July 09, 2024

3 Guides for Safe, Efficient, and Sustainable Urban Mobility in Brazil

ITDP Brazil developed several guides to help urban decisionmakers, planners, and advocates promote transport systems in Brazil that can improve access and reduce emissions.

This article was originally published in Portuguese by ITDP Brazil. Read it here.

Managing public transport data, electrifying buses, and reducing traffic deaths are policies capable of significantly improving the quality of life in cities and making mobility more equitable for everyone. In Brazil’s cities especially, issues of access, inequality, and race and gender play a significant role in city transport with the most significant impacts on transit-dependent communities. As policies and investments into urban mobility in Brazil continue to develop and evolve, new challenges will require bolder and more innovative solutions using technology, data, and improved planning strategies.

Effective solutions also depend on the maturity and technical training of public officials and transport manager, as well as on better coordination between the public sector, the private sector, and civil society organizations. ITDP Brazil has developed a series of thematic guides in Portuguese with technological solutions geared towards Brazilian cities to address some of the primary challenges to improving public transport in today’s world. These themes touch on lessons relevant to any global city, including better transport data management, emissions reductions through electrification, and enhancing street and road safety.

 

Better Data Management for Better Mobility

Public transport systems in cities allow people to access work, study, health, leisure, and other essential destinations. However, in order to function efficiently, it is essential that the system be planned and operated based on everyday people’s demands, patterns, and needs. It is in this context that effective management of public transport data becomes a necessity. Effective management includes leveraging the practices and processes of collecting, storing, analyzing, and applying user information so that it informs improvements to the function and operation of a modern transport system. That is to say, collected data should be utilized primarily to meet and address the needs of riders by enhancing sustainability, reliability, and access.

However, such effective data management in Brazilian cities is a significant challenge due to technical, operational and contractual issues in the public sector. Unfortunately, many contractual rules for public transport systems are weak and do not contain standards that specify how data should be shared, accessed, or employed. As a result of these uncertainties, the government has little control over the data generated by public transport systems, resulting in little transparency and a concentration of this information in digital app and tech companies that operate many mobility platforms. This ultimately makes it difficult for transport and decision-makers to actually use data to develop evidence-based policies and plans that serve the people.

To assist the public sector with this, ITDP Brazil’s Solutions to Promote Data Management in Public Transportation is a guide in Portuguese that proposes solutions for better structuring regulations in order to improve the data management of public transport. These solutions are based on ongoing national initiatives and best practices from cities that have made notable efforts in this arena. In addition, the guide presents an overall picture of what good data management could even look like, drawing from a comprehensive ITDP Brazil survey of the 21 most populous metropolitan regions in the country.

 

Electrifying Public Transport Systems

Another key action for improving the quality of the public transport systems is to invest in solutions that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from public vehicles like buses. In 2022 alone, the transport sector in Brazil emitted 216.9 million tons of CO@ equivalent (GtCO2e), 47% of which came from passenger transport, as well as 42.3 thousand tons of particulate matter (PM2.5). These emissions directly contribute to increased pollution and poor air quality, resulting in more people being susceptible to serious health problems. Overall, the growth in transport-related emissions is also worsening the effects of the climate crisis and increasing the frequency of extreme weather events nationwide.

Finding transport solutions that can help reduce GHG emissions is urgent for cities committed to improving public infrastructure in a sustainable and equitable manner. One increasingly important solution is to replace traditional fossil-fuel based public bus fleets with zero-emission vehicles, such as electric buses. Electric bus systems at scale can be very beneficial to cities from an environmental, social, and economic point of view by providing more modern and efficient transport services that are climate- and budget-friendly. Well-planned and implemented e-buses can make travel safer, more comfortable, and reliable, which in turn can encourage more people to choose public transport over high-polluting motor vehicles.

ITDP Brazil’s guide Solutions to Encourage the Electrification of Public Transport in Portuguese provides an overview of the strategies in Brazilian cities to decarbonize public transport and includes recommendations for addressing the various problems that cities are currently facing in electrifying bus fleets. This includes everything¬† from the high initial cost of acquiring vehicles, to complex charging infrastructure, to a lack of public awareness and engagement.

 

Promoting Road and Street Safety

It is impossible to build efficient and sustainable transport systems if city roads are not made safe and protected for all people. Therefore, another third key priority for cities is to ensure increased road safety in urban areas for pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport users. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), traffic accidents still kill around 1.2 million people a year, and they are the leading cause of death among children and young people. In Brazil, despite some progress in policy measures, the lack of road safety is still a major concern in most cities. Traffic accidents are the sixth leading cause of death in the country, accounting for over 30,000 deaths and 160,000 injuries per year. Oftentimes, these deaths are the result of a lack of planned street systems designed to ensure the safety of all types of commuters. Human error can certainly be a contributing factor to accidents, but our urban infrastructure must also be designed so that these errors do not lead to serious injuries or deaths.

In the Portuguese guide Solutions to Promote Road Safety, ITDP Brazil presents the concept of a ‘Safe Systems’ approach to road safety, where the responsibility for injuries and deaths does not lie solely with those who drive, walk, or cycle. Rather, the responsibility is also shared with those who plan, design, and manage city streets from a systems-level. The guide also presents suggestions for public officials to consider when formulating local road safety and infrastructure policies so that they center the needs of people and minimize the impact and severity of issues that lead to accidents.

These guides from ITDP Brazil seek to offer support to public officials so that they can better engage their technical teams in advancing efficient, sustainable, and safe urban mobility for all.

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