By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Monday, June 5th, city officials celebrated the one-year anniversary of Rio de Janeiro’s light rail transit system, the VLT (Veículo Leve sobre Trilhos, or Light Rail Vehicle), by unveiling two new stations on Line 1, the Providência, at Rua da Gamboa, and Harmonia, at Praça da Harmonia.
Thanks to the two new stations, it will no longer be necessary for Line 1 trams going in opposite directions to share the same track between the Parada dos Navios and Cidade do Samba stations. According to the city, this will result in a fifteen percent reduction in VLT tram wait times.
In addition, on the VLT’s one-year anniversary, city officials revealed that in its first year of operation, the light rail has transported more passengers than the entire population of the city: over eight million passengers in 70,000 trips, equivalent to 22,000 passengers a day or 657,000 a month.
“City Hall and the VLT Carioca operator celebrate the milestone of one year without recording any pedestrian incidents, the result of constant attention from the operations teams, awareness campaigns and the collaboration of the population,” said Rio Mayor Marcelo Crivella in a released statement.
When it was unveiled, the VLT was notable for using self-service terminals, located at every stop and VLT stations. Passengers could purchase and reload the Bilhete Único (Single Ticket) and board trams without having to pass through turnstiles.
In the VLT’s first year, Rio’s Guarda Municipal (Municipal Guard) noted it had issued 6,427 fines for nonpayment of fare, or approximately seventeen fines per day on the VLT’s 32 trams. The mayor viewed this statistic as a positive one, saying, “the penalty rate remains below fifteen percent, in a universe of more than 600,000 people transported per month.”
The fines were administered by a team of over forty Municipal Guard officers who patrol the trams. The fine for boarding the VLT without a valid ticket is R$170 and increases to R$255 for repeat offenders.
The VLT light rail project was a pivotal piece of the revitalization of Porto Maravilha in downtown Rio in preparation for the 2016 Olympics. It opened on June 5th, 2016, just two months shy of the Rio 2016 Olympics opening ceremony for an estimated cost of R$1.2 billion.