On the right track: Brazilian cities receive unprecedented award for sustainable transport
For the first time in its 15 year history, the Sustainable Transport Award announced this month not one but three winning cities – all Brazilian. Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo were all recognized for their significant efforts in the past year to improve mobility, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and ensure safety and access for pedestrians and cyclists to public spaces.
The Sustainable Transport Award – previously given to cities like Bogotá, Seoul, New York City, San Francisco, and Medellín – honors profound leadership and vision in sustainable mobility in the past year. It recognizes that sustainable, people-oriented mobility can transform the economic and social fabric of a city and greatly improve quality of life.
Below, learn more about how this year’s winners have leveraged sustainable mobility to improve quality of life, and how EMBARQ Brasil has helped each one make sustainable transport a reality.
Belo Horizonte was the first Brazilian city to develop an urban mobility plan in line with the National Policy on Urban Mobility (PNMU) guidelines. The “PlanMob BH” outlines actions for the next two decades that include transport system expansion and investments in sustainable urban development. The city is establishing a mobility observatory platform through which citizens can communicate their demands to city administration and hold leaders accountable.
One of the major results of this process and local mobility landmark is the MOVE bus rapid transit (BRT) system. The system was developed over four years from conception to day one of operation, bolstered by the technical support of EMBARQ Brasil. Currently, the system carries 480,000 passengers daily along the Cristiano Machado and Antonio Carlos corridors and has reduced travel time by 40 percent.
Rio de Janeiro
Rio is the second most populous city in Brazil – home to 6.4 million people – and also the third ranked among state capitals in terms of traffic congestion, and not in a good way. During peak hours in Rio, 55 percent of the city’s streets see significant congestion.
To provide a more efficient and user-friendly commuting experience, Rio has designed one of the world’s most extensive BRT networks. The corridors already in operation, TransOeste and TransCarioca, serve 400,000 people a day. Not only that, but the TransOeste has cut travel time almost in half for the average rider. The network will be completed with TransOlímpica and TransBrasil corridors by 2016. Together, the four exclusive lanes will carry as many as 1,000,000 people.
In partnership with the city government, EMBARQ Brasil provided technical support for the system's implementation using SimBRT simulated testing software. These simulations helped Rio makes its case to become the host of the 2016 Olympic Games.
In addition to BRT, the city introduced a new Transportation City Council. Consisting of both government and civil society representatives, this new group will develop, propose, and supervise the implementation of mobility policies in Rio.
São Paulo traffic generates 30 million data points daily – even more than the daily number of trips taken in the city at 23 million. Last year, the city introduced MobiLab, which lets entrepreneurs and researchers use these data to create applications and smart solutions to urban mobility problems. This example of citizens and public administration working together to solve the city's problems caught the attention of the Sustainable Transport Award jury.
São Paulo also initiated Operação dá licença para o ônibus (“Make way for the bus”), which the city claims has resulted in 320 km (199 miles) of dedicated bus lanes and an average 21 percent increase in operation speeds. With these exclusive lanes, São Paulo citizens saved 40.7 minutes per day in 2014, adding up to 20 hours per month, paving the way for the further expansion of dedicated bus lanes this year.
Also in 2014, São Paulo enacted a new strategic master plan, which emphasizes people-oriented urban development and incentives for public and non-motorized transport. Among other measures, the plan calls for improving of sidewalks and pedestrian infrastructure, creating new bike lanes, implementing dedicated bus lanes, and reducing the required number of parking spaces around new buildings in the city.
The Sustainable Transport Award jury also recognized São Paulo’s achievements using transport demand management (TDM) strategies to improve mobility. Working with the private sector help advance sustainable mobility, EMBARQ Brasil has conducted seminars in São Paulo and a pilot project for the implementation of TDM strategies in the city.
International recognition of the work conducted in Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo can inspire ambition and action in cities in Brazil and worldwide. The path to more sustainable and inclusive cities is ahead, and the opportunity to make change is now.