Frontline World

BRAZIL - Curitiba's Urban Experiment, December 2003
a FRONTLINE/World Fellows project
solutions: transportation
master plan: history
master plan: future

Curitiba's planners designed its public transit system to be economical. Rather than building a new train or subway system and pay exorbitant construction costs, Curitiba's designers worked with existing roadways to create a convenient, comprehensive and affordable bus system. It's been so successful in Curitiba that dozens of cities worldwide have adopted the model.

Curitiba's buses make more than 21,000 trips a day, traveling more than 275,000 miles. Riders pay the same fare, no matter how far they're traveling. That one fare covers an entire trip in the same direction regardless of number of transfers. For the equivalent of about 60 cents, I could travel a dozen blocks -- one small piece of the integrated metropolitan transit system -- to a restaurant, and for the same price a resident of the city's poorer outlying area can commute many miles on several inbound bus lines to a job in the industrial zone.

Curitiba is able to finance the system through a mix of private and public resources. Although managed by the city's transit authority, the city contracts out the service to 22 private companies, who operate the buses and taxis and share revenues with the city to support road maintenance and upkeep of the terminals.

Curitibanos, however, aren't an entirely carless people. In fact, Curitiba has one of the highest per-capita car ownership rates in Brazil. But the city's gasoline use per capita is one-third below that of eight comparable Brazilian cities, perhaps indicating thatCuritibanos are less dependent upon the car.

More than 60 percent of overall travel in Curitiba is by bus -- Curitibanos use the transit system for more than just commuting to and from work. The bus lines of the expansive transit network are coded by color and organized according to citizens' daily needs, from accessing health care to shopping. Over a 20-year period, ridership has increased 400 percent in Curitiba.
Curitiba's Color-Coded Transit System
Regional Buses
These orange-colored buses carry passengers from outlying neighborhoods to Curitiba's 21 regional terminals, seven of which serve as transit hubs, offering basic services and shopping.
Above-Ground Transit
These large red express buses with two or three cabins strung together like accordions carry up to 270 passengers along main transit routes. The buses travel on dedicated traffic lanes and stop at tube stations, elongated clear plastic and metal elevated passenger landings.
City Street Buses
Curitiba's yellow conventional buses travel the secondary streets of the city, shuttling passengers between main transit routes and residential neighborhoods.
Express Service
These grey ligerinho, or speedy buses, offer express service between Curitiba's suburbs and its downtown. They are mostly used by those commuting to and from work.
Health Care Transit
The blue interhospital buses run service between Curitiba's medical centers.
Tourist Buses
These white comfortable, mid-size coaches offer visitors an easy way to see Curitiba's sights. The bus takes tourists on a sightseeing loop of the city's most popular parks, woods and museums. Tickets are more expensive than normal fare -- 10 reais, or just over US$3 -- and allow passengers to get off and back on the bus up to three times, enabling tourists to spend more time at destinations along the sightseeing loop.
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