IS A METRO THE SOLUTION FOR CURITIBA?

Daniela Carballo

Curitiba is internationally recognized as an environmentally sustainable ‘model city’, mainly due to its efficient and innovative transportation system implemented since the 1970s when the Master Plan (Plano Diretor) was introduced. One of the urban issues of that time was that many Brazilian cities were experiencing unprecedented urban growth leading many metropolises into crisis, and this was the case of Curitiba too. In the 1960s the population growth reached the highest growth rate of the country, an average of over five percent per year. The growth was mainly a result of migration from the hinterland, following the mechanization of agriculture and displacement of farmers.



Table 1. Demographic Growth in Curitiba 1872-2008

The Master Plan based on a city growth concept of radial-linear expansion, incorporated several urban projects. The most relevant was the implementation of a new and innovative transportation system which included the creation of five axes of transportation that combined massive public transportation and mix use zoning. Known as RIT, the Integrated Transportation Network (Rede Integrada de Transporte) is a bus rapid transit system in Curitiba. It is and fuel saving innovative way to solve public transportation and it is worldwide recognized and taken as a model for other cities in Latin America and the United States.

The RIT has been working for four decades facing continuously demographic growth problems. The population of Curitiba has tripled its number from 1960s to 2000s forcing the system to be in constant implementation. Already in the first decade of use, the system had to double its capacity from 80 passengers per bus to 160 passengers. The number of buses and routes has increased along with the number of people, but still having problems to cover the demand.


Figure 1. The RIT system in Curitiba

The RIT system has approximately 1,100 buses, making about 15,000 trips daily. The ternary street system has an exclusive bus lane and bus drivers control the traffic lights, giving the buses priority. The IPPUC has designed five different buses that are used for different purpose: express buses run only along the main axes; rapid buses operate on the main axes and on other main streets; double- or triple-length buses operate on high capacity routes; inter-district buses carry passengers between the main arteries; and feeder buses operate on the city streets. The main function of the feeder buses is to bring passengers to district terminals or transfer stations. During rush hour, there is one bus every minute, carrying up to 20,000 passengers per hour. The bus stops have an efficient design that allows passengers enter from one end of the station and exit on the other end, minimizing the amount of idle time. The platform of the tube station is parallel to the platforms of the buses, so there are no steps to climb making the bus is handicap accessible.


Figure 2. The RIT system and its ‘tube’ stations in Curitiba

The reason to introduce the RIT was to reduce the use of fuel and opt for a more sustainable system. On one hand, Indicators show that around 85% of the population uses the RIT, but on the other hand statistics also show that the number of private cars in Curitiba reached 0.56 per person, which means that there is one private car for every two people, and the number is increasing since people prefer to use their own vehicles to avoid overcrowding in peak hours around the bus stops.

In response to the crisis of the traditional transportation system (RIT) the IPPUC had suggested the construction of the Metro of Curitiba in 2007. The blue line, will have 22 Km of extension, connecting from the Santa Candida Neighborhood located in the north of the capital, to the CIC (Industrial City of Curitiba), located in the South, with a total of 21 stations. At the beginning the investment calculated for the project reached 2.3 billon USD (2008), but in a recent meeting of the municipal government, the numbers reached 5 billion USD, what raised some doubts about the benefits of the project for the city. Therefore several blogs were created in which people can comment and give their opinion about the construction of the project.

Opinions about the construction of the Metro of Curitiba are divided, there is some people who think that the traditional transportation system can be upgraded in order to deal with the demand, and others think it is the moment to replace old system for a more efficient and modern one. The main supporter of the RIT is the ex-major of Curitiba and ex-governor of Parana, Jaime Lerner. According to his point of view the RIT system success depends on the appropriate management, furthermore the size of the investment could become a dangerous possibility of debt in the future not just for the city of Curitiba but also for the whole state of Parana.

Other arguments against the Metro are that Curitiba must conserve its old transportation system because it served as a model for other Latin-American cities. And it can’t show that the system failed and had to be replaced for other. In addition the metro will just have one line, that won’t solve completely traffic problems and it is not a immediate response because the construction will take at least 5 years.

On the other hand, people who believe the Metro is the solution for Curitiba, argues that this is a project that follows the same concept of the RIT, since it also tries to reduce the use of fuel and the use of private vehicles. Change is good as a sign of positive development of the city, and the implementation of a more modern system working along with the previous system would be a good combination of history and modernity. Furthermore, in the next FIFA World Cup, which will take place in Brazil, Curitiba will show to the world its new Metro that is planned to be finished at the beginning of 2014. And it is estimated to enhance the image of the city and therefore increase huge number of tourists heading to this City.

After reviewing both sides, it is clear that both parts have made their points, but these contradictions are just delaying the decision and not helping to solve the current problems. The Metro indeed is an answer for massive transportation, but it will take many years of implementation, in the meanwhile it will cause more problems in the RIT, since some bus-channels will stop working during the period of construction. In addition, if the metro will not be able to finish on time for 2014 as hoped by the IPPUC, it will give a construction-site image of the city for people who visit and it may put in danger the inclusion of Curitiba as a selected city for the World Cup.

But on the other hand we should consider that Curitiba will expand along the years, maybe not in the center anymore but in its periphery that nowadays is merging with other small neighboring cities. The problem is that the previous Master Plan, didn’t consider the expansion and growth rate outside the limits of the city of that time, and the metro could be the right tool as a inter-city connection in a more efficient way and serve the city demand at the same time.


Fig 2. Virtual Model of the Metro of Curitiba working simultaneously with the RIT


For more information visit:
http://www.ippuc.org.br
http://metro.curitiba.pr.gov.br/
Official thread of Curitiba Metro on http://www.skyscrapercity.com
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