Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sustainable History of Curitiba, Brazil (2/3)

In anticipation to traffic congestion and mono cultural development (sprawl) the bus system played a mayor role in the master plan of Curitiba. In this plan, the significance of the bus system was bigger than that of public transportation only. The centrally positioned bus lanes, with one way streets on both sides, were designed to be main axes radiating out of the city center. These axes form the core of the transportation system concept and also define the development of the urban fabric. The domestic areas have a higher density in the vicinity of the axes, and a lower density in the areas between the axes, and demographic variety is being stimulated.

In retrospective the bus system can be compared to a surface metro system. Passengers don’t have to wait longer then one minute for a bus, in every bus there is place for 270 persons and boarding can take place within 20 seconds. Passengers pay before entering the glass tube shaped terminal, so there are no delays because of payment problems at the drivers seat. As a consequence, 20.000 people can be transported on a single bus line in one hour. For the disabled passengers, the platform floor and the bus floor are brought to the same level, and there is a wheelchair elevator at hand. Every bus ticket is also a city lottery ticket as the use of public transport is being stimulated.

So by optimizing the existing bus system her economic advantages - an important aspect in a third world country – could be combined with the functional advantages of a metro system, like speed and efficiency. As a result, the bus system has been realized for only 1% of the budget of a metro system, or 5% of the budget for a light rail, or 10% of the budget of a streetcar, and has been realized much faster. Also the absence of lengthy undergrounds strolls and the aspect of social security are advantages in relation to an underground metro system.

The successful transport concept has been copied to a number of cities like São Paulo, Los Angeles (Orange Line), Seoul and Bogotá (TransMilenio). Although Curitiba has the biggest percentage of cars per inhabitant after Brasilia, about 75% of the population uses public transport. This is more than 2 million passengers a day, more than the daily use of the New York City metro. As a result, Curitiba uses 20% less fuel in relation to other big Brazilian cities.

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