A meeting of the Urban Mobility Forum last night at the Engineers’ Club helped this blogger to start unraveling some mysteries of daily Rio life, with information that still needs checking.
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Above all, this post is an invitation to share more data. The lack of official information and mainstream media’s spotty coverage of this topic leaves us in the dark.
This blogger attended the meeting (open to the public) as part of her research on a book about metropolitan Rio de Janeiro. The neighborhoods and cities represented by some 15 participants point up the need for an approach going beyond city limits.
The group spoke about a new independent site, still being tested, developed together with the Associação de Defesa dos Usuários de Transportes no Estado do Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro Transportation Passengers’ Defense Association) to create a public transportation complaints data bank. Initially, the aim will be to tally the complaints, and later send them on to responsible secretariats and governance agencies. All present agreed that City Hall’s 1746 site and phone number don’t adequately serve metropolitan area passengers.
Every day two million people leave neighboring cities to work in Rio de Janeiro, according to the Casa Fluminense, which last month presented its Mapa de Desigualdade (Inequality Map)at an OsteRio debate. “It’s New Year’s Eve every day in the city,” commented Vitor Mihessen, economist and information coordinator at the NGO, which focuses on metropolitan dialogue, data and policy proposals. He was referring to the number of people who crowd into Copacabana to watch the fireworks every December 31.
This blogger has repeatedly asked for interviews with state and city officials about transportation issues, with none granted. This makes it difficult to check information coming from passengers. The transportation sector is ever more opaque to those who would like to know what’s going on. The state’s financial crisis and the Lava Jato investigations have most probably hurt concessions, including construction companies Odebrecht (SuperVia suburban trains and the VLT tram), OAS (Metrô and the VLT), Andrade Gutierrez and Camargo Corrêa (Barcas SA ferries and the VLT) and the employee pension funds of the Bank of Brazil, Petrobras and Caixa Econômica bank (Metrô and the VLT).
Today’s Globo newspaper brought the news that the Metrô, according to the Agetransp regulatory agency, owes the state of Rio R$ 198 million; the company reportedly plans to appeal. According to columnist Lauro Jardim, the Metrô concession’s shareholders are putting up 49% of the business for sale, worth R$ 1.2 billion.
The recent bus line “rationalization”, meant to cut empty buses and thereby reduce traffic, seems to please no one, but we don’t know where it went wrong– if it did (neither do we know how much the complaining is due to normal resistance to change and how much to real problems). Untouched by Lava-Jato, bus companies may be in better financial shape than other Rio transportation concessions. However, they are also what 2013 demonstrators called “black boxes”, since the City Council didn’t go forward with a Bus Inquiry, set up that year so that citizens could have access to information on their real costs and revenues.
Rio transportation is thus an enormous jigsaw puzzle. This is no easy topic in many cities around the world– the issue of profit, or at least, financial viability, tends to be a thorny one when it comes to providing the service of taking people from one place to another. But not even this question is in debate here.
There’s no way to answer the question posed in the title of this post. Information is so scarce that many passengers joke that they’d like to know where this Troncal (Trunk) place is, which we see on so many post-rationalization bus identifiers.
Meanwhile, here’s some information collected yesterday, yet to be checked with other sources (comments and additional information are more than welcome, below):
- The corporate Bilhete Único card no longer works. Now, company employees who used to enjoy this commuter benefit must pay their own ways.
- Bus drivers work by number of trips, not hours. This would explain the prevalence of undue speed.
- There are no more buses between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. in Rio de Janeiro. Even bus drivers are having trouble getting home.
- Bus companies don’t provide enough buses at rush hour, which would explain inefficient transfers, costly to passengers (the Bilhete Único exceeding the set transfer time limit). To supply the number of buses required by City Hall, companies are said to be running unneeded buses outside of rush hour.
The Forum, which dialogues with transportation officials and meets every Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the downtown Clube dos Engenheiros, is a welcome discovery, bringing together a variety of localities and life experiences. One Forum member, Guilherme Fonseca, writes on transportation and other urban topics in the blog Diário do Rio.
The Quero meu ônibus de volta (I want my bus back) movement plans a demonstration in front of the City Council building in Cinelândia, April 28 at 6 p.m.