By Patrick Eccles- Williams and George Utley, Contributing Reporters
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Earlier this month, on Wednesday June 4th, saw the inaugural journey of the new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), the Transcarioca route between Barra da Tijuca and Galeão International Airport (GIG). The project, which cost roughly R$1.8 billion, drastically reduces the journey time from the airport to Barra, site of the 2016 Olympic park.
The route stretches a distance of 39 kilometers and has a total of 47 stops along the way. No other vehicles are allowed in the BRT lanes and there are designated areas to cross the road for pedestrians. However, early evidence suggests that it may take some time for fellow road users to get used to these rules.
Despite some safety concerns, the project is still seen by many as a success as the BRT Transcarioca reduces travel time and, at only R$3 for a journey, is also very affordable. Sofiance Faci, an Algerian who has been living in Rio for three years believes the project to be a success.
He tells The Rio Times, “It is positive; Very good, very modern, and very safe. And it will certainly reduce the amount of traffic on the roads.” It does have one drawback for him however: “It is a pain it doesn’t cover the whole city, we can’t use it here in the Zona Sul (South Zone).” Passengers traveling from the airport to the Zona Sul are encouraged to get the BRT to Vicente de Carvalho and then take the metro (subway) from there.
Perhaps inevitably, some teething problems were experienced. On the route between Tanque and Terminal Alvorada, which opened a couple of days earlier, on June 2nd, 31 vehicles were towed and 313 fines were awarded in just two days. There was also one motorcycle accident on the day of the inauguration.
Maurício Zanaleta, the driver of the first bus to make the journey from Terminal Alvorada to the airport, had concerns over the safety of the new route. “I am going to have to drive slowly. On Tuesday there were many people walking in the [bus] lane,” he told O Globo at the time of the inauguration.
Current journey times between Galeao airport and Barra da Tijuca are ninety minutes. It is hoped this will be reduced to seventy minutes, after the necessary updates. This route runs from 5AM to 11PM with buses leaving every twenty minutes.
The BRT is just part of a city wide infrastructure project due to be ready for the 2016 Olympic Games – which comprises two further BRT lines: the TransOlimpica which will link Barra to Deodoro and the TransBrasil connecting Deodoro to the Santos Dumont Domestic Airport.
Safety concerns were proved right unfortunately, most recently on Saturday (June 21st) when an accident involving two motorcycles and a bus left one person dead and two more injured. According to witnesses, the motorcycles were traveling in the designated bus lane when the accident occurred.