Flashy ultra-modern generators of large-scale employment and big government contracts, urban rail projects have long been the darlings of ribbon-cutting, crony-friendly politicians. However, as the Brazilian city of Curitiba and the visionary planning of architect-turned-politician Jamie Lerner demonstrate, sound planning combined with creative deployment of public transport’s humble workhorse—the bus—can have tremendous impact. Leadership in a particular industry or sector does not depend on superior access to resources or greater depth of experience. “The two things you really need are a breakthrough idea and persistence”, says an emphatic Leny Toniolo, advisor at Curitiba’s Environmental Secretary, who met with me at Athletes’ Park during the Rio+20 summit in June. Athlete’s Park Curitiba exhibition booth, Riocentro; Source: Student Reporter. The populations of major urban centers in the developing world have been increasing at an accelerating rate. Brazil is no exception. As populations grow, so does the need to move people into and out of cities.
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brasil – Rarely does it happen in the world’s metropolises that the most valuable parcels of real estate are given to shanty towns. Slums are usually relegated to the suburbs, along the fringes of the city, far away from “normal” citizens and tourists. In Rio, the opposite is true. Few premier hotels and upper class condominiums offer such breath-taking views of the city and its coastline as do the favelas. And more and more of the city’s poor are “taking advantage of them.” Images: Visit of Favela Morro da Providencia (Source: Student Reporter).
As I took part in some of the side events today on sustainable transport, a cognitive dissonance was created in my mind. It happens quite often that brilliant ideas somehow do not marry so easy with everyday reality. Even at Rio+20. People from all over the world – large global multinationals and the most powerful countries – have gathered at Rio’s Athletes’ Park in the city outskirts. The topic under discussion – bright new ways of managing the concrete spaghetti that feeds the daily maneuvers of urban inhabitants.
I have been sitting on an air conditioned bus over an hour, enjoying ocean vistas on my left and thickly forested mountain jungles on my right. Huge black rock cliffs soar out of thick green vegetation into low-roaming misty clouds. Bikini-clad, Brazilian-waxed Brazilians sun or jog along the beach. It’s the most beautiful traffic jam ever. I barely notice that I am going nowhere.