Transport and Energy
Transported to the future

Cassio Taniguchi describes how Curitiba’s pioneering public transport system has become a model for developed and developing countries alike

Curitiba has become a model for developed and developing countries alike. Cassio Taniguchi describes its pioneering public transport system

The value of a city is directly proportional to the degree of satisfaction of the people that live in it. So an urban administration can be visibly and critically assessed by the quality of life of the inhabitants. When it makes decisions, it should always keep its citizens in the spotlight.

For this reason, successive municipal administrations in Curitiba since the beginning of the 1970s have done their best to answer – in a practical and organized way – this basic question: how can the city welcome an ever increasing number of inhabitants into a static physical space, without losing quality of life?

Public administrators must preserve the environment while meeting the demands of an urban centre and planning the sustainable development of a city. In Curitiba, transport proved to be the key to a sustainable future. Its urban transport system was set up to give its citizens high-quality service as standard. Harmonized with the city’s plans and zoning regulations, it transformed the emptiness of the 1970s into residential and business areas – and induced the desired growth.

Following the principle of respecting the citizens, the Research and Urban Planning Institute of Curitiba designed special buses in 1973 in partnership with transport enterprises and automobile manufacturers. These replaced trucks adapted for mass transportation which did not offer the comfort or safety their users deserved. The new buses had larger doorways, a lowered chassis, wide windows, special ventilation systems and rear-located engines, all to provide passengers with greater comfort.

The city’s mass transportation system, which was established in the following year, was the first in Brazil to use bus lanes alongside the system for private cars. People left their cars at home, finding mass transportation very competitive because of its speed, punctuality and regularity.

As the system evolved, larger buses were designed and built – including articulated ones in the 1980s, carrying up to 160 people, and bi-articulated ones in the 1990s each with a capacity of 270 passengers. Vehicles with automatic transmissions and air suspension were introduced, as was a system of paying fares in advance so as to make boarding more efficient.
At City Hall, we work to enable the inhabitants of Curitiba to participate in all decision-making processes
Two million people now use the city’s integrated transit network every day. It has four elements: the direct line; an alternative ‘speedy’ system – buses which travel faster and have fewer stops; the inter-district line, which carries out trips between districts without crossing the centre of the city; and feeder buses, which connect terminals to the districts. It is integrated within the 12 municipalities of the metropolitan region, and is continually updated as the city and its population grow.

Public transportation also plays a fundamental role in preserving the environment. A high-quality transport system, accessible to the citizens, reduces the number of vehicles circulating around the city and, as a result, cuts the level of air pollution.

Taking the lead
Curitiba took a pioneering step to improve air quality even further by becoming the first city in Brazil to use less polluting fuels. We have adopted a special fuel made up of 89.4 per cent diesel, 8 per cent anhydrous alcohol and 2.6 per cent soybean additive. The resulting fuel is less polluting and cuts the emissions of particles to the air by up to 43 per cent. Adding the mixture of alcohol and soybean additive to the diesel also brings social and economic benefits, including maintaining employment in rural areas, as every billion litres of alcohol generate approximately 50,000 new jobs.

Curitiba is now issuing a smart card to replace cash in paying fares, thereby increase the security for passengers using the mass transportation system. Citizens registered at the City Hall will be given access to the card, which is made up of available credits. People who are exempt from paying fares – such as the elderly, physically handicapped, police officers and students – will also have the right to a card.

At City Hall, we work to enable the inhabitants of Curitiba to participate in all decision-making processes, so they can see the city as an extension of their own homes. We do not intend to leave icons or concrete memorials as legacies, but social action revives a feeling of citizenship and bring benefits to all without distinction

Cassio Taniguchi is Mayor of Curitiba.


This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Driving change | Clearing the bottlenecks | Commuting sustainably (Singapore) | Transported to the future (Curitiba, Brazil) | Bucking the trend (Freiburg, Germany) | Message from the UN Secretary-General | Message from Cuba | Message from Turin | Competition | Breaking free | Calling for change | Reaching the unreached | Greening the screen | Taking the lead | Wanted: more good reporters | On the dot | The city century

Complementary articles in other issues:
Issue on Human settlements 1996, including
Jaime Lerner: Change comes from the cities
Jorge Wilheim: Melting pots and marketplaces
Somsook Boonyabancha: Creating the participatory city
Herbert Girardet: Giant footprints
Gerhard Berz: Insuring against catastrophe (Disasters) 2001