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close this bookThe Mega-city in Latin America (UNU, 1996, 282 pages)
close this folder9. Rio de Janeiro: Urban expansion and structural change
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentPopulation growth
View the documentEmployment
View the documentPoverty and the distribution of income
View the documentHousing and infrastructure
View the documentHealth and education
View the documentTransport
View the documentPollution and environmental policies
View the documentCrime
View the documentEmerging issues for the coming decade
View the documentAcknowledgements
View the documentNotes
View the documentReferences

Transport

Most journeys in Rio de Janeiro are made by bus. Indeed, at 62 per cent of all motorized trips, bus usage ranks very high by the standards of the world's largest metropolitan areas. It is certainly much higher than in other Latin American metropolises such as São Paulo (54 per cent), Mexico City (51 per cent), and Buenos Aires (45 per cent) (World Bank, 1986: 42-3). The car is the next most important transport mode, accounting for 24 per cent of trips, followed by the metro, with 11 per cent. Car use is much more limited in Rio than in São Paulo, reflecting the former's much lower rate of car ownership (one car for every 9.6 people in 1980 compared to one car per 6.6 people in São Paulo).

Table 9.11 Rio de Janeiro: Number of motor vehicles, 1978, 1982, and 1985


Thousands

Growth rate

Vehicles

1978

1982

1985

1978-82

1982 85

Cars

721.2

1,018.9

1,058.0

14.2

3.8

Buses

8.9

15.3

13.1

47.1

- 14.4

Commercial

29.5

39.8

42.0

18.6

5.5

Cargo

40.6

49.3

45.1

29.6

- 8.5

Other

39.4

86.5

87.8

15.5

1.5

Total

839.6

1,209.8

1,246.0

15.2

3.0

Source: National Department of Roads Yearbook, various years.

There is a shortage of recent information on the vehicle fleet but data for the late 1970s and the early 1980s, show clearly the effects of the economic recession (see table 9.11). Between 1978 and 1982, there was a dramatic increase in most kinds of motor vehicle; from 1982 until 1985, however, the growth rate slowed and for some kinds of vehicles there was actually a decline. The impact of recession was clearly felt very strongly by the bus and cargo fleets.

Falling fuel consumption and tyre sales further demonstrate that the number of cars on the roads continued to grow very slowly after 1985. Gasohol consumption in the State of Rio de Janeiro reached a peak in 1988 and fell thereafter. What is perhaps more worrying are the figures for diesel-fuel consumption, a good proxy for bus and lorry trips. In a city so highly dependent on bus transport, the steady decline in 1989 and 1990 in diesel sales suggests that there are far fewer buses available. If this interpretation is correct, the poor have been hit particularly hard.

Under current economic conditions the transport situation in Rio is unlikely to change markedly in the near future. The current financial plight of the metro, which carried only 238,000 passengers a day in 1992, means that there is little chance of its being extended. In any case this would be a very expensive option given Rio's physical structure. Much more likely is the development of some kind of light rail solution employing trams or streetcars with dedicated traffic lanes. This would be both an equitable and an efficient approach to the traffic problem.8

Table 9.12 Deaths from respiratory diseases associated with air pollution in major cities of south-east Brazil



Population

Deaths from

Deaths associated

Year

City

(000s)

respiratory diseases

with air pollution

1984

Rio de Janeiro

5,177

1,273

40

1988

Belo Horizonte

2,837

1,159

n.a.

1989

São Paulo

9,291

1,708

139

Source: Seroa da Motta and Fernandes Mendes, 1993.