By Philip Sever, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – For several months there has been an increased traffic problem on Avenida San Francisco Bicalho, which is one of the primary routes leading in to Centro. This area is a major source of congestion in Centro and every evening the same problems occur. This prompted Alexandre Sansao, Secretary for Municipal Transport, to announce that starting this week the Municipal Guard will undertake operations to reduce congestion and improve access to Centro in Rio.
The problem is caused by the last bus stop next to Rodoviaria Novo Rio on Avenida San Francisco Bicalho being illegally blocked by vans trying to compete with the buses for passengers. As the vans stop in front of the buses they also block all other vehicles behind the buses which causes traffic and congestion. Locals and commuters who use the route have commented that the problem continues because the Municipal Guard has never tried to discourage the illegal parking by vans.
The new plan is for the Municipal Guard to prohibit all vans from stopping on Avenida San Francisco Bicalho, in front of Leopolidina station. However no one has specified whether it will be illegal to stop vans at the last bus stop on Avenida San Francisco near to the Rodoviaria Novo Rio. Many consider this the main source of the problem, and if vans are not stopped from parking there, very little will be achieved.
Congestion and traffic are a serious problem in many areas of Rio, and the problem is only getting worse. However as the congestion increases, traffic controls and road design in Rio remain the same as they have for the last thirty years. Some politicians argue that a “congestion charge” as used in Sao Paulo could be an affective form of traffic control. The proposition would mean areas in Centro and Zona Sul could only be accessed if a charge was paid by motorists.
Initially the Sao Paulo congestion charge reduced traffic by 19%, by implemented a “Rodizio” system where access to the central areas of the city can only be done if a charge is paid. Whether the individual motorist pays the charge depends on the numbers on their license plate. Skeptics argue the situation in Sao Paulo is different from that in Rio though, as Sao Paulo is a much bigger city, with a larger population spread over a larger area.
Whether politicians would be willing to support a policy which would probably not be popular with Rio’s motorists is unlikely. Currently the Department for Transport is targeting specific congestion problems in specific places rather than coming up with an overall plan for all traffic problems in Rio.