More cities want to become smart

Recently, I visited Curitiba to take part in the Smart City Business America. There is a strong interest from cities in Latin America in general and specifically from cities in Brazil to apply new smart technologies for more or less every function in the city.

Gustavo Fruet (Curitiba Mayor) hosted the conference and about 1000 participants (my estimate) out of which 15 City Mayors joined the meeting. Mayor Fruet spent a lot of time at the conference and gave a lot of feedback to the speakers. The genuine interest in the well-being of the citizens is a true inspiration for innovation and development of Smart business within a lot of fields.

smart city business

Gustavo Fruet hosting the mayors session.

The UN Habitat session was heavily visited and the transport session hosted by Volvo got a lot of attention. Volvo presented new ways for electromobility to support the capacity requirements of high capacity BRT routes.

Growing cities face a number of challenges. The need for developing cost efficient public transports is common for most of them. In few places the public transports are as efficient as in in Latin America. The rule models for replacing low capacity by high capacity are called BRT. The most efficient BRT routes have traffic priority and separate layers for busy crossings.

Jaime Lerner invented the concept during his years as mayor in the city. Volvo is proud to have contributed to developing the high capacity buses to the level we have today and, to continue the development to the new concepts for tomorrow. Mr. Lerner continues to develop and innovate within the field of high capacity buses. Daring new designs and elevated guided bus-ways are some of the new concepts, in the pipe line.

Former Mayor Jaime Lerner

Former Mayor Jaime Lerner, innovator of BRT, is still a target for the press.

Fabio Scatolin, Secretary of Finances, presented how Curitiba plans to realize a completely new show case for not only transports but city planning, innovation and education, the Green Line. There are lots of green-field cities in the world but this is the first Green Line I have heard of. Instead of thinking in the usual way “How to support the city with roads and transports” Curitiba inverts the concept and build new city functions around a completely new transport corridor. It will be most exciting to follow the development and, hopefully to contribute to.

One thing I have learnt after some years of travelling megacities around the world: Where there are ladies walking their dogs in the morning, the jogging is safe.  There are few better ways to learn to know a city than by spending an hour or two in the morning pulse as the city wakes up in the morning. I got a beautiful morning tour jogging crossing the city.

The following day I spent in the Curitiba BRT system. It is evident that Curitiba is a bit ahead of most cities in the development of efficient bus services. In some aspects Curitiba bus system is the most well developed in the world. By combining feeder buses, express buses, BRT, and circular lines the system is well trimmed to meet the transport needs of the city.

curitiba brt

Curitiba BRT still busy at noon. Large doors secure rapid boarding. The average stop time, clocked by me was 8 seconds.

Unfortunately, the financial crisis has struck the development of public transports all around the world. In Curitiba the system has reached its capacity limit, the car fleet is growing and additional actions are required. During the relatively short time I spent in the system a few observations that surely the transport authority is aware of are mentioned here (just a few that is outside the scope I deal with): improved road quality, drive-by lanes for bus stops, signal priority for traffic signals. Whenever the city finds the financial strength, there will be a new spring for BRT in Curitiba as well.

About volvobuses

Adjunct Professor of Catalysis at Chalmers University of Technology. Lives in Gothenburg, Sweden, with my wife and three daughters born in 1991, 1994 and 1997. Is a passionate runner.
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