In the city of Cotonou, most drivers of the numerous motorbike taxis known as “Zémidjans” in the local language phon have a strange accessory to their uniforms: they wear sleeping masques (the kind one gets in planes) over their mouths.
DETROIT, US – How does a bankrupt city with a declining population and dwindling public finances provide transportation for its residents? Detroit’s answer to that question has increasingly been to leverage private investments and entrepreneurial ideas. A few of these entrepreneurial ideas are homegrown. Nearly six years ago local investors developed the M1 Rail concept, the city’s first-ever light rail. The $140 million project, funded almost entirely by private investment, breaks ground later this month and will start operations in the late 2015.
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.
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.