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Governance of Inclusive Transit-Oriented Development in Brazil

Transit-oriented development (TOD)—a planning strategy focused on building compact, mixed-use neighborhoods with access to high-quality public transport and mobility options—is key to sustainable urbanization. However, TOD can be exclusive in its design and implementation, leading to the displacement of low-income residents and the gentrification of neighborhoods.

Developing more inclusive TOD processes can help urban communities mitigate potential negative outcomes. This working paper examines the role good governance principles of clear institutional arrangements, policy alignment, public participation, transparency and accountable can play in TOD. Using a new “capacity-to-act” mapping methodology to sketch out governance landscapes, the paper analyzes challenges to inclusive TOD in three Brazilian urban redevelopment case studies and identifies good practices that cities can adopt to avoid inequality and exclusion in TOD.

Executive Summary

Transit-oriented development (TOD) is a sustainable urban development solution that has been successful in creating mixed-use, dense, walkable communities with access to high-quality transport. In Europe, North America, and parts of Asia, the TOD planning mechanism has been successfully designed and financed by public and private actors at the neighborhood, station, and corridor level to decrease congestion and sprawl, emphasize mass transit, and increase accessibility to jobs and other services. Areas of the global South, in particular Brazil, have also sought to adopt TOD planning methods in their own cities to confront issues of urban sprawl, congestion, and inefficiency, with limited success.

TOD does not automatically equate to better livability and quality of life for citizens. Development near transit can lead—and has led—to displacement of low-income households and mixed-income neighborhoods, resulting in inequality and exclusion. Developing TOD in an inclusive manner can help to mitigate some of these potential negative outcomes. An inclusive TOD ensures that current and future community members have a meaningful role in defining their needs and setting out the objectives for the design and implementation process of TOD. Inclusive design, finance, and governance mechanisms can reduce the potential for citizen and livelihood displacement and can encourage the equitable outcome of an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse TOD.

This paper seeks to understand how to build an inclusive TOD by incorporating governance principles of clear institutional arrangements, policy alignment, public participation, and transparency and accountability into the implementation of TOD. Using these established governance principles, the paper analyzes potential challenges to inclusive TOD in three Brazilian urban redevelopment cases: Àgua Branca in São Paulo, Distrito C in Porto Alegre, and Porto Maravilha in Rio de Janeiro. Although these cities have not yet opted to pursue inclusive TOD, understanding the institutions and actors in place in each can help to shed light on the role of governance in inclusive TOD.

Building on fieldwork in the three case study cities, the paper applies a new “capacity-to-act” mapping methodology to sketch out the governance landscape—including institutions and actors—as it relates to inclusive TOD. The mapping exercise identified three broad findings concerning the governance of arrangements in each case study: (a) a high level of complexity in institutional relationships; (b) legally mandated but poorly implemented participatory processes; and (c) the need for a central actor with sufficient capacity to act.

Building on a desk review of governance principles and the capacity-to-act findings from the cases, the paper proposes activities that cities can undertake to pursue inclusive TOD in the future. Urban planners and practitioners, local government officials, and local community members can engage in these activities to better understand the inclusive TOD process, and to inform and influence the process and outcome for their cities.

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