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close this bookUnited Nations University - Work in Progress Newsletter - Volume 13, Number 3, 1991(UNU, 1991, 12 pages)
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentCities in the 21 st century - The urban half
View the documentThe pathology of the city
View the documentNew strategies for urban poverty
View the documentLopsided modernization and the urban poor
View the documentUrban transport and urban growth
View the documentThe hub of Japan
View the documentThe land game
View the documentShaping Tokyo for the future
View the documentSeoul: Still a metropolis in the making
View the documentAsia's growing urban rings
View the document"A giant supermarket..." - Is there anything good about mega-cities?
View the documentThe emerging world city system
View the documentUNU update

Urban transport and urban growth

By Jaime Lerner

The public transportation system of a city does much more than merely carry its citizens from one place to another - it can play a major role in encouraging and controlling urban growth. The availability - or unavailability - of bus service, subways, and other forms of urban transport - can be major forces in shaping people's perceptions of their own neighbourhoods and of their own daily lives.

This is the city planning philosophy of Mayor Jaime Lerner of the Brazilian city of Curitiba, the capital of the State of Parana. The city has a population of some 1.6 million, and is situated about 350 kilometres south-west of São Paulo. Since the beginning of the 1960s, Curitiba has been experiencing an annual population growth rate of 5.6 to 5.8 per cent.

In the following paper, which he presented at the Tokyo Mega-City conference. Mayor Lerner discusses the ways in which his city went about introducing a mass transportation system to meet the new challenges of a swelling population. His paper was prepared under the auspices of Curitiba's Institute of Research and Urban Planning (IPPUC). - Editor

Along with its own rapid development, Curitiba constitutes an attraction pole for migratory flows of the most diverse origins - but particularly farmers coming from the inland regions of the State of Parana, who are leaving their land due to a combination of adverse climate conditions and the increasing mechanization of agriculture.

Average per capita income in the city is on the order of US$1,200 annually. The family income distribution reflects the patterns observed in the other state capitols of Brazil. A major portion of the population - something like 80 per cent - belongs to lower income levels (as little as US$500 per year).

Jaime Lerner, Curitiba's Mayor

The urban planning system implemented in Curitiba helped us to direct the city's growth, while at the same time trying to act in social areas by giving access to the needy population to urban transportation facilities.

A planned development process was started in Curitiba in 1970 when it became apparent that the city was growing both rapidly and radially-outward from the city centre in all directions. The plan put forward aimed not only at easing traffic circulation but also at evolving it within a broader land occupancy perspective. The central area of the city was seen as having limited rational growth potential, while the commercial and service sectors should be encouraged to expand lineally along structural axes stretching out north, south, east and west.

Transport System for Needs Not Cars

For the first time, a new mass transport concept was planned to meet the needs of a Brazilian city, where routes and land use are more important than the vehicle using them.

The major avenues in the new Curitiba scheme were designed for three types of traffic. An outside divided roadway is for high speed traffic. The central roadway is divided between two lanes: one for slower two-way traffic streets, and an exclusive central lane for the express bus system.

Along this whole structural route, stations are situated every 400 metres equipped with newspaper stands, public telephones and post office facilities. This was part of the strategy of encouraging densities along certain axes reaching out from the central city. It is worth pointing out that the construction of this triple roadway system avoided many of the headaches of major public works efforts, with all their intrusive interventions, by imposing it largely on existing streets and roads - with very little change to the pre-existing urban fabric. This also greatly reduced costs.

The Strategy of "Land Stock"

Before actually building this road system, the municipality of Curitiba adopted the strategy of building up "land stock" for the needy. In this approach, many plots of land were acquired before the actual transportation routes were laid out. This enabled the city to organize housing programmes which settled some 17,000 lower income families next to the proposed new transport facilities. The consequent increase in the price of their newly-acquired "land stock," with the introduction of modern urban transport, was therefore counted as an indirect subsidy to those who needed social integration.

Red, Green, Yellow, and Blue Buses

The integrated transport system was implemented gradually, initially with only two express routes. By the early 1980s, a decade after the project was started, the system had five express and three interdistrict routes. Presently, there are six interdistrict routes and the workers' route, five express lines and feeder lines connected to all 15 intermediate terminals and big metropolitan terminals.

The integrated transport system is composed of: express buses (red); interdistrict buses (green); conventional, or feeder, lines (yellow); and student lines from the centre to main universities (blue). The interchange of passengers at the end of the express routes occurs at a big terminal which is large enough to cope with integration with neighbouring municipalities within the Curitiba metropolitan area. Passenger interchange within the city confines is accommodated in smaller terminals built in the scale of the existing environment.

Shorter Routes Subsidize Longer

There is both physical and fare integration. The passenger pays the ticket when he enters his terminal and is allowed to cross the whole city at the price of a single fare. The "social fare" means that the shorter routes subsidize the longer routes because, in Brazil, lower-income people live further away from the town centre.

All fare collected by the bus companies are deposited in a transportation fund which is managed by the municipality. The bus companies receive their revenue according to the number of kilometres they operate. Efficient managerial control on the part of the city makes sure that the performance of the system corresponds to existing demand.

The buses have been designed both with a view to giving comfort and being able to take on more passengers at peak hours. The terminals were conceived as public meeting points, city squares lively with commerce and other attractions. In addition to the bus services mentioned above, there are also "Selective Buses" from the centre to higher income districts as an alternative for those who have cars, "Neighbourhood Buses," and the "Shuttle Service" from the south terminal to the Zoo.

Knowing How It Works

The visual communication which we emphasize (with different colour buses for example) is important; the population will be able to use the system effectively to the extent they understand how it works. Simultaneous traffic control in the central areas of the city helps improve the system performance; traffic light timing is changed according to circumstances by a computerized system. Another device, imbedded in the bus lane and triggered by the vehicle's wheels, keeps the green light on when an express bus is about to pass.

The Bicycle Network

Integrated transport system in Curitiba

In another attempt to improve traffic circulation, we have already built 53 kilometres of cycleways; in all we plan some 174 kilometres of these paths for bicycles that will be built within Curitiba's Cidade Industrial (Industrial City) in the south-western environs of the urban centre along with other bike paths in the city's leisure parks.

This programme also calls for the implementation of bicycle parking lots, repair shops, bars, news agents, meeting points and other attractions along the bicycle networks. Another idea involves the creation of a "bicycle boy" agency. Using their bicycles, office boys could move about quickly within pre-established areas, where they would pick up and deliver mail and small packages for a modest fee. This type of service would aid in introducing into the work force poor and homeless children aged 14 and older.

A Planning Instrument Not a Problem

We know that the planning of a city never stops - as these areas, particularly in the third world, are constantly growing. We believe that the unfolding of Curitiba's integrated transport network offers a good example of this philosophy.

As the network was put into place, the ratio of green areas per inhabitant increased - from about one-half a square metre in 1970 to the present 51 square metres per inhabitant. An old gunpowder magazine was turned into an arena theatre. An abandoned glue factory became the Creativity Centre. An old army headquarters was transformed into the headquarters of the Cultural Foundation. All of this reinforces my belief that public transport should be regarded not only as a problem, but as a planning instrument for better urban life.