EMBARQ Brasil helps expand access to sustainable transport in São Paulo
A hub for commercial activity, the Pinheiros River area is an important business district in São Paulo, Brazil. By themselves, the Berrini, Vila Olímpia, and Santo Amaro train stations in this area attract more than 172,000 people every day—nearly double the capacity of the Maracanã soccer stadium. A new report—Diagnóstico e Propostas para a Melhoria da Microacessibilidade – estações de trem no entorno do Rio Pinheiros—from EMBARQ Brasil contains practical urban design solutions for improving mobility and accessibility in this crowded area. The report was released by EMBARQ Brasil via Conexões Rio Pinheiros—a platform that invites business, government, and civil society to pursue joint strategies for improving urban mobility and quality of life in São Paulo.
Public transport commuters typically travel the distance between home and the station by foot or bicycle. Microaccessibility is a measure of how well the built environment at this narrow scope facilitates access to final destinations. Residents who face, for example, long walking distances or broken sidewalks between their homes and neighborhood stations lack good microaccessibility. The new report both maps the region and contains specific proposals for improving the microaccessibility, safety, and comfort of three particular stations in the Pinheiros River area for pedestrians and cyclists.
Urban design solutions to improve accessibility
The report provides innovative and feasible solutions for improving microaccessibility. Included in this are specific practical measures for expanding access to the Berrini, Vila Olímpia and Santo Amaro commuter rail stations to make them more secure and enjoyable. These proposals are the winning ideas from Concurso 3 Estações, a public competition for São Paulo architects to create urban design solutions based on active design and road safety principles. The proposed designs feature:
- Sidewalk resizing and quality improvements
- New lighting and people-friendly street furniture
- Renovation of vacant land into public spaces
- New bike parking and bike lanes
- Emphasis on integration with other modes of transport
- Support for commercial activity
In the coming months, these design ideas will become reality via Conexões Rio Pinheiros.
"Investing in accessibility projects like this one can address many of the safety challenges facing pedestrians, public transport users, and drivers in the areas near busy transport hubs. In addition, this initiative should serve as an inspiration to begin improving accessibility in other locations in São Paulo,” said Paula Santos, Transport and Accessibility Projects Coordinator, EMBARQ Brasil.
Investigating challenges to microaccessibility
The current design of the Pinheiros River area is under immense strain from the huge flow of public transport users that concentrate in the area, especially on workdays. While it recently experienced a spike in investment, the area was not originally planned to ensure access and services to the number of people it must serve today. As a result, communities in the region have restricted access to basic services like pharmacies, banks, markets, and safe and vibrant public spaces.
Of particular note are challenges related to crowding, distance, and safety:
- At peak hours, people far outnumber cars. This is the case on Gomes de Carvalho Street, where there are 25 people for every one vehicle during rush hour. Pedestrian overcrowding has become a major challenge to road safety, given the lack of adequate sidewalk space. Pedestrians often resort to walking in the streets—posing risks for both themselves and drivers.
- Some businesses in the area are located far from public transport stations. Accessible urban design principles hold that destinations or places of departure should not be located farther than 1,000 meters from stations. Public transport tends to become a less attractive option over longer distances, leading to an increasing number of people traveling by car.
- Public safety is also an issue for microaccessibility. Some train stations and bus stops in the area can only be accessed by narrow, poorly lit, and unpopulated passages, deterring potential public transport users who cannot safely reach stations.
By prioritizing people and quality public spaces, São Paulo hopes to address these challenges and make its streets more equitable, vibrant, and safe. Doing so, the report indicates, will ultimately improve access to public transit and lead to stronger urban mobility for all.
Read more about how private companies in São Paulo are supporting sustainable mobility in the Pinheiros River area on TheCityFix and download the Diagnóstico e Propostas para a Melhoria da Microacessibilidade – estações de trem no entorno do Rio Pinheiros report.
About EMBARQ at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities
EMBARQ, Sustainable Urban Mobility by WRI, catalyzes and helps implement environmentally, socially, and financially sustainable urban mobility solutions to improve quality of life in cities.