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cities & citizens series - bridging the urban divide

Transport inequalities São Paulo has been accused of pursuing an elitist transportation agenda that favours the monied classes. Extremes in the city’s modes of transportation are easy to identify, with typical commute patterns that might look like this on any given day: While poor workers wait for early morning buses to take them into the city, executives pull out of their gated communities or guarded compounds in armoured four-wheeldrives and others jump into private helicopters. Those fortunate enough to live close to one of the 55 stations of São Paulo’s Metro system use that increasingly popular network, and millions of others use cars. Many simply walk. Overcoming the rampant inequalities in transportation and developing a functional transport system that meets the needs of São Paulo’s diverse population remains a challenge, considering the vast size of the MRSP. The MRSP incorporates 39 municipalities and is home to more than 20 million people. The MSP is the region’s largest municipality, but the central zone and the area covered by the Metro and overland rail networks is tiny compared with the vast sprawl of irregular and

main problem is the time it takes to get anywhere in the periphery. The city has approximately 10,000 buses — the largest urban bus fleet in the world — and many of them connect eventually with Metro stations, but ‘the public bus system is poorly maintained, slow, crowded and a major source of air pollution’.129 In an effort to address the pollution problem, the city has put 1,900 buses on the streets that are fuelled with a bio-fuel and diesel mix. Still, a huge number of personal vehicles clog the city’s roads, frustrating drivers and bus passengers alike. The Metro is ‘well-planned and well-maintained’, but it remains underused, accounting for only about 5 per cent of total person trips in the metropolitan region. The east-west line reaches 65,000 passengers per hour in one direction at peak periods, one of the highest figures in the world.130

semi-regulated poor housing that characterises the peri-urban majority of the MRSP. It seems self-evident that those outside of the exclusive centre, with its well-maintained twolane highways, slick Metro and regular buses, are marginalized by state transport strategies. The urban poor in São Paulo find transport services both insufficient and exclusionary, reinforcing their sense of social segregation.

When Line 4 of São Paulo’s Metro is complete in 2010, the Metro will have five lines, adding its central coverage to that of the 270-kilometre suburban train network that serves 22 of the 39 municipalities that make up the MRSP. On average, the Metro serves 3.3 million passengers per week day, while the suburban trains serve 2 million. There are significant projects in the pipeline to expand the Metro lines in São Paulo, co-funded by the World Bank, but new developments inevitably concentrate on the central zone and will be out of reach of the vast majority of the poor, who live in distant peripheral regions. The World Bank asserts otherwise, providing detailed analyses of how new Metro developments will benefit the urban poor.131 Currently, the city centre and those locations where the wealthy live and work are often closer to the Metro lines than poorer communities, but initiatives are underway to integrate the Metro and suburban trains, improving the quality of the existing trains. Better integration between Metro lines and bus networks is also planned, with the “bilhete único” (single ticket) policy having the potential to greatly benefit poor people in the periphery.

The municipality measures about 50 kilometres from east to west and 70 kilometres from north to south. While the existing systems of roads and trains do connect with most parts of the municipality and metropolitan region, the

Overall, however, the combined public transport system is less than half of the size of rail and subway networks in Berlin, New York and London, all of which serve smaller metropolitan regions than São Paulo. Generally, the

...the combined public transport system is less than half of the size of rail and subway networks in Berlin, New York and London, all of which serve smaller metropolitan regions than São Paulo.

Profile for UN-Habitat

Sao Paulo; A tale of two cities  

UN-HABITAT’s new Cities and Citizens series examines urban inequality in the developing world through in-depth analysis of intracity data de...

Sao Paulo; A tale of two cities  

UN-HABITAT’s new Cities and Citizens series examines urban inequality in the developing world through in-depth analysis of intracity data de...

Profile for unhabitat
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