Study Finds 70 Percent of São Paulo's Residents Could Have Access to Quality Public Transport
On September 13th, WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities and the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP Brasil) released a study showing that only 25 percent of São Paulo residents live near a public transit station—a strikingly low number compared to the global average. In order to increase the number of people near transit (PNT), the organizations recommend that São Paulo expand the reach of its public transport system. According to the study, this can potentially triple PNT in São Paulo, reaching 70 percent by 2025.
To make this a reality, São Paulo needs to engage its residents and put into practice actions from the city’s Master Plan, an comprehensive guide for urban development, and in the Metropolitan Corridors Program, a plan for the city’s public transit through 2025. With plans to upgrade its transport network, São Paulo has the opportunity to make public transit more accessible for all its residents.
Demonstrating the Need to Improve São Paulo’s Transport System
The research finds that in São Paulo, the seventh most populous city in the world, only 25 percent of residents live within a one-kilometer radius (.62 miles) of a subway, train or BRT station or within a 500 meter radius (.31 miles) of a bus corridor. This figure is low compared to other cities: Rio de Janeiro (47 percent), Mexico City (48 percent), Beijing (60 percent), New York (77 percent) and Paris (100 percent).
While it is true that only one in four residents live in close proximity to public transport services, the research shows that these few individuals are typically the wealthiest members of society. As a result, the PNT for middle- and low-income individuals and families is well below 25 percent, around 18 percent, highlighting an underlying equity issue. For Sao Paulo’s poorer residents, access to collective public transit is limited, hindering overall city mobility.
Expanding BRT Can Help Put More People Near Transit
While the new study reveals São Paulo’s low PNT, it also highlights the opportunity for change. Often, cities can increase their PNT by expanding transport networks. Rio de Janeiro’s PNT, for example, will rise 30 percent from 2010 to 2017 as a result of the city’s new BRT lines. According to the study, São Paulo can do the same, perhaps even triple its PNT to reach 70 percent by 2025. To achieve this, the city’s government must turn to actions outlined in São Paulo’s Master Plan and in the Metropolitan Corridors Program.
The good news is that, for the most part, these actions will not be difficult to implement. For example, the documents call for 1,300 kilometers (807.8 miles) of new transit infrastructure by 2025—65 percent of which will be BRT and bus corridors.
São Paulo’s residents are on board with these changes. Rede Nossa São Paulo (Our São Paulo Network) released a study in 2015 revealing that 83 percent of São Paulo residents are willing to shift from private to public transport if they can count on a quality system. For this shift to become a reality, São Paulo city officials will have to prioritize the documents’ programs to create a high-quality, public transport network.
While the city’s current transport system currently benefits the wealthy members of society, upgrading the network will extend the benefit to other socioeconomic classes. São Paulo’s PNT would increase from 18 to 61 percent among people with income of up to half the minimum wage (around $132 USD per month), improving access for all residents.
Although not everyone will be considered “People Near Transit” even with the expansions, citizens who reside outside of the one-mile radius can still benefit from an improved system. According to the study, by 2025, expanding the public transport network in São Paulo can guarantee that 97 percent of the population will live within 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) of a public transport station—a distance that residents can easily travel by bike.
Luis Antonio Lindau, Director of WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities, highlighted the city’s need for an improved transit system: “One of the basic conclusions to anyone who studies transit in São Paulo is that the city urgently needs to expand and improve its public transport network, increasing physical, pricing and operational integration and the exchange of information between public and private entities.”
“By presenting these conclusions on the eve of municipal elections, our intention is to join efforts to expand the political debate and the public transport proposals. We aim to provide civil society with quality, relevant and technically accurate information, so that citizens can make wise and conscious choices,” stated Executive Director of ITDP Brasil Clarisse Cunha Linke.