By Jonas Hagen
Belo Horizonte is poised to become Latin America’s next transport success story. With a mayor who has made BRT a top priority, a highly competent technical staff, and strategic support from ITDP, the city’s 2.5 million inhabitants (the sixth largest city and the third largest metropolitan region in Brazil) are likely to see big improvements in urban transport over the next few years.
By mid-2009, Belo Horizonte had concluded a mobility plan together with the Brazilian consultancy Logit that mapped out the future of transport in the city. With about 1.4 million daily trips, bus travel moves most people – by comparison, the 28 km metro system moves about 145,000 people daily. Car ownership in the city is high for Brazil, with 2.4 people per vehicle, and grows at about 9 % a year. Belo Horizonte’s Mayor Marcio Lacerda is betting on BRT to reduce travel times and increase comfort for public transport users.
Implementation of the 27 km BRT corridor Antonio Carlos / Pedro I is well underway, and construction for the next corridor – Pedro II / Catalão, is currently being planned. This first phase of BRT implementation foresees a total of 38 km of integrated corridors.
Although the bicycle represents only 0,6 of daily trips in Belo Horizonte today, partly because of hilly terrain, the city is also stimulating this sustainable transport mode, with 20 km of bikeways slated for implementation in 2010, and an additional 20 km being planned this year, to be implemented in 2011.
ITDP has been working with the municipality since July 2009, when Board President Enrique Peñalosa visited the city. Since then, ITDP has helped with bicycle and BRT planning, and organized a visit mayor Marcio Lacerda’s March 2010 visit to Bogotá, which helped galvanize the mayor’s plans to implement BRT. In 2010, technicians from ITDP have advised on bicycle infrastructure and BRT operations. In addition to the ongoing NMT and BRT projects planned by the Municipality, a Global Environmental Fund (GEF) project to improve 60 km of streets for cyclists and pedestrians in the neighborhood of Barreiros will begin in 2010.