By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The bonde tram of Santa Teresa doubles as local transportation and iconic tourism draw for the bohemian hillside neighborhood, although after a tragic accident in 2011 it took until 2015 to come online again. Now a new tourist ticket cost of R$20 per ride is drawing both praise and criticism from residents.
Government news agencies report that with just over thirty days since the implementation of the tourist tariff on the Santa Teresa bonde, the volume of passengers in one of the city’s main postcards continues to grow.
Of the 15,196 people reportedly transported from the Largo da Carioca section in Centro, up to the Largo dos Guimarães point in Santa Teresa, between December 15th to January 24th, approximately 13,000 paid the tariff, that is, 85 percent of passengers.
Transport Secretary Rodrigo Vieira points out that the measure aims to generate the necessary resources for the operation and maintenance of the system, stating, “It is in everyone’s interest that trams continue to work, benefiting both locals and tourists.”
He adds that “The charge seemed the best alternative for this, considering that anywhere in the world visitors pay to use the services, and that the tram attracts a very large volume of tourists.”
Geovana Esteves from Pernambuco state took the tram ride and told the government news agency that, “The tourist already comes with some obligatory points and the tram is one of these. I find the atmosphere of Santa Teresa neighborhood incredible, the bucolic feeling of being in another era. And you’re already in that mood when you board the tram.”
However Stefano (Tafo) Macchi, an Italian expatriate and co-owner of the Casalegre Art Vila, a guesthouse and bed & breakfast (or pousada as termed in Brazil) in Santa Teresa, is concerned that it is not serving business owners well in the area.
“Surely it is effecting the flow of visitors, tourism is going downhill already, most of the hotels [and accommodations] are empty and some are closing.” he explains. “It is no surprise as the administration of bonde trains was always a disaster, and this absurd fare, for a ten-minute ride is completely out of logic. It is a price for a tourist attraction not a public transport.”
His sense is while the government is drawing extra income, the cost for local Rio residents is prohibitive. He explains that “obviously the entire neighborhood has been effected, many workers were coming up for lunch on Fridays before, but now paying R$20R only for the tram ride is not convenient coming to Santa Teresa, better to call an Uber [car service] and pay less.”
According to the state government, the measure aims to guarantee the necessary resources for the operation and maintenance of the system. Residents of Santa Teresa that register, as well as students (in uniform with ID) of the public school, people over 65 years and holders of the Social Vale are able to ride free of charge.
The trams are running from 6:30 AM to 4:15 PM, Monday through Friday, and from 10AM to 6PM on Saturdays, but no operation on Sundays and holidays. Currently, the trams circulate in the section Largo da Carioca to Largo dos Guimarães, leaving every fifteen minutes.
The bonde was taken out of operation following an accident on August 27, 2011 which left six people dead and 54 people injured, only two months after a French tourist fell to his death from a bonde crossing the Arcos da Lapa. Since re-opening new security and maintenance systems have been put in place.