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By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Yesterday, June 5th, Rio de Janeiro’s new light rail transit system, the VLT (Vehicle on Light Tracks) was finally unveiled in Rio’s downtown Centro district. Sunday’s unveiling was considered the final test run in preparation for the trains first operation during the downtown weekday rush on Monday, June 6th.

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New VLT finally unveiled on Sunday, June 5th, photo by Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil.

The VLT light rail project was a pivotal piece of the revitalization of Porto Maravilha in downtown Rio in preparation for the 2016 Olympics. Its opening had originally been scheduled for May 22nd, but government officials delayed the opening by two weeks to allow more time for the public to prepare for the addition of the new train.

The VLT will join the already tumultuous downtown landscape which on a typical weekday includes throngs of buses, cars, motorcycles, bicycles and, of course, pedestrians.

“The opening of the VLT is a milestone in the history of the city of Rio de Janeiro,” said State Secretary of Transportation Rodrigo Vieira, “It will be a modal integrator, allowing the population to connect to the subway at the station Carioca, the ferry at Praça XV, and trains. In addition, will provide access to the domestic airport and the port area.”

In this first week, the VLT will operate from noon to 3PM, with a half hour break between trips. In the second week, the circulation time will be extended by one hour, from 11AM to 3PM. The schedule, as well as the number of trains in circulation, will continue to increase weekly culminating with the Olympics in the first week of August. By then, eight VLT trains will be running in fifteen minute intervals from 6AM to midnight, including weekends.

Until June 30th, passengers can ride the VLT free of charge. On July 1st, passengers will have to voluntarily validate a fare card inside the train, with a single ride costing R$3.80. The system accepts the Bilhete Único (Single Ticket), which allows passengers to make two trips for the cost of one.

Following the Olympics, the VLT is expected to operate 24 hours a day seven days a week transporting some 300,000 passengers per day.

“The VLT gives a modern air to the region. But more than that, we are transforming the city and giving a new reality to transport locals and tourists,” said Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes.

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