February 03, 2016

TOD in Brazil: The Good, the Bad, and the Inclusive

CN Cover

This post is the second part in a series exploring TOD in Brazil. For a look at how outdated urban growth patterns caused problems in Brazilian cities, and how Transit-oriented Development is helping reshape cities, click here.

Transit-oriented Development has gained traction in Brazil in recent years, influencing national policies, city master plans, and individual development projects. ITDP defines TOD as developments that are in dense, compact areas, with residential, retail, and public spaces, and a design that creates easy access to transit, cycling, and walking. Still, clear examples of TOD in the local context can deepen understanding and promote replication, leading to a better urban environment for residents of Brazilian cities.

The Good: Conjunto Nacional
conjunto nacionalConjunto Nacional (pictured above) is an architectural icon of São Paulo, adored by many locals and recognized by the city as a cultural heritage spot. Opened in 1950, the building serves many purposes. Lower floors contain a shopping center, space for cultural events, a convention center, and a ballroom. Rising above the rest of the building, a tower provides space for residential uses and services. In this way, Conjunto Nacional attains a mix of uses, providing jobs, commerce, housing, culture, and leisure. In addition, the building is located in the main business center of the city, within 200 meters of the São Paulo Metro, allowing easy access to the rest of the city by foot, cycle, and transit.

“Even though it was built in the 50s, this project is modern in all the important ways,” says Luc Nadal, ITDP’s Technical Director of Urban Development, “It incorporates the principles of TOD that are most difficult to change once a project is implemented, such as density and mix of uses. It’s easier to redesign streets than it is to redesign this size of a project.”

Still, if Conjunto Nacional wanted to improve its TOD standing, incorporating affordable housing and eliminating parking spaces would move the development from a Silver on the TOD Standard, where it is today, to Gold. Nonetheless, Conjunto Nacional stands a model for TOD in Brazil.

The Bad: Ilha Pura

ilha puraThe Ilha Pura project is located in Rio de Janeiro’s west zone, in the district of Barra da Tijuca. The development, currently under construction, consists of 31 buildings of 17 floors each. It will first be used to house athletes for the 2016 Olympic Games, then handed over to private developers for residential use. Although the project incorporates many features of sustainable buildings, earning it LEED certification, it fails to integrate many key principles of Transit-oriented Development, especially related to urban connectivity.

Located in a largely undeveloped area of an outer district, Ilha Pura has poor connections to the rest of the city. As a purely residential development, those living in apartments will have to travel for work, shopping and play. Without a dense, compact, mixed environment residents will have few opportunities to walk or easily cycle. Transit access, when the TransOlímpica BRT opens, will be 1000m away – the upper limit recommended by the TOD Standard.

“There are few places for pedestrians in the area, and almost no connection to transit, completely oriented to private car use,” says Luc Nadal. “Not surprisingly, it didn’t not quality as a TOD best practice.”

The Inclusive: Minha Casa Minha Vida (MCMV Program)

Social Housing Project in Sao Paulo_TextSince 2009, more than two million homes have been built under the Minha Casa Minha Vida (MCMV), the federal program for social housing in Brazil, with another 1.6 million under construction. By 2019, the federal government expects more than twenty-five million people to be living in MCMV housing. While the MCMV program has been effective at delivering affordable housing units in large numbers, it has faced growing criticism for placing too many units in remote parts of the city, sometimes as many as four hours and multiple transit transfers away from employment and other urban resources. The pattern is a complete lack of urban integration in most cases.

“This inequality has led to a mobility crisis in Brazilian cities,” said Iuri Moura, Urban Development Manager at ITDP Brazil. “A more inclusive urban environment is one of the central goals of TOD, and increasingly important for the future and sustainability of cities.”

To address the shortcomings of the program, ITDP and our partners have been working with the MCMV program to establish a set of indicators to evaluate new affordable housing developments, and guide in future their placing, in order to strengthen the link between housing, transportation, and access to opportunities. Through this program, Brazilian cities can address several concerns, limiting sprawl, connecting people to jobs and activities, and reducing segregation between income levels.

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