Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

13 March 2014

It’s been said that I have a tendency to sugarcoat stories so this time I promise to avoid the temptation. But one thing is true: I have good news from the world of often-precarious public transport in my hometown of São Paulo.

This week, Brazilian paper Folha de São Paulo revealed research conducted by the city metro on how commuters use different methods of transport in the city. It turns out that most people prefer private transport – and who am I to judge when we have such an inefficient transport system?

There is yet to be any relief for the gridlocked streets of the largest city in South America. That said, I also found a statistic saying that families with a higher income are starting to use more public transport. That’s very interesting: on numerous occasions I’ve seen some well-off Brazilians happily joining the crowds for the Tube in London or taking a bus in Paris but never in Brazil.

There is a lot of elitism there – as well as those bad conditions I’ve mentioned – but the well-off are realising that driving your car for more than an hour when the trip should only take 15 minutes isn’t really worth the hassle. In 2007, 82 per cent of the richest people in Brazil used a car instead of public transport; this number dropped to 75 per cent in 2012.

I have a feeling they are following a global trend among the metropolitan elite around the world. But let’s also remember that among the poorest there was little increase in the use of cars, after the Brazilian government made car prices considerably cheaper with incentive programmes. Let’s also remember that it is the poor who usually have the longer commutes and that the suburbs are where the quality of transport is really bad; at least there is an increasing number of underground stations in the city centre.

I guess everyone is thinking about quality of life and how to move around their city in a more efficient way. See, no sugarcoating here: I’m simply saying that I can see the beginning of a trend. Now let’s see if our urban planners will follow suit and think of new ways of relieving the traffic and making São Paulo a more human-friendly city.

And fellow Paulistanos, especially the single ones, trust me: you are far more likely to meet someone on the metro than in a huge traffic jam at Avenida Paulista. OK, maybe I’m sugercoating just a little bit.

Fernando Augusto Pacheco is a researcher for Monocle 24.

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