Curitiba has trebled in size in just 25 years and now has a population of 1.6 million. With careful planning and an eye on the future, however, the authorities have created a city that is an inspiration for city planners everywhere.


Three decades of thoughtful city planning

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The city of Curitiba provides the world with a model in how to integrate sustainable transport considerations into business development, road infrastructure development, and local community development.

Curitiba first outlined its Master Plan in 1965, with the main goals of limiting central area growth and encouraging commercial and service sector growth along two structural north-south transport arteries, radiating out from the city center. The Master Plan also aimed to provide economic support for urban development through the establishment of industrial zones and to encourage local community self-sufficiency by providing all city districts with adequate education, health care, recreation, and park areas.

The plan called for the integration of traffic management, transportation, and land-use planning to achieve its goals, and maintained flexibility in its regulations to allow for different future development scenarios.

The Master Plan established the guiding principle that mobility and land use can not be disassociated with each other if the city's future design is to succeed. In order to fulfill the goals of the Master Plan in providing access for all citizens, the main transport arteries were modified over time to give public transport the highest priority.

Each of the five arteries contains one two-way lane devoted exclusively to express buses. This inner lane is flanked on either side by 1) a local access lane for cars and 2) a high-capacity one-way route for use by both cars and buses. Separating traffic types and establishing exclusive bus lanes on the city's predominant arteries helped to mold two defining characteristics of the city's transport system: a safe, reliable, and efficient bus service operating without the hazards and delays inherent to mixed-traffic bus service; and densification of development along the bus routes.

About 1,100 buses make 12,500 trips per day, serving 1.3 million passengers. Five different types of buses operate in Curitiba:

  • Express buses operate exclusively on the arteries' dedicated busways.

  • "Rapid" buses operate on both the arteries and on other main streets throughout the city, and their routes are changed to respond to demand. These buses stop at tube-shaped stations designed for protection from the weather and for quick bus entry and exit. They also accommodate the handicapped.

  • A new "bi-articulated" bus, introduced in December, 1992, is a form of rapid bus operating on the outside high-capacity lanes. Bi-articulated buses - the largest in the world - are actually three buses attached by two articulations, and are capable of carrying 270 passengers.

  • "Inter-district" buses bring passengers between the city's sectors lying between the arteries, and thus provide a crucial link between the routes of the express and bi-articulated buses.

  • Finally, "feeder" buses mix with traffic on all other city streets and bring passengers to transfer stations called "District Terminals," around which local urban development and commercial activity has flourished.

Curitiba's buses are privately-owned by ten companies, managed by a quasi-public company. With this public-private collaboration, public sector concerns (e.g. safety, accessibility, and efficiency) are combined private sector goals (e.g. low maintenance and operating costs). The bus companies receive no subsidies; instead all mass transit money collected goes to a fund and companies are paid on a distance travelled basis.

Curitiba's buses carry 50 times more passengers than they did 20 years ago, but people spend only about 10 percent of their yearly income on transport. As a result, despite the second highest per capita car ownership rate in Brazil (one car for every three people), Curitiba's gasoline use per capita is 30 percent below that of eight comparable Brazilian cities. Other results include negligible emissions levels, little congestion, and an extremely pleasant living environment...

Nonmotorized Transport and Pedestrian Facilities

The policy of encouraging high density development along the five structural arteries has helped to divert transport movement from the city center. The low congestion consequently made it easier to promote other means of travel in the city center. Hence, the city created a pedestrian network, covering an area equivalent to nearly fifty blocks, in the downtown area. Although at first local merchants were opposed to the idea, they quickly found the pedestrian zone to be a tremendous economic boost; much more space was available in the area for customers rather than vehicles, the shopping environment was more pleasant, and people had more time to shop when they did not have to drive and park. Bus terminals on the periphery provide frequent access to the area. Furthermore, the Curitiba Public Works Plan for 1992 calls for 150 km of bicycle paths to be built, following river bottom valleys and railway tracks and connecting the city's districts to make the entire city accessible to bicycles.

Curitiba's infrastructure makes bus travel fast and convenient, effectively creating demand for bus use in the same way that the infrastructure of traditional cities creates demand for private motor vehicles.

Curitiba is a thriving example of how to 'dismantle' a problem before it starts.

For more information on Curitiba,
go to Dismantlement Links.

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