context: as cities throughout the world develop and expand to meet the demands of burgeoning populations, sustainable urban development is critical to the wise management of resources, protection of the environment and quality of life. curitiba – one of brazil's wealthiest cities and the capital of paranà - offers one of the most remarkable success stories for urban design, planning and management.
what: the city's visionary policies integrate an innovative transit system with land use development to ensure that one supports the other. in curitiba, mobility is linked with development, thereby reducing dependency on cars. curitiba's original master plan for development - the result of a public competition held in 1964 - proposed that the future extension of the city be channelled and developed along public transport-based axes radiating from the city's centre. an extensive bus system was developed along five radial corridors and several circumferential corridors to serve suburb-to-suburb travel. the radial corridors include exclusive bus lanes to serve high capacity buses providing a rapid transit means of travel. the full system - express buses, rapid transit buses, inter-suburban bus service and local feeders bus service - quickly and cheaply moves nearly a million and a half people, over 70 percent of the population, every day!
how: a few central ideas explain the curitiba design paradigm…
first, think of a city not just as an economic machine but as a setting for culture and community;
second, the point of the urban transportation system is not to move cars, but to move people;
lastly, don't view problems as roadblocks, but as opportunities...as has been done here, turn problems into assets!
curitiba's infrastructure effectively creates demand for bus use in the same way that the infrastructure of traditional cities creates demand for automobile travel. while curitiba's population has quadrupled in size, from 500,000 to 2,000,000, in the past three decades, its automobile travel has decreased by 30 percent. in comparison, phoenix, arizona's metropolitan area, which has increased by the same percentage, has seen automobile traffic increase by more than 200 percent. in addition, curitiba has the second highest per capita car ownership rate in brazil (one car for every three people), yet, it's gasoline consumption per capita is 30 percent lower than that of eight comparable brazilian cities.
great results: the success of curitiba's system is due, in part, to a pragmatic and incremental approach to its public transport infrastructure. a rail-based system would have cost the city's administration twenty times as much as the current bus-based network. as economic growth is tied closely to the public transportation system, the city's mixed-use zoning has encouraged local self-sufficiency through development close to transit stations. bus stops have become nodes of civic activity where shopping, recreation, police, and businesses concentrate. congestion is contained within the civic areas, allowing room to develop parks and extensive pedestrian and bicycle networks. curitiba's integrated land use and transit development policies result in one of brazil's lowest air pollution levels, with little traffic congestion and an optimal environment for its residents.
creativity’s power: at the institute for research and urban planning in curitiba (ippuc) planners try to bridge the gap between cultural and environmental preservation on the one hand, and economic development on the other. "the point of a transit system is to move people. the point of a city is to create a space for encounters", says mr quandt, an ippuc supervisor.
moreover, governor jaime lerner's philosophy goes beyond social programs and sustainable transit: he and the people around him talk continually about creating citizens, in the athenian sense of citizenship. lerner wants citizens to bear the responsibility for - and the soul of - this sustainable city. in a city and state where migrants stream in, that means constantly recreating this identity. all of curitiba is about creating this sense of belonging, of citizenship, of ownership. the reason we live in communities is to give us a better life as individuals. but the community has to function well for the individual to function well. lerner and his team also try to balance the need to find solutions to problems with taking creative leaps - if one is forever putting out brushfires, one will miss the opportunity to create something extraordinary. "never miss an opportunity to change”, and, most importantly of all, "you need to have the courage to make mistakes”, he says.