city, which has already won many international prizes, including the Sustainable Transport Award 2010, from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), also holds the amazing record of having the biggest automobile fleet in Brazil. With a population of 1.7 million people, Curitiba has more than 1.2 million cars on the streets. That is, 0.71 cars for each citizen!

Curitiba transportation system (JoelRocha/SMCS)

This absurd statistic, based on more recent demographic numbers provided by IBGE (Brazilian institute of statistics), clearly shows how unsuccessful the transportation system is. But, in a country where a car represents a social status, this reality not only shows social problems but also exhibits an urban development dilemma where cars are more important than people and the urban areas are made to make circulation easy for motorized wheels. This model, I have to say, is responsible for the deserted streets that propitiates the rising of urban violence (no people on the street = perfect habitat for criminals).

Living in Paris since April, I sadly feel that Brazilians cities, Curitiba especially, are driving in reverse. While my hometown stimulates more and more people to have their own cars, and simply ignores the existence of the bicycles, what I see in Paris is a surprisingly good example of urban policies that are trying to put the automobiles away without risking city development. In this moment, two of the most important public projects will transform areas of the intense traffic into pleasant pedestrianised spaces.

The first one is taking place around the Place de la République, one of the most crucial circulation axes of the French capital, on the way to the north of the city. Until 2013, the area will be entirely rehabilitated to become a pedestrian’s paradise, free of cars. The second one will reconfigure the left bank of the Seine, bringing an even more expressive transformation. About 2.4 km of the lanes will be closed down to traffic and in its place will be constructed an sporting and leisure facility, including gardens and floating islands, where cultural events will entertain (more) the day-to-day life of Parisians.

A vision of the future bank (image source: REUTERS/Apur/JC Choblet)

So if I go back to my introductory proposition: does this old-fashioned habit of walking, increasing everyday here in Europe, makes life easier, or does it serves as a barrier on the development of emerging countries, such as Brazil?

MyCiTi receives rave reviews

Cape Town’s new BRT system starts its trails – in more ways than one its  inception has been tedious – at least there are some who are enthralled by it -By Babalo Ndenze and Matthew Jordaan on iol news

The new MyCiTi bus service received rave reviews from commuters when it officially took to the

Daniel Wijsbroek and Dorothy Faught were among the first passengers when the MyCiTi bus service started its trial week. Photo: Matthew Jordaan

road for the first time on the route from Table View to Cape Town on Monday.

The long-awaited Integrated Rapid Transit (IRT) system, called MyCiTi, which has come under heavy criticism from some quarters for delays and for serving only the elite, got off to a flying start, selling about 350 tickets by the early afternoon.

Social networking websites were also abuzz as MyCiTi became a national trending topic on Twitter.

Rene de Kock had the honour of being the first passenger when she boarded the 9am bus from Table View for a 30-quick minute hop to town.

“I used to sit in traffic for two hours. I’d be on the freeway at 6.15am and would only get into town about 7.30am or 7.45am. I’m falling in love with the bus already,” said De Kock, who only had to walk a few metres to Standard Bank Cash Centre from the Civic Centre station.

Peter Solomon, the first member of the public to be sold a ticket in the opposite direction, from Cape Town to Table View, said it was “fortuitous”. Continue reading

Best Practices in Integrated Transport Systems and BRT in Latin America

by Erica Schlaikjer  on The City Fix

The 2011 SIBRT Congress is co-hosted by Metrovia, a bus rapid transit system in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Image via Wikipedia.  The 2011 SIBRT Congress is co-hosted by Metrovia, a bus rapid transit system in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Image via Wikipedia.

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Representatives from the most influential transit agencies in Latin America will join bus system developers and other international transport experts on April 25-28 to share “Best Practices in Integrated Transport Systems and Bus Rapid Transit in Latin America.” The four-day conference is hosted by the Latin American Integrated Systems and BRT Association (SIBRT) and co-organized by Metrovía Foundation and EMBARQ (the producer of this blog), with the support of the Municipality of Guayaquil. Continue reading