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Curitiba’s BRT: Inspired Bus Rapid Transit Around the World

Curitiba, Brazil first adopted its Master Plan in 1968. Since then, it has become a city well known for inventive urban planning and affordable (to the user and the city) public transportation.

Curitiba's Bus Rapid Transit system is the source of inspiration for many other cities including the TransMilenio in Bogotá, Colombia; Metrovia in Guayaquil, Ecuador; as well as the Orange Line of Los Angeles.

This video illustrates how Curitiba's public transportation system operates and the urban planning and land use principles on which it is based, including an interview with the former Mayor and architect Jaime Lerner. Current city employees also discuss the improvements that are being made to the system to keep it up to date and functioning at the capacity of a typical subway system. Curitiba is currently experimenting with adding bypassing lanes on the dedicated BRT routes and smart traffic lights to prioritize buses. They are even constructing a new line which will have a linear park and 18km of bike lane that parallels the bus transit route.

<blockquote class="_text"> [music] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_1_text"> <cite class="speaker_1" >Enrique Penalosa:</cite> [0:06] We learn a lot from Curitibas. We copied the bus system from Curitibas. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_2_text"> <cite class="speaker_2" >Ismael Bagatin Franca:</cite> [speaking Portuguese] [0:15]</p><p>[musical interlude] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_1_text"> <cite class="speaker_1" >Jaime Lerner:</cite> [0:28] When we started the whole idea that every city which is close to one million people should have a subway. At that time Curitibas had 700,000 people. [clapping sound] A subway should have speed, reliability, comfort, and good frequency. We started to imagine, could we have on surface all these conditions?</p><p>[musical interlude] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_2_text"> <cite class="speaker_2" >Ismael Bagatin Franca:</cite> [speaking Portuguese] [1:00] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_3_text"> <cite class="speaker_3" >Clever Ubiratan Teixeira de Almaida:</cite> [speaking Portuguese] [1:13] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_1_text"> <cite class="speaker_1" >Jaime Lerner:</cite> [1:21] We started with one line with 25,000 passengers a day, but this system is being improved and now it's transporting 2,300,000 passengers a day, which is the same number of the subway of São Paulo. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_4_text"> <cite class="speaker_4" >Kenneth Kruckemeyer:</cite> [1:39] 75 percent of the people in Curitibas get to work on a bus every morning. A city like Phoenix has exactly the same population as Curitibas over the past 250 years, and yet in Phoenix one percent of the people go to work on a bus. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_3_text"> <cite class="speaker_3" >Clever Ubiratan Teixeira de Almaida:</cite> [speaking Portuguese] [1:54] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_2_text"> <cite class="speaker_2" >Ismael Bagatin Franca:</cite> [speaking Portuguese] [2:18] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_1_text"> <cite class="speaker_1" >Jaime Lerner:</cite> [2:24] A normal bus in a normal street transports X passengers per day. If you have a double articulated bus, a double accordion, in a dedicated lane, paying before entering the bus, and boarding at the same level, you can have four times more passengers per day in the same space. One bus, 300 passengers every 30 seconds is 36,000 passengers per hour one direction, which is the number of a subway. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_3_text"> <cite class="speaker_3" >Clever Ubiratan Teixeira de Almaida:</cite> [speaking Portuguese] [2:58] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_5_text"> <cite class="speaker_5" >Speaker:</cite> [speaking Portuguese] [3:40] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_6_text"> <cite class="speaker_6" >Luis Patricio:</cite> [speaking Portuguese] [4:03] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_1_text"> <cite class="speaker_1" >Dr. Fabio Duarte:</cite> [4:22] Every time when people say, for instance, well the subway system would be better for the city because then we could put the bus out of the city, the traffic will be better because all the mass transportation will be under the ground. It's a better way of thinking the problem because the problem is not the people who use the buses, but the people who use cars. So I think to incentive the BRT System and put more buses on the streets, it's good for us. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_4_text"> <cite class="speaker_4" >Clever Ubiratan Teixeira de Almaida:</cite> [speaking Portuguese] [4:49] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_5_text"> <cite class="speaker_5" >Ismael Bagatin Franca:</cite> [speaking Portuguese] [5:04]</p><p>[musical interlude] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_6_text"> <cite class="speaker_6" >Luis Patricio:</cite> [speaking Portuguese] [5:19] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_7_text"> <cite class="speaker_7" >Clever Ubiratan Teixeira de Almaida:</cite> [speaking Portuguese] [5:30] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_8_text"> <cite class="speaker_8" >Caroline Samponaro:</cite> [6:02] So the major lesson that New York City should take from Curitibas with regard to bicycle planning is that when bus rapid transit is brought into a city, bicycles need to be factored into the designs. So all of the old bus rapid transit lines in the city don't incorporate bicycles at all, but the city in Curitibas is now realizing that bicycles want to ride on these streets that have been redesigned and made so much calmer. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_1_text"> <cite class="speaker_1" >Dr. Fabio Duarte:</cite> [6:25] The new line, the green line, we have the two bus lanes, the bypass lanes, and we have the bike lane. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_9_text"> <cite class="speaker_9" >Speaker:</cite> [speaking Portuguese] [6:33] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_10_text"> <cite class="speaker_10" >Speaker:</cite> [speaking Portuguese] [6:37] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_11_text"> <cite class="speaker_11" >Clever Ubiratan Teixeira de Almaida:</cite> [speaking Portuguese] [6:51] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_12_text"> <cite class="speaker_12" >Ismael Bagatin Franca:</cite> [speaking Portuguese] [7:04] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_1_text"> <cite class="speaker_1" >Dr. Fabio Duarte:</cite> [7:12] We can go from the bus stop to the stores or the house, et cetera, almost each 100 meters we have a kind of crossing street. This gives to the city permeability, so people can walk around and use the stores, et cetera. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_11_text"> <cite class="speaker_11" >Clever Ubiratan Teixeira de Almaida:</cite> [speaking Portuguese] [7:29]</p><p>[musical interlude] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_1_text"> <cite class="speaker_1" >Jaime Lerner:</cite> [7:47] There is no win for creativity. So if you want creativity, cut one zero from your budget. If you want sustainability, cut two zeros. If you want to make it happen, do it fast.</p><p>[music] </p><p>[0:00] </blockquote> <br/><br/>
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  • Lyle Brecht

    Great film, Elizabeth! Are you an urban planner? Have you ever heard of the Urban Bikeway Design Competition that was run in the 1970's from MIT?

    It is great to see urban areas that are actually accomplishing real urban planning. I am thinking water resource planning, sustainable agriculture, carbon neutrality planning, etc. We need models. I know it can be accomplished and is being accomplished, but where. Your film brings the ideas home, better than any amount of words. Thanks!

    P.S. Are you on Facebook?

  • Bart BART

    I love, love, love seeing Streetfilms all over the world! Nice job.

  • Tim

    I second #2, great to see street solutions in other countries, thanks for the great films!

  • Eliza

    Great video! Curitiba looks amazing. This bus system looks so so so efficient compared to the slow, congested bus system of Buenos Aires.

  • Ian Thomaz

    Hello !

    Grate work girls...!

    I´ve been waiting to see the results of your visit to Brazil!

    Hope you come even more... to see our improvement!


  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/Lily Lily Bernheimer

    This is a fantastic video. It is a real wake up call to how government, when proactive can really stand up for the citizens and not just get bought by corporations and automobile lobbies. Curitiba is only aprox a 1/6 of NYC! It really shows when governments care.

  • Interurbans

    As nice as their bus system is, just imagine how much faster, efficient, less pouting, less cost to operate and fewer drivers it would take if it were a LRT (Light Rail Transit) system instead of a BRT (Bus Rapid Transit System).

    We can see in Los Angeles what a failure the Orange bus line is compared to the Gold or Blue LRT lines. It is at capacity and the capacity can not be increased, the ride is bumpy and uncomfortable, dwell time is longer, wheel char loading and movement on board is very slow and incontinent and the line cost three times as much per passenger and operates at half the speed of a LRT line.

    Cuririba is an example how a transit system was developed with minimum funding to improve speed and ridership and this they did accomplish. But it is not and example of how new faster higher capacity lines should be built in the US. If ridership in below 15,000 riders a day and not expected to increase a BRT may be the best solution, but if ridership is above 15,000 a day or expected to grow a LRT line is by far the most efficient and cost effective way to go.


  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/trorb Clarence Eckerson Jr.


    To say the Orange Line is a "failure" is a complete farce. You could argue it could be better in the future as a LRT - yes, without a doubt and that could well be true and its future - but I found nothing about the ride bumpy or uncomfortable. Loading was not slow at all, in fact it is very fast compared to any bus system in the country, especially the weak attempts at partial-BRT or rapid systems. I rode the LRT lines in L.A. and they were great too, but loading time in my opinion was only slightly faster vs. BRT.

    The 15,000 a day number is not a good hard and fast rule. Sure in some cities that may be a good barometer, but BRT systems in cities like NYC where there is not going to ever be any dramatic expansion of the subway or LRT lines (except maybe across 42nd street as a streetcar) BRT is a great way to expand service and transit. The problem is you are looking at all your arguments as a LRT vs BRT. In some cases there is nothing on the other side of the "vs". For example, in NYC on, let's say 2nd Avenue - the only feasible choice because of $$$, density, etc. is BRT vs. continuing, slow bad bus service. In that case BRT is a good solution.

    In other places where you may have more open space and fewer roads to actually cross it may be LRT vs. nothing else.

    I am hardly arguing for BRT across all of America. They both need to prove themselves on their merits. BRT would be a good choice for places like the Bay Area and NYC. To paint with a broad 15,000 stroke is reckless.

  • Jonas Hagen

    Elizabeth, congratulations on a great film.

    Curitiba is a model for BRT and a lesson that bicycles should be integrated into transport from the get-go of the planning process - it is much more difficult to include cycling facilities after transport infrastructure has been implemented.

    Regarding BRT vs. LRT - TransMilenio has proved that BRT can carry up to 45,000 passengers PER HOUR in each direction (not per day) - comfortably and efficiently, and at a fraction of the cost of LRT (4 to 20 times less).

    For those who want to get the details, I recommend the Bus Rapid Transit Planning Guide, available at:


    Best, Jonas

  • http://catatau.blogsome.com Catatau

    Great video! But we must think that today Curitiba is perverting some foundamental principles of its own revolution.

    For example, several bus services decreased the number of employees, and today in several routes the utilised bus is smaller than 2 or 3 years ago. In this type of bus, we have to pay the tickets directly with the driver! (Think that the video speak´s about the "dinamization" of transport, including paying the tickets). This is not BRT system, but if you imagine an integrated system, this is abnormal...

    Another abnormal thing is the price of the tickets, mysteriously more expansive, while the number of passengers also increased in the past years.

    Important things to change in Curitiba again...

  • AD

    Interurbans wrote: "As nice as their bus system is, just imagine how much faster, efficient, less pouting, less cost to operate and fewer drivers it would take if it were a LRT (Light Rail Transit) system instead of a BRT (Bus Rapid Transit System)."

    As a matter of sense,

    Why do we need fewer drivers here? More drivers in developing world means more jobs for people. And all of us in the world need jobs or people will become jobless. 1 vote for BRT in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.

    My 2 cents.

  • AD

    As a matter of sense, LRT is more expensive to build. As a matter of fact, it is more costly and polluting to operate and slower than BRT. Why? Electricity is made from burning oil, coal or hydro-power. 1 time of changing the energy-form (from oil to electricity) will causes loss somehow. Then later, the electricity will be changed again to make kinetic energy to propel the LRT's cars which is also subject to some energy loss. -> 2 times of loss. Meanwhile for the bus which burns oil directly, it will suffer from 1 time of energy transformation. -> more loss of energy means more pollution. Slower than BRT? Because it doesn't have the traffic signal priority like BRT. My 3 cents.

  • Mamerto Lambiscon

    Ideal transportation for unemployed people that does not pay taxes, subsidized by the automobile (is paid bay gas taxes) This "at-grade metro on wheels" as the metro, the brt (or whatever name they baptized it in different countries) also uses the right of way paid by the automobile. Therefore the capital cost and the operating cost is a fraud it can never be paid, the value of the ticket is 1 - 10th of the cost of moving each user. The video is plagued with a plethora of half truths (total lies) like the Curitiba system transports 2.3 million persons they should say users including the forced feeder users routes, meaning that they count each user like a completed trip when in fact a user needs at least 4 transfers per trip counting them has 4 people otherwise how come that Curitiba with 800,000 automobiles (in 2000) and a population of 1.8 million people these ass-holes declare that 2.3 million people uses this stupid and old idea of a two o three buses link together whether behind or on top (London) An automobile us used 5.5 times (5.5 complete trips) a day with an average of 1.3 persons as a result in Curitiba cars move 5.5 x 1.3 x 800,000 vehicles = 5.72 million /trips / person far superior users that the friking BRT of these people 100 % pay taxes and creates jobs. The 100% BRT's users are earthy liberals dreaming of only one think: when I'm going to be able to buy a car!
    BRT is walking backwards origin destination is not linear that why not the BRT, not the Metro , not the light rail, not ANY mass transit can compete with the car you assholes!
    Beautiful video?...de-brained people
    Clean air?...You shit for brains
    Sustainable cities?....You fagots! Nothing is sustainable in the universe you super ass-holes!

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/AviationMetalSmith AviationMetalSmith

    I say LRT has lower floors than BRT, thus easier boarding.
    In New Jersey, the Camden-Trenton River Line LRT was built at a tenth the cost of other LRT's. That's because they left out the catenary (overhead wire) and made each vehicle diesel powered.
    I favor rail- steel wheels on steel rail has the least friction , gets the best fuel economy, and has the smoothest ride.
    As for bikes, you wouldn't have bike riders attracted to LRT track.

  • Logan

    Mamerto what a f... are you talking about? "Ideal transportation for unemployed people that does not pay taxes"? what a stupid asshole is writing these comments? How do people pay for their ticket to the bus so? Use your brain! Of course any one loves car idiot. I myself love to go by car to lots of places but in certain times if the traffic is hell or I know I'll spend time and be stressed to find a place to park it, I just take a bus. Buses and metros in many places are bad, every body knows. But when well planned like Curitiba, just helps who really needs. Grow up man. Your comments are a joke. You should travel more to places around the world and SEE the goods and the bads your self to learn something instead of making weird calculations of 5.5 x 1.3... gimme a brake!

  • Nathanael

    Curitiba is now building light rail.

    They decided that their "world model" BRT system was too low-capacity, and that running a gazillion buses on a giant right-of-way was not as efficient as running light rail trains on a narrower right of way.

    BRT is just dumb. If you have the demand for exclusive busways, you have the demand for rail, and you'll get faster, more comfortable rides using fewer drivers (labor is the main operating cost for transit).

    If you don't have the demand for exclusive busways, then it's not BRT, it's just buses. Nothing wrong with having well-run buses, of course -- London's buses put most bus systems to shame.

    Oh, also, the facts on energy efficiency:
    (1) Carrying around many pounds of fuel wastes energy. Transmitting it over power lines wastes a lot less energy.
    (2) Electrical generators are very efficient and so are electric motors. Both are *so* efficient that a motor-generator set is more efficient than a straight-up gasoline or diesel engine converting fuel to mechanical energy! (Shocking, I know!) This is why all train locomotives, and a bunch of new buses, are "serial diesel-electric hybrids"!
    (3) Bigger electrical generators are more efficient than smaller ones. So producing the electricity at a power plant and sending it over the wires to a train (or trolleybus!) ends up being MUCH MUCH more efficient than running a diesel bus (or train!).
    (4) Trains can be longer than buses, packing more people in per pound of steel and per driver. This avoids wasting money moving steel around.
    (5) All of this only applies if you have high volumes, of course. If you aren't running very many vehicles per day, the capital costs of the electric wires overwhelm the operating costs of the diesel engines; and of course there's no point running quarter-full trains when you could be running fully-full buses.

    Conclusion: electric trains are the way to go for high-volume routes. Good buses (NYC transit is settling on diesel-electric serial hybrids) are the way to go for *lower volume* routes. But of course low volume routes don't need "BRT".

  • http://www.curitiba-travel.com.br Guilherme

    Great video about Curitiba's Bus Rapid Transit!!! Good job!

  • Barbara

    every 30 SECONDS!!!!! wake me when any USA city hires that many drivers. You can build and speed all you want, but when people have to wait 20 to 60 minutes for a bus, each transfer, they won't want to take transit.

  • Rob

    Need to prop up an urban highway expansion? Just re-imagine the add-a-lane as a BRT facility and call it a new multi-modal corridor. No matter if trip density is rail appropriate and rail already exists in the corridor. Overlapping BRT and pre-existing HRT? Sure, anything to get another lane.

  • http://Naty Naty

    I live in Curitiba, and I can say that our system of transportation has improved a lot, you pay once to ride all over town,the ''bi-articulated'' are perfect for those who live here or who come to know the city,good to know that my city inspires the others, we do everything to make each day better and more sustainable.

  • Robert

    What? I've calculated that running BRT can give you capacity that exceeds the world's best existing subway lines. What ARE you talking about with Light Rail's superior capacity? It gets me every time someone says that.

  • Robert

    Excuse me, I'd say that cars are my ticket to transportation prison, and I think more and more people are becoming disillusioned with the car worldwide. That's my opinion.