By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On the night of Thursday, October 1st, a group of activists marched, beginning at Rio de Janeiro’s Igreja da Candelária and making their way down Avenida Presidente Vargas, to protest the upcoming reduction and elimination of some of the city’s bus lines. Nineteen municipal bus lines are scheduled to be removed, and ten additional lines will have their routes shortened or altered beginning on Saturday, October 3rd.
Initially slated for July, the changes in municipal bus lines will be implemented in phases, with the first phase scheduled to begin on October 3rd. Thirty-three of the lines are scheduled to be eliminated and 21 routes shortened between October and December of this year. By the scheduled end of the project in March 2016, it is estimated that there will be a 35 percent reduction of buses that pass through Zona Sul (South Zone).
The announcement of the changes stirred controversy raising concerns about unemployment and upset from commuters who will need to make additional transfers during their daily commutes due to the route changes and line eliminations. Additionally, many of the lines eliminated or rerouted, ran from Zona Norte (North Zone) to the South Zone. Which some protesters saw as an intentional move by the city to make it harder for North Zone residents to attend the South Zone beaches.
“The government is trying to put a social cord to separate the population,” teacher and activist Mariângela Ferreira told Agência Brasil while marching in the protest and carrying a sign that read “Contra o apartheid social” (Aganist social apartheid). “The beach is in the south, but it is public and it is a right for all. They are taking our right to come and go and favoring the bus companies, which bankroll political campaigns. Who suffers most are the poor and black youth. It is a clear case of racism and social apartheid.”
The city has stated that the project’s aim is to streamline the city’s transportation system and to reduce overlaps. “All of this is done in an effort to create a more efficient system that serves the population best, with buses arriving more often, with less waiting time at points and with the best use of our drivers, so that these buses can travel with greater speed, allowing citizens to move from origin to destination in a shorter time and with greater comfort,” Rafael Picciani, the Municipal Secretary for Transport stated on September 28th.
The second phase of the project is scheduled to begin on October 24th and the third phase is scheduled to begin on December 5th. For more information about the line changes, see the official Rio Ônibus website.