Contents - Previous - Next
This is the old United Nations University website. Visit the new site at http://unu.edu
5. A hundred million journeys a day: The management of transport in Latin America's mega-cities
Urban growth and the evolution of transport
Recent developments in the transport systems of the five cities
Do mega-cities have special transport problems?
Every day, some ninety-five million motorized journeys are made in Latin America's five largest cities. Most of these journeys are by public transport, which accounts for around three-quarters of the total. As table 5.1 shows, however, there are major variations between the five cities in their dependence on public transport. Lima and Mexico City depend very heavily on public systems, Buenos Aires and São Paulo much less so. These differences can hardly be attributed to differences in the size of each city; they are much more a reflection of differences in the rate of private car ownership, in the organization of the transport system in each city, and in the structure and timing of urban growth. For this reason it is very important to understand the different institutional structures and transport systems in each city as well as the nature of their distinctive forms of historical development.
Urban growth and the evolution of transport systems
At the beginning of the century, when mass transport systems began to develop, few cities contained anywhere near one million inhabitants. In 1900, only Buenos Aires (with 806,000 people) and Rio de Janeiro (with 692,000 people) had more than half a million inhabitants; Mexico City, Santiago, Havana, Montevideo, São Paulo, Sal
Table 5.1 Journeys by motorized vehicle and public transport in Latin America's megacities, 1980s
|City||Journeys per day (millions)||Journeys by public transport (millions)||Share of public transport (%)|
Sources: Origin-destination surveys, São Paulo (1987) and Buenos Aires (1992). Annual transport and road report, Mexico City, 1991. Various reports, Lima and Rio de Janeiro. vador, Valparaíso, Lima, Recife, Rosario, Guadalajara, and Bogotá all had between 100,000 and 500,000 inhabitants (Hardoy and Langdon, 1978). Nevertheless, the process of urban improvement through the installation of urban infrastructure and services was already under way, the authorities having realized that economic growth could not occur without it. Improving the transport system formed an important component of this process of urban development; better transport was needed to move the rapidly increasing numbers of people about the city. Fortunately, investment in transport was seldom opposed by business groups; when combined with the opportunities it offered for land speculation, spending on transportation could be highly profitable.
Initially, transport development took a similar form across the five cities. By 1906, for example, all four of the current mega-cities had inaugurated tram systems. The major difference between them lay in the development of railways. Suburban railway systems were developed in São Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Rio de Janeiro because these cities began to grow rapidly at a time when the railway was regarded as an essential component of any urban transportation system. The growth of Lima and Mexico City started later, when a new form of transport, the bus, had begun to sweep all before it. For a number of years, therefore, trams and railways constituted the basis of the public transport system. There were few cars and only Buenos Aires had an underground system.
By 1930, Buenos Aires had 2.2 million inhabitants, Rio de Janeiro 1.5 million, and Mexico City and São Paulo both around 1.1 million. Only Lima, with 273,000 inhabitants, was still a small city (Hardoy and Langdon, 1978). Everywhere, rapid urban growth was putting pressure on the existing transport system; faster industrial development was demanding more efficient methods of moving both people and goods around the city (Navarro, 1986). As a result, governments began to intervene more actively in the transport sector. Sometimes, the form of intervention was rather unhelpful. For example, when they realized that the cost of transport could be a major burden for workers, several governments put pressure on the private tram companies to freeze fares. Populist leaders in Argentina, Brazil, and Peru froze the cost of transport during the 1930s and 1940s, for periods as long as twenty years (Figueroa et al., 1993). With fares frozen, the tram companies began to experience severe financial difficulties. At a time of rapid urban growth, they needed to extend their networks, but they could not afford to invest if they could not raise their fares. The consequence was that few companies attempted to enlarge their networks.
Fortunately, an alternative to the tram was becoming available as small companies began to establish bus routes. This was a process that occurred spontaneously, largely uncoordinated by the urban authorities. The principal advantage of the bus was its flexibility; companies could change their routes quickly and regularly extend their services to the edge of the city.
Increasing competition from the buses worsened the situation of the tram companies. Services declined, bankruptcy threatened, and gradually many of the companies were taken over by the state: in Mexico City in 1946, in São Paulo in 1947, in Buenos Aires in 1948, in Lima in 1955, and in Rio de Janeiro in 1965 (Figueroa, 1991). Nationalization of the tram companies was unavoidable if a transport crisis was to be avoided. Even if buses were carrying the majority of passengers, few cities in the 1940s and 1950s could afford to lose their trams. Such a situation was not to last very long, and, from the 1940s, the bus became the dominant mode of public transport.
The nature of bus operations varied considerably between cities. Whereas Lima and Mexico City permitted private companies to run the buses, municipal companies were set up in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. In Buenos Aires, a federal company was established to operate buses within the Federal Capital. However, state efforts to establish a monopoly over transportation in Buenos Aires and São Paulo quickly crumbled in the face of private pressure. The municipal transport authority in São Paulo handed over an important part of its remit to private operators, while the federal company in Buenos
Aires was privatized, leaving only the underground in the hands of the state.
From then on, the bus systems in all of the cities were run mainly by private companies, although the form of those companies differed widely. In the two Brazilian cities, large companies ran the system; in Lima and Mexico City, control remained mainly in the hands of small operators; in Buenos Aires, cooperatives developed with the legal status of companies. One result is that the nature of the bus fleet differs today in the five cities. Whereas minibuses are used extensively in Lima and Mexico City, they are not used at all in the other cities. Medium-sized buses predominate in Buenos Aires, while standard-size single-decker buses are the most common form in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The differences reflect the different histories of transport development in each city.
Gradually, the cities grew so large that their dependence on the bus began to cause difficulties. With increasing levels of private car ownership, the problem of traffic congestion worsened. One response was to develop underground railway systems, and today all five cities contain some kind of metro system. Buenos Aires first established an underground system in 1913 and has extended it over the years (figure 5.1). The metro systems in Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo are much more recent, having been inaugurated between the end of the 1960s and the middle of the 1970s. Lima is still in the throes of constructing its system, a project which has suffered badly from institutional and funding difficulties.
Of course, underground services are extremely expensive to build and few planners consider them to be an appropriate response to the needs of Latin American cities. Such a view is apparently supported by the relatively small proportion of total journeys carried by the underground in each city (table 5.2). Only in Mexico City does the metro account for more than 10 per cent of all passenger trips, in São Paulo it carries less than 7 per cent of all passengers, and in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro less than 5 per cent. However, since most of the underground networks are very limited in extent, they can hardly be expected to carry the majority of passengers. The logic of the underground is to service routes which carry the largest flows of traffic. Their strategic value lies in their contribution to movement along the key routes where they operate, particularly during rush hours. According to this criterion, it can be said that the performance of the underground systems in Mexico City and São Paulo is satisfactory, while that of the metros in Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires is not. In Rio, a major problem has been the failure to complete the system; in Buenos Aires, an inability to invest in the system has meant that it has been in continuous decline since the 1960s.
Figure 5.1 A Major underground railway systems
Figure 5.1 B Major underground railway systems
Table 5.2 Journeys by different forms of public transport, 1980s (millions of daily journeys)
|Modea||Buenos Aires||São Paulo||Rio de Lima||Mexico Janeiro||City||Total|
a. The tram systems m Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and Mexico City are each responsible for less than 100,000 daily journeys. The ferries of Rio de Janeiro carry 175 thousand passengers every day. None is included in the table.
Given the cost of metro construction, there has recently been something of a resurgence in the popularity of surface rail systems and even of modern forms of the tram. Buenos Aires has recently modernized its old tram lines and Mexico City has constructed a light rail link as an extension to one of its underground lines. Rio de Janeiro operates an old tram line, which is used mainly as a tourist attraction, as well as a light rail link.
Today, therefore, transport systems in the five cities show considerable differences. While all have some form of metro system, well-developed bus and microbus networks, and, of course, far too many private cars, only Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo have suburban rail systems, only Mexico City and São Paulo have trolley buses, and just Rio has a ferry service. Perhaps the most dominant feature in all of the cities is the widespread use of the bus. Table 5.2 shows that almost 90 per cent of all journeys by public transport are on some kind of bus, and, in Lima, virtually every passenger travels by bus or minibus.1
A further similarity between the cities is their increasing dependence on the private car. Unfortunately, as levels of private car ownership have increased so traffic congestion has worsened. Despite major road improvements, there has been little sign of the traffic speeding up. New roads have simply generated more traffic. This worldwide tendency has been worsened by the form that road investment has taken; most new roads have consolidated the existing radial design, fossilizing existing land uses and contributing to worse congestion.
A number of problems weaken coordination and management of the transport sector in Latin America's largest five cities. The principal problems are as follows.
Fragmentation of urban administration
Fragmentation of responsibility for urban transport is the rule in most of the cities. In part, the problem stems from the fact that the urban area has grown beyond the original limits of the city (see chapters 3 and 4). Because they now form metropolitan conurbations, their government is divided between a number of different municipal areas. This problem spills over into the transport sector. As a result, none of the five cities has a metropolitan authority with full responsibility for transportation.
In São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, although control of transport is predominantly in the hands of the municipal authorities, the regions have as many regulatory bodies as the municipalities. In Buenos Aires and Mexico City, part of the city is controlled by the federal government and part by the state or provincial government (see chapters 6 and 8). At times, such complicated administrative structures lead almost to anarchy. For example, in Buenos Aires, bus routes regulated by the province or local state are often banned from entering the Federal Capital; passengers must dismount from one bus and get onto another. In Mexico City, the metro operates wholly in the Federal District and no lines penetrate into the State of Mexico. Only now are there plans to remedy that situation.
Only in the Lima-Callao region does one municipal authority have control over transport across the entire metropolitan area. This responsibility, however, dates only from the mid-1980s and has been undermined by the municipality's lack of power over critical issues as well as a general lack of clarity in the legislation. The result has been that the national government has sometimes chosen to override the authority of the municipal administration, for example when it decided to build the Lima underground and when it deregulated urban transport at the beginning of the 1990s.
All five cities also suffer from the complications that arise from different agencies having responsibility over different elements of the transport system. These agencies often take independent decisions. For example, the agency which regulates public transport has no control over the building and maintenance of the roads; hence, bus routes may run along unpaved or poorly maintained roads. At a more general level, there is little or no coordination between the transport authorities and the agencies that control urban land use. Decisions to build a new industrial zone or to permit construction of a new shopping centre may be made without careful consideration of the traffic implications.
Limited regulatory powers
The powers of the government to regulate the transport sector vary considerably between the five cities. For a start ownership structures differ: in Lima, all modes of transport are now in private hands, whereas in Mexico City there is a major state presence (see below). In addition, controls over the private transport companies differ. In Lima, almost all controls were dismantled in 1991 and firms are now free to establish their own routes and fares. In Mexico City, strict centralized controls were maintained in the Federal District until the late 1980s. Since then, greater freedom has been given to the private firms running the minibuses (peseros). The public Route 100 network has been reduced and there has been a drastic cut in subsidies to the metro. In São Paulo, bus companies were regulated, until recently, through an innovative practice called "municipalization." The municipality of São Paulo contracted private firms to operate services throughout the metropolitan area. It laid down performance criteria (normally minimum distances to be operated each day) and the companies paid the fares to the municipality. In Buenos Aires, where bus operations have been heavily regulated for years, considerable flexibility has governed official dealings with private enterprise.
Deteriorating public transport systems
Suburban rail links, which have a long history in Brazil and Argentina, have suffered severely from a lack of investment during the last twenty years. Heavily controlled fares have undermined the agencies' ability to generate enough resources to maintain the existing system, let alone improve it. The quality of the service has also been damaged by frequent changes in the management system.
Improvements to the bus services have also been hampered by very low fares. With operators unable to increase revenues, there has been little incentive to expand the fleet. Faced by rising costs, operators have responded by reducing the quality of the service (Figueroa, 1991). Bus fleets have deteriorated, especially in the case of Route 100 in Mexico City and ENATRU in Lima, where the bus fleet has aged considerably. Declines in the quality of the bus fleet and increasing journey times have also been apparent in São Paulo (Trani, 1985), Buenos Aires (Brennan et al., 1993) and Rio de Janeiro (Camera, 1993).
With uniform fares in operation, few operators have tried to introduce special services which might have tempted higher income groups out of their cars. Under these circumstances, public transport has not fulfilled its social function and has become another source of congestion and disorganization. Most operators have increasingly used smaller buses, a practice which has increased the number of buses in operation and worsened traffic congestion. Too many bus companies run old buses, which contain large numbers of standing passengers, along routes crowded with other traffic.
Recent developments in the transport systems of the five cities
The double privatization of public transport in Buenos Aires
When privatization removed the state's monopoly over transport in 1955, the buses and minibuses were sold to the workers. The cooperative organizations which emerged were very successful in the fierce competition that broke out after privatization. The bus was a flexible mode of transportation and the cooperatives proved very popular with the public. With most urban growth occurring on the edge of the city, the rail systems needed to expand outwards. Faced by mounting financial difficulties, however, neither the trains nor the underground could respond. As a result, the rail network now carries about half the number of passengers it did in 1960. The flexibility of the bus also gave it a major advantage over the tram and the operating companies soon went out of business.
If the bus flourished relative to the train and the tram, the private car did even better; Buenos Aires now has one car for every 16.4 inhabitants (Brennan et al., 1993). While the number of bus journeys has risen by only 5 per cent since 1960, the number of car journeys has increased by 430 per cent. Cars are now responsible for 30 per cent of all motorized journeys within the metropolitan area. The outcome of this development has been totally predictable. First, road congestion has reached chronic levels in the central area and along the main access routes from the north and west. Second, fuel consumption has risen dramatically as a result of the shift from larger to smaller road vehicles and the increase in traffic congestion. Cars now account for 7.4 per cent of all the energy consumed in the country compared to 2.4 per cent by buses and 0.4 per cent by trains. In terms of the relative numbers of passengers carried, the car is a very wasteful form of transport.
The Menem government (1990-date) has tried to address these problems in two main ways. First, because of its lack of confidence in public enterprise, it has been trying to privatize the urban rail systems. It hopes that private companies will improve the efficiency of the train service and will encourage more drivers to leave their cars at home. Second, the bus system has been upgraded and companies have been encouraged to provide a wider range of services. Routes have been modified to avoid the worst traffic bottlenecks and special express services have been introduced which provide a quick, allseater service. It is hoped that by improving public transport, congestion between the centre and the suburbs will be reduced.
Informality and deregulation in Lima
Lima is different from the four larger cities in so far as it is poorer and its period of peak demographic growth occurred much more recently. In 1965, the city had little more than two million inhabitants and many fewer transport problems than it faces today. The main difficulties were that few buses were being maintained adequately and the bus fleet was failing to expand as quickly as the rapidly increasing population. With the closure of the tram service, the gap between demand and supply was being met mainly through the growth of collective taxi services.
The financial health of the bus companies continued to deteriorate, and during the second half of the 1960s many of the biggest companies went out of business. They were replaced by a series of cooperatives and "social companies" run by the former workers of the bankrupt companies. These new organizations ran whatever old stock was still available (Sanchez-Leon et al., 1978). Although the state tried to help by establishing the ENATRU-Perú bus company - effectively a rescue of the defunct municipal company APTL- and by merging 16 bus cooperatives into a much larger cooperative company, Transportes Lima Metropolitana, the strategy was only partially successful. The gap between demand and supply was filled by small companies which operated services to the peripheral low-income settlements, using mainly minibuses and collective taxis. By 1989, only 13 companies were running large buses compared to the 94 firms operating small buses, the 39 associations operating minibuses, and the seven committees of collective taxi owners (Transurb-Class, 1989). The increasing number of small vehicles made road congestion very much worse.
Not only did the fleets contain a large number of small vehicles, but many were also very old. In 1988, the average bus was 13 years old, the average minibus 17 years, and the average collective taxi a venerable 25 years. The fleet had aged as firms failed to renew their stock of vehicles (De Wit, 1981).
In the face of continuing deterioration in the public transport system, the central government decided to transfer regulatory responsibility to the municipality of Lima (Vera, 1987), although the government retained ownership of ENATRU. However, the municipality, lacking both experience and resources, failed to create an adequate regulatory system. Responsibility was poorly defined, so the central government retained considerable influence and the operators managed to increase their powers of self-regulation. The inability of the municipal council to run transport efficiently can be seen in the annulling of operational permits without any replacement service, and the introduction of a bidding process for new routes which was never used (Transurb-Class, 1989). Gradually, the central government began to intervene more and more. Such interference was most clearly demonstrated in 1986, when, with a minimum of either consultation or prior study, it decided to build a 35-kilometre-long underground railway.2 Whether or not this project will survive or die is still in question, even though a considerable amount of money has been invested in building the system.
In 1991, when the central government decided to deregulate public transport in Lima completely (fares, barriers to entry, and routes), the regulatory powers of the municipality came to an end. ENATRU was also dismantled and its fleet sold to its former workers. Deregulation was accompanied by a liberalization in the rules governing the import of both new and used vehicles. The result has been a sharp increase in the number of buses, especially of smaller vehicles, which has added to traffic congestion and led to some deterioration in the quality of the service. Increasing disorder and rising fares have prompted attempts to reestablish some of the authorities' previous powers.
Technological and regulatory development in Mexico City
Mexico City's greatest problem is that over the last 40 years the number of journeys has increased much faster than the population. The authorities have tried to cope with this expansion in highly innovative, if not always consistent, ways. These have included changes to the institutional structure and the introduction of new forms of technology such as the metro. The vast number of experiments is testimony to the severity of the transport challenge facing a city of 16 million inhabitants.
By the early 1960s, traffic congestion in the central area was already extremely serious. In order to deal with this situation, the government agreed to build a massive underground system (Davis, 1994). Work on three lines began and the first line was opened in 1969 (Navarro, 1986). The new lines were an immediate success, carrying nearly one million passengers a day in the first year of operation. Despite the metro's success, however, road congestion continued to be a major problem; the underground merely freed road space for new vehicles to fill. Between 1960 and 1970, the level of private car ownership in the city doubled, rising from 5.1 cars per hundred inhabitants to 10.3 (Figueroa, 1990).
During the 1970s, a different approach was tried. The Echeverría government slowed underground construction and concentrated on the development of the road and bus systems (Davis, 1994). It subsidized the purchase of new buses by private operators and reorganized the bus system. It also began a major road-building plan which would produce 16 new ejes viales by 1978.3 Buses and trolleys were given reserved lanes along these new routes and this programme clearly helped the bus companies. The policy also succeeded in speeding up traffic in the city, but, with its clear encouragement for private car ownership, it soon led to a further rise in the number of road vehicles (Domínguez-Pommerencke, 1987). As a consequence, the number of daily journeys during the 1970s increased at an annual rate of 5.6 per cent (Ibarra, 1981).
By the late 1970s, the construction of new underground lines was again de rigueur. Unfortunately, the new lines carried many fewer passengers than the old. In 1976, the 38-kilometre network carried 1.7 million passengers every day: an average of 45,000 passengers per kilometre. By 1992, although 4.5 million passengers were using the expanded system of 158 kilometres, usage had fallen to only 28,000 passengers per kilometre of track. The first three lines, all of which went through the city centre, were carrying 3.1 million passengers; the six new lines, most of which bypassed the centre, only 1.4 million. Currently, the four lines which run into the centre of Mexico City carry 78 per cent of all the network's passengers (Alamys, 1993).
By 1980, it was clear that a new approach was needed. While construction of new underground lines continued, the bus system was reformed. First, the bus companies operating in the Federal District were nationalized and the newly created Route 100 given a virtual monopoly in that area. Second, the General Transport Coordinating Organization was created to coordinate public transport in the metropolitan area. Third, bus and metro fares, which had been heavily subsidized until the middle 1980s, were raised; in future they should reflect the true cost of providing the service (Figueroa, 1990).
The problem with this approach was that it was difficult to maintain investment levels from public funds, particularly during a time of economic recession. The policy of increasing public control over buses in the Federal District also conflicted with the power that private bus and minibus companies wielded in the State of Mexico. Increasingly, the approach was modified and more private companies were allowed to operate within the Federal District; between 1988 and 1991, Route 100's share of passengers fell by half while that of the peseros increased two and a half times (Mexico, DDF, 1991). Continued investment in the metro has allowed it more or less to maintain its passenger share (Navarro, 1991).
Changing circumstances demand new forms of intervention. It is clear that the metropolitan area currently relies too much on the peseros, which now carry 73 per cent of all passengers. As usual, new ways must be found to improve the quality and efficiency of the city's transport system.
State, metropolis, and municipality: Transport in São Paulo
Metropolitan São Paulo, with its 16 million people living in 38 different municipalities, faces a major transport challenge. Every day, some 30 million journeys are made, a high proportion by car. Not only does the city have one of the highest rates of private car ownership in Latin America but its public transport system is in a state of perpetual decline. Between 1977 and 1987, private cars carried virtually all of the huge increase in passenger trips (Poole et al., 1990). The decline in the availability and affordability of public transport is further reflected in the rapid increase in the number of journeys made on foot. In 1977, the latter accounted for onequarter of all journeys in the metropolitan area; ten years later they made up one-third. Those with money have become more dependent on the car; the poor have been forced to rely on their feet.
São Paulo has long debated the virtues of private car ownership versus those of public transport. This debate reached its climax when the tram system was closed down. The authorities decided that the city should become much more dependent on the private car and, during the 1950s and 1960s, enormous sums were invested in the road system. Nevertheless, the commitment to a strong state presence in the management of public transport remained intact. The municipal firm (CMTC) converted the old tram routes into bus lines and the federally-owned RFFSA and the State-owned FEPASA ran the railways. When the underground was built in 1975, the State of São Paulo was given majority control in partnership with municipal and federal government agencies.
One of the major difficulties facing the authorities in the city is their lack of control over key variables in the transport equation. As in other large Brazilian cities, regulating the transport situation was rendered all but impossible. The first problem is the fragmentation of powers between different agencies; the second the lack of consensus between those agencies.
Responsibility for regulating transport in the region is divided between the main actor, the municipality of São Paulo, the other municipalities in the metropolitan area, and the largely independent public companies which run the railway, underground, and trolley systems. In addition to the problems of coordinating policy between the different public agencies, the power of private operators has been gradually increasing. This is reflected in the loosening level of state control over the bus system. The close monitoring exercised over the bus companies in the 1960s, including rationalization of the firms and a division of the city into sectors, later led to the CMTC's contracting private firms to operate under its name and eventually, in 1993, to privatization of the CMTC. Today, most passengers are carried by independent companies; there is little in the way of state control.
Faced by major difficulties in confronting and resolving their problems in a concerted way, the authorities in São Paulo have been forced to give more and more responsibility to independent actors. The lack of coordination, combined with the nature of urban growth in the city, has led to a major decline in the quality of transport in the city. This deterioration has been particularly marked for those using the buses, average journey times having increased from 52 to 57 minutes between 1977 and 1987. Since the poor form the bulk of the passengers, they have suffered most. Today, 26 per cent of the lowest income group take an hour and a half to get to work; by comparison, only 12 per cent of the richest group take that long. One consequence is that mobility rates are very low among the poor: while the very poor average only 0.44 journeys per day, high-income people make 1.86 journeys every day (Poole et al., 1990).
Changes in transport policy in Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro's ten million inhabitants face major transport problems. With an institutional framework as disorganized as that of São Paulo, transportation in Rio is further complicated by the unique physical layout of the city (see chapter 9). With the sea and the mountains limiting transport options, a radial road network system has developed, funnelling traffic into the highly congested centre. Not only is the central area the principal generator of journeys, it is also the major transit point: 84 per cent of all journeys begin or end in the municipality of Rio de Janeiro. What makes the situation worse is that most of these journeys are made by road. Consequently, traffic congestion is a serious problem. Journeys, particularly for the poor moving into the centre from the distant periphery, are long, slow, and relatively expensive (Camera, 1993).
The transport authorities in Rio have generally shown little determination in their attempts to ameliorate these conditions. Design of the road network has been influenced more by political pressures than by the needs of travellers. Whereas the network in the low-income north of the city remains poorly developed, high-cost solutions, such as the Rebouças tunnel, have improved communication to the affluent south (Montenegro, 1987). The authorities have also failed to maintain control over the numerous private bus companies. Despite severe traffic congestion, there has been little investment in alternative modes of transport. The suburban train system has deteriorated badly, the ferry service between the city centre and Niterói is stretched to breaking point, and the underground system has a very limited capacity.
Poor coordination, both between the government and the private companies and within the public sector, is a major problem. Although private buses carry the vast majority of Rio's passengers, they have a rudimentary level of organization and have never been adequately regulated by the authorities. There is also a small public bus company, which accounts for 3-5 per cent of bus journeys. The federal train company (previously RFFSA and now CBTU) operates what must be the most badly run suburban system in Brazil. Even when the authorities start from scratch, they seldom manage to do the job effectively; the new underground is a poorly designed and inefficient system.
Adequate transport solutions have hardly been facilitated by the changing political organization of the city, which became a city-state (Guanabara) when the federal government was moved to Brasilia in 1956 and lost its independence when it was merged with the neighbouring State of Rio de Janeiro in 1975. Today, the state authorities exercise most responsibility over the city's transport system (Britto Pereira, 1987). The city has also suffered from extreme swings in policy as municipal, state, and federal administrations have changed. The list of major swings in urban transport policy is long. Several private bus companies were taken over by the authorities in 1987, but, with a change in the state government in 1991, were returned to the private sector. In terms of roads, the decision to allow private companies to construct a toll road (Vermelha Road) to link the north and the centre of the city was soon reversed. The road was built with public funds and with no charge for users (Nassi, 1987a). Plans for the development of the underground have changed constantly over the last ten years, as new lines have been opened and even closed (Nassi, 1987b). Indeed, Rio must be the only city in the world to have opened a new underground line and then to have closed it almost immediately!
It is the combination of difficult terrain, the physical layout of the city, and a long record of maladministration that has produced Rio's current traffic chaos. By contrast with almost any other city in Brazil, Rio has an extraordinarily inefficient system.
Contents - Previous - Next