By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The second line of the VLT (Vehicle on Light Tracks) between the Saara market and Praça Quinze (XV), in Rio’s Centro zone is expected to open in the second week of February. The initial line of the VLT opened a couple months before the Olympics, and has helped transform Rio’s downtown district and port zone.
On Tuesday, the president of the VLT Carioca concessionaire, Rodrigo Tostes, met with the deputy mayor and municipal transport secretary, Fernando Mac Dowell, to set the details for the start of the operations.
According to Tostes, as in the inauguration of the first line, passengers will not have to pay for the first seven days. The new section will have four stations, Praça Quinze, Rio Branco, Praça Tiradentes and Saara.
“We want people to get used to riding the VLT on this new [line]. After seven days, we will begin commercial operation, running from 6AM to midnight, with 15 minute intervals. We want to operate quite safely for Carnival,” said Tostes.
The VLT was unveiled in Centro on June 6th, just before the Rio 2016 Olympics, after several delays. The project was a pivotal piece of the revitalization of Porto Maravilha in downtown Rio in preparation for the 2016 Olympics.
“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 at the time of opening.
For Harry Taylor, a British expatriate who has been living in Rio for over six years and is a partner of Moby Self Storage located near the Port Zone, the VLT has been a success.
“I take the VLT to work frequently from Cinelandia and it’s very popular with everyday commuters, business people who have flown into Santos Dumont for meetings as well as many many tourists,” Taylor explained.
Regarding the new line set to open, Taylor says, “Firstly, I think there will be a general sigh of relief that the ‘obras’ [construction] have finally finished as the traffic has been badly upset by the VLT works. However, there is seldom gain without a little pain beforehand, and I believe when the new line opens for good, it will bring the same level of success.”
Following the Olympics, the city planned to further expand the VLT route to include three more lines and up to thirty trains. By 2017, the VLT is expected to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, carrying around 300,000 people daily along the 28 kilometers of track. The estimated cost of the VLT light rail project, which began in 2013, is R$1.2 billion.