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Rio de Janeiro Opens First Bus Rapid Transit Corridor

This post was originally published in Portuguese on

As world leaders gather to address global sustainability at Rio+20, the summit’s host city, Rio de Janeiro, just undertook its own green initiative—it launched its first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor.

The lives of millions of cariocas, Rio de Janeiro residents, have already started to change with the opening of the Transoeste, the city’s first BRT corridor. The public transit system, developed with assistance from EMBARQ – WRI’s Center for Sustainable Transportation, expects to help hundreds of thousands of Rio residents, providing them with safer transport, shorter commutes, and less pollution.

“Today is a Great Day”

Mayor Eduardo Paes made the official announcement June 6 at Pingo D'Água station in Guaratiba, West Zone, alongside former Brazilian president, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, and Rio's governor, Sergio Cabral. The CEO of EMBARQ Brazil, Luis Antonio Lindau, also took part in the event, strengthening the partnership between the organization and City Hall.

“Today is a great day,” said Luis Antonio Lindau at the event. “Rio de Janeiro begins a new era of quality, efficiency and safety in Brazilian transit.”

EMBARQ Brasil, with support from Bloomberg Philantropies, has provided technical support to Rio's City Hall through road safety audits, a crucial step to reduce the risk of accidents on the corridor and save lives. Partners also worked on several other actions in order to establish the first carioca BRT.

The buses, nicknamed Ligeirões (which means “super fast” in Portuguese) started to circulate on an experimental basis on June 6, 2012. During this first stage, which will last until June 23, nine stations and 11 buses will be operating off-peak, between 10am and 3pm. Other stations will gradually become operational.

Beginning in August, when the system will become fully operational, the BRT will have an extension of 35 miles (56 km) and 64 stations, with waiting times between buses of approximately one-and-a-half minutes. The system is estimated to benefit about 220,000 people each day, with most journeys being more comfortable and half as long as pre-BRT commute times.

Plans for the Future

Rio transportation officials plan on expanding the BRT system in the future, from one corridor to four. In total, 93 miles (150 km) of BRT lanes will be built, changing mobility all over the “Cidade Maravilhosa” (Rio’s nickname, which means “wonderful city” in Portuguese).

"This is the first BRT, with other to come,” said Mayor Paes. “It is a cultural change around how people move about in the city. It’s like a subway train on wheels, at much lower costs.”

The four total corridors will include:

  • Transoeste: Express bus corridor which will connect Barra da Tijuca to Santa Cruz and Campo Grande. The Transoeste will be 56 km long and comprise 64 BRT stations. The average journey times are expected to be reduced by one-half on this lane. The first stage of the project is already operational on a trial basis and should be completed by August 2013.

  • Transcarioca: The Transcarioca will be the first high-capacity corridor crossing the city transversally and connecting Barra da Tijuca to the international airport at Ilha do Governador on an exclusive, 24-mile (39 km) lane. It is estimated that around 400,000 people will benefit daily from the system.

  • Transolímpica: The 16-mile corridor (26 km), connecting the neighborhoods of Deodoro and Barra da Tijuca via the Transolímpica, will be more than a way of shortening athletes’ journey times between the venues of the 2016 Olympic Games. Unlike the other three corridors under construction, this one will also be an expressway for cars, with no crossings or traffic lights, similar to Rio's Linha Amarela.

  • Transbrasil: This will be the fourth corridor to be built by Rio's City Hall in time for the Olympic Games – 32 km (20 miles) long and comprising 25 stations. This line will connect the Santos Dumont airport to Deodoro in the city's West Zone, and will have the biggest demand of all – 900,000 commuters per day. It will have connection points with the Transolímpica and the Transcarioca, as well as stations at Francisco Bicalho and Presidente Vargas avenues.

Learn more about EMBARQ’s work on BRT.

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