Curitiba, Brazil – World’s Greatest Public Transit System
Jaime Lerner, three time mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, is heralded as much more than a small city mayor across the globe. Jaime is treated with almost saint-like status as he navigates the city of Curitiba, the street for which he played a large part in designing.
Jaime’s public transportation system is what skyrocketed him to stardom. The system has earned him many accolades, and has propelled Curitiba to one of the most admired public transit systems in the world. Bogotá and Los Angeles have both created spin-off systems based on his design.
The secrets are on display in the streets of Curitiba. Dedicated, fast-lane bus lines carry 36,000 passengers per hour and 2.3 million people each day. A one way trip costs only 1.25, and wait time is never more than a minute.
“I do think this city was a pioneer. It was a learning process and we quickly started to understand that you have to work fast,” said Jaime.
The genesis for the system came about in the mid 1960’s, where the bus system was conceived, also pedestrian-only streets, more parks, and then a unique trash for cash recycling program that encouraged garbage and reusables to be turned in for food and other goods.
“Every city can improve its quality of life in less than three years.”
The sum of all these initiatives has made Jaime Lerner a Eco-Legend of sorts. His mayorship complete, he now tours the globe, sharing his vision with others.
“Every city can improve its quality of life in less than three years. No matter the scale of the city, no matter the financial conditions,” Lerner said. “When we realize that 75 percent of carbon emissions are related to the cities, it is the cities where we can be most effective.”
At home in Curitiba, he does own a car, but uses it only when absolutely necessary. He encourages living areas built in conjunction with industry. His own commute was always just across the street. When he walks the streets of Curitiba, people greet with with reverence and gratitude at ever turn.
“I take the bus and I am home in 20 or 40 minutes. In a car, it can take an hour and a half,” office worker Cibele Bassi said.
Even with all the good being done, many of Jaime’s projects stand neglected. For example, Curitiba has 51 square meters of green space per person in the city, one of the highest per capita on the planet, but Fabio Duarte, a professor of Urban Planning at the Pontifical Catholic University of Parana, says:
“Most of the programs that Jaime Lerner and his team started 30 years ago….have been left alone or neglected. Public programs can’t be left alone. We must be there everyday to maintain them,” he said.
The choice is up to the people of Curitiba, for Jaime left politics in 2002. He now spends his time at this architecture firm, propelling urban planning projects for Shanghai, Perm in Russia, Mazatlan in Mexico, and Luanda in Angola. He also has an electric mini car in the works, dubbed the Dock Dock.