BRT TransOlímpica was conceived to connect the Olympic arenas of Barra da Tijuca and Deodoro. It also offers a new cross connection in the West Zone of the city.
One of the most recent additions to Rio de Janeiro’s public transit system, the BRT TransOlímpica, offers great service to 25,000 people/day who were previously underserved. Building upon the model of previous BRT corridors implemented in the city, the silver-rated system received all the points in the BRT Basics metric of the BRT Standard– its corridor has physically segregated bus lanes throughout the entire 23 km of extension with platform-level boarding, and off-board collection in all stations and terminals. All 16 stations and 3 terminals serve both directions, have full accessibility provided with a good tactile ground surface, and all buses are wheelchair accessible. What makes this corridor truly unique is how it complements other corridors in Rio. TransOlímpica’s reach allows for integration with BRT TransCarioca and BRT TransOeste and other forms of public transport including rail and metro.
Rio de Janeiro currently has a total of 120 km of bus rapid transit (BRT) throughout the city, serving half a million passengers per day. TransOlímpica was implemented as a part of the city’s commitments to host 2016 Olympic Games, with an aim to make the connection between Deodoro Olympic Complex and Barra da Tijuca Olympic Park.
Between March and May of 2017 ITDP hosted various site visits, where a rating, best practices, and opportunities for improvement, were established and identified according to the BRT Standard, an evaluation tool for world-class BRT based on international best practices. As a result, the corridor received a Silver BRT Standard rating.
The BRT Standard has allowed the evaluation of the corridor design and operations based on international practices documented and disseminated by an international Technical Committee of experts on the subject. The tool has already been used by ITDP Brazil to evaluate fifteen corridors. In some cases, the complete evaluation has also led to tailor-made recommendations, for example in Belo Horizonte and Brasilia BRT corridors. The full list of corridors ranked by ITDP Brazil can be found here.
Besides the connection to the existing BRT system, the TransOlímpica corridor also allows integration with the rail transit network. Jardim Oceânico subway terminal is served by one of its lines and there is also physical integration between two of its stations with the metropolitan train stations of Magalhães Bastos and Vila Militar. The project design of two of its terminals (Recreio Terminal and Olympic Terminal) was supported by ITDP, through the specialized consultancy Oren Tatcher OTC Planning & Design.
Evaluation of BRT TransOlímpica
The area of the city where BRT TransOlímpica was built is not fully developed and has a low population density. Only 1.4% of the city’s population is located within one kilometer (approximately a 10 to 15 minute walk) from the corridor stations. Part of the extension of the new corridor was inserted parallel to a new elevated expressway, Via Rio, which hinders the adhesion to the new option of public transportation by the population that lives nearby. Despite its connectivity to other BRT systems and public transport, low population density, Via Rio, and other economic factors (Rio de Janeiro no longer benefits from the Olympic investments of the recent past), the corridor has been carrying only a third of the expected demand of 70 thousand users per day.
There are still opportunities to improve non-motorized transport (NMT) infrastructure around the corridor as planned infrastructure elements have not yet been completed. For example, at the Recreio terminal, passengers of BRT TransOlímpica who want to connect to the BRT TransOeste corridor must walk an uncovered path to reach Salvador Allende station, underutilizing the recently built Recreio terminal. A direct connection between this corridor and BRT TransOeste has also not yet been built.
The evaluation of BRT TransOlímpica with the BRT Standard revealed that the corridor stands out for service planning. The corridor offers, besides the lines that run throughout the corridor, other lines that access parts of two of Rio’s other BRT systems, TransCarioca and TransOeste. With these lines, the number of stations in which it is possible to use a service that accesses more than one corridor of the system has more than tripled (from 8 to 27). These multiple lines complement each other and allow greater integration between the corridors of the BRT system, facilitating access to different parts of the city.
Its infrastructure is also well evaluated for the adoption of high quality concrete pavement and the presence of dedicated passing lanes at stations. These aspects allow higher operating speeds (42km/h on average) and express service operations, which reduce the travel time of users and enable an increase in capacity in the medium and long term. People can travel from one extremity of the corridor to another in approximately 30 minutes. The buses run at a max of 12 min during off-peak hours for all lines and no conventional buses run parallel to the corridor.
The evaluation of the BRT TransOlímpica also reveals some points that should be improved, especially regarding access by bicycle and by foot. The infrastructure for bicycle access and parking is in the beginning stages and only covers Salvador Allende Avenue. However, even at this part of the system, the cycle network is shared with pedestrians where sidewalks are narrow and is interrupted in crossing streets.
Currently, the corridor only has one shared bicycle station, near the Recreio Terminal. Adequate access and parking infrastructure for bicycles and the presence of shared bicycle systems in the stations would guarantee comfort and safety for users who already make part of their journey on bikes and would also provide another option for users to access their final destinations, which would potentially increase the coverage of the system.
The pedestrian access to stations is also another area to be improved. Most of the access routes on the elevated expressway segment are uncomfortable for users, since they are forced to walk a considerable distance sometimes exposed to harsh weather conditions.
Besides that, access to the elevated expressway consists of walkways between two viaducts, which causes a feeling of insecurity, felt especially by women, due to the lack of visibility of these segments.
The corridor also had part of his score deducted for operational reasons. Despite the high operating speed noted earlier, a couple of lines presented a low frequency of buses during peak hours, leading to overcrowding of the stations. Besides that, during the field surveys, considerable gaps were found between the bus floor and the station platform, which hinders boarding, especially for children, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
Despite its room for improvement in NMT infrastructure and operations, BRT TransOlímpica’s high operating speeds, unique integration with other BRT corridors and public transport systems in Rio, BRT basic metric achievements garnered the system its deserved Silver rating. Other corridors also given the Silver rating by ITDP include: Expresso Tiradentes BRT system in São Paulo, which circulates in an elevated way and connects the city’s periphery areas to the central area, BRT Antônio Carlos in Belo Horizonte, which has an intense operation during peak hours, some corridors in Mexico City and Ahmedabad in India, which had wide acceptance and led other Indian cities to adopt the BRT model, and the corridors from Brisbane, Australia and Istanbul, Turkey.
Brazil is in a state of political upheaval and economic crisis, and just one year after the Olympics, the situation is not much better in Rio de Janeiro. The state government is bankrupt and a new conservative mayor is pushing back on the city’s progressive gains. However, there is a powerful voice in the chambers of city council, one with a biography different from the deep pockets and private school education of your typical Carioca politician.
Marielle Franco was born and raised in Maré, a complex of favelas on a tidal flat near Rio’s international airport. She became a mother at age 18 and raised the child on her own, managing a scholarship to a prestigious university. From a job as a preschool teacher, she got drawn into politics and ten years ago began working for the upstart leftist Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL in Portuguese). Last year, she won a city council seat – one of just six women on the 51 member council – and represents the voice, and daily lived experience, of the city’s black and brown women. For example, she has pushed for Rio buses to stop anywhere along a route so that women have a shorter, and safer, walk home at night.
ITDP: The theme of MOBILIZE Santiago was “just and inclusive cities become the new normal.” To what extent does Rio de Janeiro reach this ideal?
Marielle Franco: Rio de Janeiro is not a fair, democratic or egalitarian city and unfortunately, with regard to mobility, it remains an unequal city as well. There is an investment in some [richer] areas, for example, Center and South Zone, to the detriment of a part of the West Zone, speaking specifically of the neighborhoods of Santa Cruz and Cosmos, for example.
What did you learn from Santiago’s experience here at MOBILIZE?
I’m impressed with Santiago. It’s a city where you can experience urbanity on foot and experience a good integration of modes, especially the subway. It was always surprising to look at the Andes from a subway station as well! MOBILIZE was also a great opportunity to talk to people who have been involved in urban intervention projects, actions, planning and research.
How does the experience of being born and raised in Maré give you a different perspective from most people who work for the city?
From lived experience. In the day-to-day of those who need to take long commutes, a large part of the everyday occurs on buses and in the subway. The waiting hours, the difficulty to get information on the best route to take and the experience of taking the wrong route and having to make unnecessary transfers happened often. Until I went to university, I did not know the city even though I was born and always lived in Rio. Access to opportunities expands when you expand your knowledge and explore the world. Otherwise, if you do not have these experiences of how to get to the hospital, for example, or to the movies, or university, if you only stay in one part of town, you take transit less and have less experience with the city. This is not only my experience- hundreds of thousands of women do this every day, struggling to get around the city. This makes me more qualified to demand action from the city and to change public policy based on those experiences.
Rio has built a lot of transport over the last five years, specifically BRT. How do you assess the impact of these megaprojects on the lives of low-income communities and residents in the city?
For a moment of great investment in urban projects and after such major events, the expectations were for better results. But what do we see today? The choices made have not been discussed with the population as they should, and despite the promise of increased circulation, I think unfortunately what has remained as an [Olympic] legacy is a greater violation of social rights, and not a more democratic circulation by the city.
What would you change about the way Rio goes about urban planning in order to improve the lives of low-income people in Rio?
To start, I think the guidelines for greater access and rights to the city are already in a master plan that is not followed. I think the challenge is to think from the demands that already exist, to rethink favela priorities – sanitation, for example, and other fundamental rights. This, of course, is part of integrated planning. With what is provided in the master plan, we must build dialogue with the population, which is after all who uses and who seeks the services. It is fundamental to think, for example, “is it really a priority to expand line four of the subway to the” Recreio dos Bandeirantes neighborhood? “This is a proposal that has been reinforced by the municipal transportation secretary and the deputy mayor. It is time to look at the whole of the city, and with this logic, benefit a larger population. Investments should focus on another part of the west, which is not Recreio. It is a question of how to start from a place of the demands we have- the demands of favelas for basic rights.
How are Brazilian cities functioning within the current political climate and in the midst of the economic crisis?
I think Brazilian cities are undergoing a reorientation. The crisis is also a creative opportunity. If you have difficulty then you also need to reorganize. For example, look at the self-organizing of motorcycle taxi drivers or of social movements themselves. The current political situation interferes directly in the lives of all. Unfortunately, the experience of living in public spaces and circulating around the city is impaired, but I think we can make a qualitative leap thinking about the alternatives. That is if there is a dialogue between civil society and public power, if there is planning, if we talk about financing. I hope that in the crisis we can think about bettering the coming years by building a more accessible city and reducing travel time, guaranteeing the right to the city in its completeness.
This interview is the part of the MOBILIZE Santiago Speaker Series. In this series, we will feature interviews with speakers and researchers from VREF’s Future Urban Transport where they will discuss their work in sustainable transport and reflecting on MOBILIZE Santiago’s theme: Just and Inclusive Cities Become the New Normal. To learn more about MOBILIZE Santiago and next year’s summit in Dar es Salaam, visit mobilizesummit.org.
BRT now plies Avenida 9 de Julio, the widest avenue in the world (Andrzej Otrebski, Wikimedia Commons)
With the recent election of former mayor Mauricio Macrí as president, the city of Buenos Aires should now have greater support from the Argentine government. Down at the local level, meanwhile, the city of 3 million continues to push for innovations that will bring Argentina’s capital and largest city into the 21st century. On the transport front, a young, dynamic official is leading the way. Paula Bisiau, Assistant Secretary for Sustainable Mobility, has a handle on everything that porteños (the city’s inhabitants) can count on to help them get around this charming South American city. Visitors may be captivated by tango and parrilla, but they should also pay attention to bike share, BRT, and pedestrianization.
Paula spoke to us about MOBILIZE Santiago‘s theme, “Just and Inclusive Cities Become the New Normal” and the future of BRT & cycling in Buenos Aires.
ITDP: The theme of MOBILIZE Santiago is “just and inclusive cities become the new normal”. How does Buenos Aires’ transport system live up to this ideal?
Paula Bisiau: Having a good network of diverse and well-connected transport is part of having an inclusive and fair city. So, in that sense, Buenos Aires has worked hard for at least 8 to 9 years to improve its public transport network. The reality is that in Buenos Aires, the use of public transport is very high. Almost 80% of trips are completed using public transport, on foot, or by bicycle. This means that in Buenos Aires we can talk about a city, in that sense, as fair and equitable because there is public transport throughout the city and the cost is relatively low.
Then, there is the whole accessibility point of view, the inclusion of all people with different abilities. In that sense, we still need more work. However, we have begun to design the streets and sidewalks so that they can be crossed by children, the elderly, and people in wheelchairs.
What other cities around the world are the most interesting to you in the area of mobility?
Recently I was in two cities that were very interesting: Copenhagen, obviously, on the one hand, and Tokyo on the other. Tokyo is very different, but with a spectacular subway network, and especially with lots of information facilitated by technology. I was astonished by how I was able to get around so easily and plan my trip within a city I didn’t know, in a country where obviously I didn’t speak the language.
I also find Paris interesting and innovative. And what I find interesting about a city like Paris is that it’s a city that preserves all its heritage and history, but constantly renews itself. This power of renewal is very interesting. They started with Paris Plages, then what they did with Les Berges de la Seine was also very innovative. Other cities had already done what they did with bike share. But what they did was fill the city with public bicycles everywhere. And they encouraged all that in a city that was already fully built, which already had many residents and businesses everywhere.
To name a Latin American city, I would say São Paulo also has many innovations for being a megalopolis. I was there maybe two years ago for the first time, and the truth is that I was amazed. Their transportation is also spectacular. But still, they still have things that are not as good as they could be, like urban highways. Not that everything is fine, but as big as the city is, they are still doing a good job. For example, on road safety, they took certain actions that are not easy to take politically, like reducing the maximum speed. And those are difficult political measures to take. But they did so, and thanks to that, they managed to reduce the number of road casualties. Cities have to take risks on new measures in order to improve.
In 2014, Buenos Aires won the Sustainable Transport Award for giving Avenida 9 de Julio, the widest avenue in the world, a transport and pedestrian makeover. Three years later, how are these interventions improving the quality of life in Buenos Aires?
The implementation of transit on Avenida 9 de Julio translated into shorter trips for those who used public transport, because all the buses that passed through downtown are now funneled onto the 9 de Julio Metrobus [BRT]. There was a reduction of almost 50% in travel times.
Road accidents were reduced because the average speed of cars was reduced. Within what is called the pedestrian zone, the maximum speed is now 10 km per hour. The entire downtown area was once very noisy and heavily polluted. The air and noise pollution levels dropped a lot. Before it was impossible to even have a conversation there. Now there is economic development, adding life beyond the offices and banks. Nightlife is beginning to come up in that neighborhood and we hope soon enough that will create the possibility of people moving downtown.
What is the next big mobility project around the city?
We’re continuing to develop the Metrobus network. Along 9 de Julio you have the Bajo [Lower] area, near the port. We are adding Metrobus to Bajo and that is also going to be an important change. We are also pedestrianizing part of the area on the other side of 9 de Julio, where the Palace of Justice is; another area where there are also many pedestrians.
There are also two new projects: One that is called Paseo del Bajo, in order to get the trucks out. Buenos Aires is a port city and we have many trucks coming from the port. For that, we found a solution to stop them from going through the city. This project broke ground in May and will be finished in two years. The other is a new regional rail that will connect the Constitución area with the Retiro area.
Has the number of people that use bicycles in Buenos Aires grown in the last few years and if so, why?
Yes, mainly because we started building cycle tracks in the most populated areas of the city, places where people go to work and where people live. We started in downtown and continued to the periphery of different neighborhoods. Today we have 180 km of bike lanes and cycle tracks in almost every area of the city.
The number also increased thanks to the public bikeshare system, Ecobici. A lot of work went into education and promotion. We convinced the city of the idea of cycling by talking about cycling in every sector. However, if I were to give you one main reason, people did not ride a bicycle in Buenos Aires because of road safety issues. In fact, we conducted surveys, and people already owned bikes. Buenos Aires is flat and has a relatively pleasant climate. The main reason they weren’t using it was because of road safety.
Ecobici used to operate on a valet system, now it has docking stations. What was the impact of this shift?
Regardless of how it works, the system itself is very popular because it is free. Today, we have more than 200,000 users who have taken more than 5 million trips. We are working to build out the system with 200 stations and 2,500 bicycles. We currently have 1,900 bikes.
Last year was a difficult time for us because of vandalism and theft. That was something we had not planned for and that had not happened in other cities. This, for example, made us stagnate on the number of bike trips in the year 2016. Now in 2017, we are growing again.
Do you think that Ecobici will ever go dockless?
We’re studying that. First we want to finish installing these 200 stations that we have planned. Then we want to understand what new technologies are being implemented in other cities around the world. When we think about the growth of this system, we want to move toward what is more innovative and what is working best. Because of our vandalism experience, I have to see to what extent it can work in Buenos Aires, but it seems fantastic to me- a much more flexible as a system. All of us who think about transport think this way: having innovation that is flexible because cities are dynamic, technologies change, and we have to be open to adapting.
This interview is the part of the MOBILIZE Santiago Speaker Series. In this series, we will feature interviews with researchers from VREF’s Future Urban Transport where will discuss their work in sustainable transport and reflecting on MOBILIZE Santiago’s theme: Just and Inclusive Cities Become the New Normal. To learn more about MOBILIZE Santiago and how you can register to attend the summit in Chile, visit mobilizesummit.org.
Over the last year, there has been international record growth in fixed-route transit, according to a comprehensive collection of rapid transit data maintained by the ITDP Global staff. ITDP looked at bus rapid transit (BRT), light rail transit (LRT), and Metro built in 2016 in 373 urban areas around the world. Data is collected either directly from government sources or publicly available news sources.
In 2016, 37 cities added 754.5 km of metro rail, and 9 cities added 163.2 km of bus rapid transit, and 7 cities added 72.1 km of light rail. While Metro is by far the most prevalent form of rapid transit construction, these numbers are largely due to the rapid transit growth of China. Incredibly, of the 754.5 km of built in 2016, 533 was in mainland China.
More than twice as much BRT was built in 2016 compared to LRT, continuing the the trend of BRT growth outpacing the increasingly less-popular option of LRT. 2016 marked the fifth straight year where more BRT opened than LRT. Using this data on all rapid transit openings since 1980, we can see where each mode stacks up in terms of grand total of kilometers. While there is more km of LRT, BRT is rapidly catching up. At this rate of construction, the total length of operational BRT should catch up to LRT by 2030.
In the past decade, Metro construction has skyrocketed, increasing by 50% or 5,000 km, the same amount that was built in the preceding 20 years. We can also aggregate the data into buckets of four years to get a sense of more macro trends in rapid transit construction over the past 35 years. LRT was clearly relatively popular in the 1980s, before dropping off in the 1990s. Metro construction stayed relatively consistent through around 2005, before increasing dramatically in the next decade. And finally, it is clear that BRT was a marginal mode until around the beginning of the new millennium, but has since become an increasingly popular choice for cities around the world.
One fascinating application that this dataset allows us to explore is the comparison of rapid transit built in different countries. Instead of simply comparing kilometers built, which ignores key contextual factors, we have normalized this data by population to create the Rapid Transit to Resident Ratio (RTR), which compares the length of rapid transit lines (including rail, metro, and BRT) in kilometers in each country with its urban population (cities with populations over 500,000). In China, for example, we can see that the RTR has quickly risen over the past decade, thanks mostly to a boom in Metro and BRT openings.
Another country worth highlighting is Brazil, which for most of the past two decades was stagnant or declining in terms of its RTR. However, in the past five years the nation has seen a notable improvement, driven mostly by a spate of BRT construction. Since 2012, 171.6 km of BRT have opened in Brazil. This period of transit expansion coincides, of course, with the preparation for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and indeed 70 percent of BRT built in Brazil during this period was built in the Rio de Janeiro metropolitan area. However, over this same time frame, Brasilia and Belo Horizonte both opened their first BRT corridors, indicating a nationwide trend towards BRT construction in Brazilian cities.
It appears that cities and countries are responding to both continued global growth in urban population, and more importantly over the past 10 years, a jump in global wealth, (2002-2011) which has allowed cities to invest more in infrastructure. A lot of the projects that stemmed from that boom time (especially metros, which often take up to a decade to complete) are now opening.
As the global economy has slowed down, but city populations continue to grow, the world has increasingly turned to BRT as a means of improving access in cities, without breaking the bank. With much less lead time, the planning of many BRT projects that have opened more recently began after the global boom period (2011-2016). As more cities demonstrate the potential of high quality BRT, some are choosing BRT over metro, and fewer cities are choosing LRT, which is often significantly more expensive and is less able to achieve higher capacities.
With our current global instability, we expect slower economic growth, and thus fewer expensive metro projects opening in the coming years. Yet, demand for more transit will continue, and as more cities demonstrate the capacity potential and relatively low cost of high quality BRT, we expect to see more of these projects.
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Urban populations all over the world are soaring, with cities expected to add up to 2.5 billion more people by 2050.
While cities are booming as economic and social centers, resources and opportunities are too often concentrated in high-income areas—pushing less affluent communities farther and farther away from the city center and from basic services like employment, schools, and hospitals. Urban regions are expanding outward so fast that the total land area covered by the world’s cities will triple in the next forty years. Without smart planning, this will only result in more sprawl, isolation, and marginalization for poorer communities on the urban outskirts.
Often, the crux of the problem is a lack of good transportation systems to connect everyone—no matter their income level or location—with opportunities. In fact, according to ITDP’s research, metro regions in low- and middle-income countries are providing only a quarter of residents, at best, with mass transit. All too often, those who need transit and transport options the most are those who have the least access to it.
Let’s create inclusive cities made for all, where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. Become an ITDP Member with a $40 gift.
Cities are at a tipping point, and now is our chance to create a bold and inclusive urban vision. Building truly inclusive cities means providing everyone with reliable transit, safe sidewalks and bike lanes, and urban development that is compact and close to transit. Connecting people with opportunity, regardless of where they live, is key to creating sustainable cities.
Thanks to support from Members like you, we’ve made strides towards fostering inclusive cities across the globe:
The Johannesburg bus rapid transit system (BRT), Rea Vaya, illustrates how good transit systems can connect poor communities to opportunity and even help heal old wounds of racial segregation. South Africa’s first major initiative to redress apartheid’s legacy of racial town planning, Rea Vaya provides a quick, safe link for residents of historically black communities like Alexandra Township, one of the poorest urban areas in the country, to the central business district and the opportunities and services that come with it. Access to Rea Vaya has also reduced commuting times by half for many residents.
Providing plenty of affordable housing is critical for inclusive cities. But what good is housing if residents don’t have access to jobs or schools? In Brazil, more than twenty-five million people will live in Minha Casa Minha Vida federal housing by 2019, but many units are in remote parts of the city—sometimes four hours and multiple transit transfers away from employment and other services. In response, ITDP worked with the Brazilian national government to create first-of-its-kind policy criteria to make sure new housing is located near transit— strengthening access to opportunities while providing homes for millions of low-income residents. (Photo to the left by Alberto Coutinho/AGECOM)
Your support is making a difference but we still need your help to ensure cities are made for you with equitable and sustainable transport that connects everyone with the city. Your $40 gift to ITDP will help make truly inclusive cities a reality.
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 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
The 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)
Since 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.
The problems faced by Brazilian cities today trace their roots to patterns of urbanization that are decades old. Growth has been marked by urban sprawl, priority for personal vehicles, socio-spatial segregation, and physical separation between jobs, housing, and opportunities. As a result, residents of Brazilian cities often must contend with long commutes, unsafe street crossings, and a lack of social integration. Today, the rise of Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) has started to address these concerns, and an increasing awareness of good growth concepts is reshaping Brazilian cities, returning them to a human scale.
Starting in the 1950s, a series of political, economic, and cultural factors led Brazilian cities to start being planned for the convenience of cars. Rising personal incomes and the expansion of the local auto industry made personal vehicles more accessible to Brazilian residents. As a result, the concerns of people, such as engaging public spaces and calm streets, became less important in urban planning, replaced by the creation of more and more parking and streets designed to ease driving patterns. This effect spread, appearing not just in the allocation of urban space, but in legal codes defining land use and development, and in building designs.
By the 1990s, it became clear that this model for the city was socially, economically, and environmentally unstable. “We arrived at the beginning of the 21st Century with about 82% of the [Brazilian] population living in cities,” says Iuri Moura, ITDP Brazil Urban Development Manager. “Today, these cities are largely marked by the lack of integration between transport policies, use, and occupation.” Around this time, members of academia, local government, and civil society came to discuss alternatives, and the concept of Transport-oriented Development emerged.
Transit-oriented Development describes a more sustainable urban mobility, promoting more compact land use, with mixed uses, density, and proximity to transport. Through TOD, travel distances can be shortened or eliminated, and trips by foot, bike, or public transit made more comfortable and accessible. ITDP’s eight principles are shaped by Transit-Oriented Development, and the TOD Standard provides a tool for practitioners to better understand the principles and evaluate projects.
“We cannot forget that by 2030, we expect 90% of Brazil’s population to live in cities,” says ITDP Brazil Active Transportation and Demand Management Manager, Danielle Hoppe. “We need to think about how to design our cities to absorb this population growth and maintain a high quality of life.”
Today, Brazilian cities are incorporating TOD concepts into city planning. São Paulo’s newest Strategic Master Plan incorporates many sustainable urban development principles, including becoming the first megacity in the developing world to eliminate parking minimums citywide. From increasing density to affordable housing requirements, the new Master Plan includes many measures that will make São Paulo a better place to live and work. Rio de Janeiro’s new BRT corridors, built over the past several years, have brought dense housing areas previously underserved by transit into the network. Between 2010 and 2015, Rio has brought access to rapid transit to some 650,000 residents. Many other cities across the country are taking similar cues, and reevaluating their growth model as they develop urban Mobility Plans.
With renewed focus on improving urban growth patterns, Brazilian cities are fixing the problems of the past and preparing for a stronger future. ITDP and our partners are working closely with government agencies to develop tools to help place low income housing projects in dense, mixed, transit rich areas. With a diverse set of tools, Brazilian cities are turning the corner and entering a new era of smart urban growth.
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