Course:GEOG352/Sustainable Transit in Curitiba

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Map 1: Curitiba, Brazil

Introduction

Sustainable Transportation

Transportation plays a fundamental role in our society as it allows populations to efficiently move goods, access job opportunities, health services and educational facilities[1]. Advancements in global mobility have created major impacts on the economy, society, and the environment[2]. Transportation systems influence the way in which a society is organized and thus play a major role in the development of civilizations[3].

As of 2011, the transportation sector made up of 22% of the world carbon dioxide emissions[4]. In the context of the Global South, rapid population growth and urbanization mean the demand for transportation is rapidly increasing and thus potentially creating even greater amounts of transport-related emissions[5]. Therefore, it is important that urban planners and governments invest in resources to develop more efficient and sustainable modes of public transportation for its residents.

In the literature written by Rogat, Dhar, Joshi, Mahadevia, & Mendoza (2015)[6], they define sustainable transportation as compromised of these main components:

  • Allows for basic access to developmental needs of individuals, companies and society – provided in such a way that is safe and consistent with human and ecosystem health.
  • Promote equity, operate fairly, function efficiently, and support a competitive economy.
  • Limit the amount of waste that is emitted into the environment while also minimizing land use impacts and noise generation.
  • Equity among all groups and individuals especially the focus on equal access for men and women alike.

To support the rapid growth and urbanization of the city, Curitiba pioneered the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) as a way of developing a sustainable, yet, efficient mode of transportation for its citizens[7]. This allowed the inhabitants of the city to move away from the use of private automobiles for their daily commute.

About Curitiba, Brazil[8]

Curitiba is the seventh largest city in Brazil, with a population of 1.6 million people. In fact, for the past 30 years, the city has led the country with its enormous rates of growth and urbanization. In 1950, Curitiba only had a population of 200,000. With its current population figures, the city has essentially doubled in size every 10 years for 30 years. Some scholars say that Curitiba offers a higher quality of life compared to other cities in Brazil.

Curitiba is most notable for its planning policies and initiatives that were developed in the mid-1900s. The city holds an international reputation for their work in urban ecology planning[9]. In addition, many planners and developers see the city as a prime model for the efficient city planning, environmental planning practices, and ecological capital.

Overview

The issue at hand is the development and maintenance of sustainable public transit systems. Cities in the global south are growing at an extremely rapid rate, as more people leave rural areas and migrate to urban ones. The United Nations predicts there will be two billion additional city residents by the year 2030 [10]. This issue is absolutely one of global importance, as cities across the world are dealing with the increased rural to urban migration. Sustainable transit planning is also globally important for lowering greenhouse gas emissions, as public transit systems are an effective way to lower emissions related to transportation [11].

For a transit system to be sustainable, it needs to meet certain requirements. A sustainable public transit system is one that can efficiently transport large numbers of people while reducing pollution and land use. Public transit is also more accessible for low-income city residents, important in areas where much of the population still live on very low daily wages. Without forward-thinking planning, cities across the world will often default to simply adding more roads for personal motor vehicles. This system is inherently unsustainable, as more roads simply invite more traffic, and rapidly growing populations are almost impossible to keep up with. Heavy dependence on personal motor vehicles also leads to massive air pollution, traffic gridlock, and an increase in social inequality, as those who cannot afford personal transport, are shut out from much of the city [12]. A sustainable, well-maintained and affordable public transit system is an important part of the infrastructure of any city.

This issue is important for Curitiba specifically as it is an excellent example of transit planning for rapidly growing cities. Curitiba experienced many of the challenges currently facing cities in the global south when it underwent rapid growth following the mechanization of Brazilian agriculture in the latter half of the 20th Century[13]. The Bus Rapid Transit system is an example of how a city can successfully navigate the difficult process of rapid city growth [14]. Bus Rapid Transit systems can be implemented relatively quickly, while maintaining greater flexibility, making them an excellent choice for fast-growing cities [15].

Another thing cities must look at when designing sustainable transit systems is cost. The issue of providing public transportation is generally dealt with at the metropolitan level, with funding from other levels of government sometimes provided for larger transit projects. Public transit infrastructure can be extremely expensive to build, depending on the system being used. Ballooning construction costs can plunge cities into debt, affecting other areas of city administration and city services. If a city tries to recover some of the cost by raising fares, this can negatively affect the low-income residents would most benefit from a well-integrated transit system [16]. Raising transit fares is one of the most regressive methods of funding public transit operation, and can work against the social benefits brought by sustainable public transit. Bus Rapid Transit systems are typically very cheap to implement and operate [17].

Case Study of Sustainable Transportation in Curitiba

Map 2: Illustrating the linear nature of mass transit in Curitiba

Problems experienced in Curitiba

The agricultural mechanisation from the 1950s to the 1980s led to rapid rural to urban migration across Brazil [18]. This huge population growth as previously explained demanded effective and sustainable planning in the city [19]. An important aspect of this planning was to provide accessible and sustainable transit [20]. City planners saw that population growth cannot be controlled but can be guided through effective transit planning [21]. If not effectively managed a number of problems may arise such as choke points on roads caused by too many vehicles, pollution by inefficient vehicles and the need to create more roads.

Due to a lack of funds in Curitiba [22], the transit solution for the expanding population had to be cost-effective as well as sustainable. Rail-based mass transit tends to be highly expensive to implement and maintain. This led to the proposal of the mass transit bus system which was designed without the need of widening city streets or purchasing additional property. The service was created with both private and public funding and provides a service which supports all of the city’s districts. The single-fare strategy makes the system fair and accessible, with shorter journeys subsidising longer ones [23]. The use of the system by residents allows the city to re-invest this money in more community projects, creating a positive feedback loop which continuously improves Curitiba’s transit service [24].

City planners recognised the importance of providing education, healthcare, recreation and park areas to all city districts [25]. This could be guided by effective transit planning through the use of zoning laws. This involved linear growth (see map 2) which encouraged residential and commercial density along mass transportation lanes, making them easily accessible.

Solution

Bus Rapid Transit System in Curitiba

As a solution to the situation in Curitiba, the “Bus Rapid Transit” was introduced in 1974. This brought a drastic change to the city, and now well known as one of the successful transit systems throughout the world. One of the main successful points were being able to maximize the space that they have. Because the population concentrated in the central area, the city wanted to scatter the people. With the integration of transportation, they were able to implement the land use planning and the city was able to encourage commercial growth along the transport arteries from the city centre [26]. Through the expansion of the city and growth of commercial areas, it improved the environment and life quality[27]. Due to the concentration of population and commercial, the central area had vehicular traffic. Furthermore, to encourage people to use of the BRT system, they made the bus cheaper than other transportation systems such as subway and light railways [28]. In order to avoid the heavy traffic in the central areas, lanes dedicated to buses were created which allowed the bus to avoid traffic (ibid). Despite the fact that they already achieve an efficient transit system, they kept on improving their system towards a larger, more efficient and environmentally friendly buses. The platforms now were built on the same height of direct buses so the flow of getting on and off the buses was smooth, and now the system had a prepaid system to avoid ticket collection which contributed to creating more space and smooth movement (ibid). Even though when it is raining, because of the shelter that they have built on top of the platforms encourages people to use the BRT system then their vehicles.

Effect on Population

The BRT system brought a big change towards the lifestyle in Curitiba. Curitiba became more liveable and civic pride and improved well-being[29]. Now there are about 1.3 millions people of daily riders who use it as their ways of transit. This just not cuts the traffic caused in the central area but also contributed to saving 25% of fuel consumption. Just with the automobiles, there was a reduction of about 27 million trips per year, which saves about 27 million litres of fuels annually [30]. One of the reasons for a large number of users of BRT system is the standard fare provided so that which benefited the poor [31]. Therefore, the spending towards transportation fee is just 10% of their income, which is considered low in Brazil (ibid). By keeping the amount of money spent towards transit low, people are able to spend money on different products, which will make the economy running as well as improve people’s satisfaction towards the quality of life.

Lessons Learned

As pioneers of the Bus Rapid Transit system, Curitiba has successfully showcased and become a model to other countries that a future of sustainable public transportation is possible in a rapidly urbanizing city. The system has since been implemented in many other countries including Bogota, Colombia with its TransMilenio public transit system[32]. Investments in successful transportation and infrastructure allow Latin Americans to be recognized for their incredible engineering efforts.

Municipal governments and urban planners need to understand the city at a grassroots level. Before considerate amounts of financing for infrastructure projects, one must see and ask questions from the perspective of those who rely on the system the most. In the case of a Bus Rapid Transit system, issues such as a rapidly growing population, poverty, and overcrowding must be considered in the macro-context. Without properly addressing these issues, the entire system may not be built to properly serve the needs of the residents who will rely on the transportation system. Not only will asking questions at a grassroots level provide satisfaction from transit-users, the economic benefits for the city will be exponential as ridership will increase as the population of the urban area grows. In addition, cities must realize that the most expensive and lavish infrastructure systems are not always the best solution. Curitiba has demonstrated that public-private partnerships can be incredibly successful and an entire public transport system that suits the needs of its population can be construed at a relatively low cost.

Infographic

Infographic of Case Study


















References

Basiago, A. D. (1998) Economic, social, and environmental sustainability in development theory and urban planning practice. Environmentalist. 19(2), pp. 145-161.

Burgess, C., Ordiz, S. (2010) 'Exploring the BRT Systems of Curitiba and Bogota', City and Regional Planning Department California Polytechnic State University.

Cervero, R. (2013) Linking urban transport and land use in developing countries. Journal of Transport and Land Use. 6(1), pp. 7-24.

Duarte, F. and Rojas, F., 2012. Intermodal connectivity to BRT: a comparative analysis of Bogotá and Curitiba. Journal of Public Transportation, 15(2), p.1.

El Geneidy, A., Levinson, D., Diab, E., Boisjoly, G. Verbich, D., & Loong, C. (2016) “The cost of equity: Assessing transit accessibility and social disparity using total travel cost” Transportation Research Part A 91, pp. 302-316

Goodman, J., Laube, M., Schwenk, J. (2007) Curitiba bus system is a model for rapid transit. Race, poverty and the environment. 12(1), pp. 75-76.

Gruber, S. (2013) Learning from Curitiba: The successes and failures of an early instance of urban acupuncture. Urban Transit. P. 72.

Macedo, J., 2004. Curitiba. Cities, 21(6), pp.537-549.

Mathew, T.V. and Rao, K.V.K., 2001. Role of transportation in society. Jotin Khisty C, Kent Lall B (eds) Introduction to Transportation Engineering. McGraw-Hill, Columbus.

Mercier, J., Duarte, F., Domingue, J., Carrier, M. (2014) Understanding continuity in sustainable transport planning in Curitiba. Urban Studies. 52(8), pp. 1454-1470.

Munoz, J.C., & Paget-Seekins, L. (2016) Restructuring Public Transport through Bus Rapid Transit: An International and Interdisciplinary Perspective. Policy Press: Chicago pp.1-3

Parasram, V. (2000) 'Efficient transportation for successful urban planning in Curitiba, Brazil'. Horizon International Solutions Site. [Online]. Accessed: 20/03/2018. Available from: https://www.solutions-site.org/node/83

Pedreira, M. and Goodstein, C., 1992. Blueprint for an eco-safe city. Americas, 44(4), p.6.

Rabinovitch, J. (1992) Curitiba: towards sustainable urban development. Environment and Urbanization. 4(2), pp. 62-73.

Sperling, D. and Salon, D., 2002. Transportation in developing countries: an overview of greenhouse gas reduction strategies.

Reference Permalinks

  1. Sperling, D. and Salon, D., 2002. Transportation in developing countries: an overview of greenhouse gas reduction strategies.
  2. Rogat, J., Dhar, S., Joshi, R., Mahadevia, D. and Mendoza, J.C., 2015. Sustainable Transport: BRT experiences from Mexico and India. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy and Environment, 4(6), pp.564-574.
  3. Mathew, T.V. and Rao, K.V.K., 2001. Role of transportation in society. Jotin Khisty C, Kent Lall B (eds) Introduction to Transportation Engineering. McGraw-Hill, Columbus.
  4. Rogat, J., Dhar, S., Joshi, R., Mahadevia, D. and Mendoza, J.C., 2015. Sustainable Transport: BRT experiences from Mexico and India. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy and Environment, 4(6), pp.564-574.
  5. Rogat, J., Dhar, S., Joshi, R., Mahadevia, D. and Mendoza, J.C., 2015. Sustainable Transport: BRT experiences from Mexico and India. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy and Environment, 4(6), pp.564-574.
  6. Rogat, J., Dhar, S., Joshi, R., Mahadevia, D. and Mendoza, J.C., 2015. Sustainable Transport: BRT experiences from Mexico and India. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy and Environment, 4(6), pp.564-574.
  7. Duarte, F. and Rojas, F., 2012. Intermodal connectivity to BRT: a comparative analysis of Bogotá and Curitiba. Journal of Public Transportation, 15(2), p.1.
  8. Macedo, J., 2004. Curitiba. Cities, 21(6), pp.537-549.
  9. Pedreira, M. and Goodstein, C., 1992. Blueprint for an eco-safe city. Americas, 44(4), p.6.
  10. Cervero, R. (2013) Linking urban transport and land use in developing countries. Journal of Transport and Land Use. 6(1), pp. 7-24.
  11. Cervero, R. (2013) Linking urban transport and land use in developing countries. Journal of Transport and Land Use. 6(1), pp. 7-24.
  12. Munoz, J.C., & Paget-Seekins, L. (2016) Restructuring Public Transport through Bus Rapid Transit: An International and Interdisciplinary Perspective. Policy Press:Chicago pp.1-3
  13. Parasram, V. (2000) 'Efficient transportation for successful urban planning in Curitiba, Brazil'. Horizon International Solutions Site. [Online]. Accessed: 20/03/2018. Available from: https://www.solutions-site.org/node/83
  14. Cervero, R. (2013) Linking urban transport and land use in developing countries. Journal of Transport and Land Use. 6(1), pp. 7-24.
  15. Munoz, J.C., & Paget-Seekins, L. (2016) Restructuring Public Transport through Bus Rapid Transit: An International and Interdisciplinary Perspective. Policy Press:Chicago pp.1-3
  16. El Geneidy, A., Levinson, D., Diab, E., Boisjoly, G. Verbich, D., & Loong, C. (2016) “The cost of equity: Assessing transit accessibility and social disparity using total travel cost” Transportation Research Part A 91, pp. 302-316
  17. Munoz, J.C., & Paget-Seekins, L. (2016) Restructuring Public Transport through Bus Rapid Transit: An International and Interdisciplinary Perspective. Policy Press:Chicago pp.1-3
  18. Parasram, V. (2000) 'Efficient transportation for successful urban planning in Curitiba, Brazil'. Horizon International Solutions Site. [Online]. Accessed: 20/03/2018. Available from: https://www.solutions-site.org/node/83
  19. Rabinovitch, J. (1992) Curitiba: towards sustainable urban development. Environment and Urbanization. 4(2), pp. 62-73.
  20. Basiago, A. D. (1998) Economic, social, and environmental sustainability in development theory and urban planning practice. Environmentalist. 19(2), pp. 145-161.
  21. Burgess, C., Ordiz, S. (2010) 'Exploring the BRT Systems of Curitiba and Bogota', City and Regional Planning Department California Polytechnic State University.
  22. Mercier, J., Duarte, F., Domingue, J., Carrier, M. (2014) Understanding continuity in sustainable transport planning in Curitiba. Urban Studies. 52(8), pp. 1454-1470.
  23. Burgess, C., Ordiz, S. (2010) 'Exploring the BRT Systems of Curitiba and Bogota', City and Regional Planning Department California Polytechnic State University.
  24. Gruber, S. (2013) Learning from Curitiba: The successes and failures of an early instance of urban acupuncture. Urban Transit. P. 72.
  25. Burgess, C., Ordiz, S. (2010) 'Exploring the BRT Systems of Curitiba and Bogota', City and Regional Planning Department California Polytechnic State University.
  26. Goodman, J., Laube, M., Schwenk, J. (2007) Curitiba bus system is a model for rapid transit. Race, poverty and the environment. 12(1), pp. 75-76.
  27. Rabinovitch, J. (1992) Curitiba: towards sustainable urban development. Environment and Urbanization. 4(2), pp. 62-73.
  28. Rabinovitch, J. (1992) Curitiba: towards sustainable urban development. Environment and Urbanization. 4(2), pp. 62-73.
  29. Basiago, A. D. (1998) Economic, social, and environmental sustainability in development theory and urban planning practice. Environmentalist. 19(2), pp. 145-161.
  30. Goodman, J., Laube, M., Schwenk, J. (2007) Curitiba bus system is a model for rapid transit. Race, poverty and the environment. 12(1), pp. 75-76.
  31. Rabinovitch, J. (1992) Curitiba: towards sustainable urban development. Environment and Urbanization. 4(2), pp. 62-73.
  32. Cervero, R. (2013) Linking urban transport and land use in developing countries. Journal of Transport and Land Use. 6(1), pp. 7-24.


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