By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With the conclusion of the 2016 Rio Olympics, city officials announced on Monday, August 22nd, that the BRT Transolímpica line would open to the general public on Tuesday, August 23rd. During the Games, the 26km express corridor, which connected the two largest competition venues, Olympic Park, in Barra da Tijuca, and the Deodoro Sports Complex in Rio’s Zona Norte (North Zone), was only accessible to Olympic event ticket holders with the Rio 2016 unlimited travel RioCard.
Comprised of two car lanes in both directions as well as an exclusive lane for the BRT buses, the Transolímpica expressway will now become a vital artery connecting residents of Rio’s Zona Oueste (West Zone), with both Zona Norte (North Zone) and Zona Sul (South Zone).
“We expect this expansion of the [BRT] system to already start carrying 640,000 people a day,” said Rafael Picciani, Rio’s executive secretary of government coordination.
Passengers will be able to ride the BRT Transolímpica buses with the Bilhete Único (Unified Ticket) Carioca public transportation card starting Tuesday. However, the Transolímpica’s car lanes will remain closed to traffic until Friday, August 26th.
Comprised of eighteen stations, city officials expect all BRT Transolímpica stations to be operating, with the exception of the Olympic Park station, which will not open until after the Paralympics. “This station [Olympic Park] will only open to the public after the end of the Paralympics as a matter of logistics, to avoid overcrowding of the station,” explained Rio transportation secretary, Alexandre Samson. “It is not a terminal and can not accommodate the passenger capacity exiting a big event like this [Paralympics].”
Importantly, city officials also announced at Monday’s press conference, that Tuesday would also see the opening of an expansion of the BRT Transoeste called Lote Zero. The BRT Lote Zero expansion will connect Alvorada terminal with the Jardim Oceânico station, allowing BRT passengers to connect with the Olympics’ other much-anticipated project, the Metro Line 4.
Yet passengers will have to wait until after the Paralympics to take full advantage of that transfer as the Metro Line 4 will not open to the general public until after the Paralympics ends on September 18th.
“Of course, there is a huge desire among the population to use Line 4, but there are system security issues to be resolved and its use will be made at an opportune time,” said Picciani.
Construction of the BRT Transolímpico began in July 2012 and once it opens to the public on Tuesday, it is expected to transport 70,000 passengers per day across eleven regions of Zona Oeste and reduce travel time across the region by sixty percent.
The BRT Transolímpica will integrate with the two other BRT expressways, the Transoeste and the Transcarioca. The BRT Transoeste, which connects Alvorada terminal in Barra da Tijuca with Recreio, has been up and running since June 2012. The BRT Transcarioca, which links Rio’s Galeão International Airport and Barra da Tijuca, opened in 2014.
The 2016 Paralympic Games begins on September 7th with the opening ceremony at Maracanã Stadium and will last until September 18th.