By Alfred Rinaldi, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The government in Brazil is to make urban mass transit – and especially metros (subway trains) – a priority with a planned joint investment of R$143 billion, according to an announcement by President Dilma Rousseff this Monday. Speaking on her weekly radio show “Coffee with the President”, Rousseff committed a further R$50 billion to her R$93 billion Urban Mobility Pact, which she had announced in the wake of last year’s social unrest.

The Rousseff government, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
The Rousseff government is pledging new money to develop urban transportation, as public discontent continues, photo Roberto Stuckert Filho/PR.

More specifically, the President pledged R$33 billion in federal government money to the expansion or creation of metro (subway train) networks in nine Brazilian cities.

Beneficiaries will be Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Salvador, Recife, Fortaleza, Brasília, Curitiba, Porto Alegre and Belo Horizonte (which are all also World Cup host cities.) Government at municipal and state level will contribute a further R$15.5 billion, with additional private investment anticipated.

President Rousseff said, “Our objective is to extend and accelerate the projects, which will result in more comfortable, quicker and far safer public transit at very accessible prices. In this way, we’ll cut back on the time people lose getting around, giving them back some of this precious time of their lives.”

The cost of mass transit as well as its poor level of service was one of the issues which triggered last year’s wave of social unrest. With the recent increase in Rio’s bus fare from R$2.75 to R$3, the cost and inconvenience of commuting in Brazil’s cities remains a sore point with an electorate due to go to the polls later this year.

Urban Transport in Brazil, Rio de Janiero, Brazil News
For many years, the government has neglected metro system, admits President Rousseff, photo by Halley Pacheco de Oliveira under Creative Commons License.

In recognition of the limitations of travel by road, the government is shifting its emphasis firmly on transit by rail in all its forms. Explaining her decision to go all-out for rail, Rousseff cited its high capacity, speed and safety. With an integrated transport network, it would also be easier to introduce an integrated fare structure which, in turn, should lower fares, said the President.

“For many years, the federal government has not invested in public transit, and especially not in metros. In truth, the federal government has washed its hands of the issue and said, this is not my problem. For my government, this is my problem”, Rousseff stated. “Now we’re marshaling significant resources to invest in mass transit. This makes me proud. Brazil is building metros again.”

The announcement was welcomed by commentators, who nevertheless sound a note of caution. Speaking to The Rio Times, Carlos Caicedo of IHS, a consultancy which provides market and country analysis, said: “We already knew that investment in this sector was coming as outlined in the Growth Acceleration Program, the ambitious plan aimed at addressing Brazil’s infrastructure bottlenecks.”

Caicedo continues, “However, what I think is new is the emphasis Rousseff is putting on urban mobility, as this was one of the main grievances during the June 2013 nationwide protests. It is notable that she mentions nine large cities as the main beneficiaries of this investment, including Rio and São Paulo, where the most disruptive protests took place.”

What remains to be seen, according to Caicedo, is whether the government can deliver the promised improvements quickly enough for a population which is less and less inclined to wait. Especially as bus fare increases are rolled out and existing train systems continue to fail.


  1. That sounds really good but proposing it and actually doing it are two very different things. What has been done in the last four years? Very little! It seems very convenient to propose all these mass changes with elections coming in the near future.

  2. As an American citizen who has ridden American public transit extensively in multiple locations across the Southwest, I can attest to the fact that the service here in São Paulo is more efficient. My main complaint is the use of smaller buses on routes with heavy ridership, creating extremely uncomfortable and unsafe riding conditions. SPTrans needs to get rid of these small buses and start using normal-sized buses on all routes, and all-concatenated buses on major routes. They also need to perform better and more complete maintenance on their buses. Most of them look to be in excellent condition, until you step inside and they start moving and sounding like they’re falling apart.

    The metro system needs to run more trains during high commute times. I have had to stand in the stations of several lines on multiple occasions waiting for a train that has enough room for one person to squeeze in. I know the current trains can’t really be effectively lengthened, unless all lines are converted to like the trains on LInha 4 Amarelho-Via Guattro, where a rider can walk the full length of the train. In these cases, and extra car can be attached front and rear and a few extra seconds can be given at each station/terminal for riders to get to the exits. Even then, the interval between trains during high commute hours needs to be cut to no more than 90 seconds.

  3. Gary P:- I’m not up to date on the progress made in other cities but in Rio a tremendous amount has been accomplished in 4 years. Besides the various metro stations in zona sul and Barra da Tijuca that are under construction, the BRT Trans Oeste has been operating for well over a year with numerous additional stations being built as I write this. Other major transportation projects include the tunnel linking Recreio and Guaratiba and not to mention all the development and revitalization taking place in the port area. Everywhere I look there is infrastructure being built. You must not get out much to make such an ignorant comment…


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