Sunday, August 10, 2008

Brazilian cities sustainability

It is easy to talk about some topics surrounding cities in a conversation. However, city size, urban costs and benefits should be defined in order to limit this subject.

City size has different meanings for different people and cultures. For us, for example, we call any town as a city and we classify cities by their size, for example calling “medium size city” what perhaps should be called a town.
However, based on our “standards” I would be in favour of calling a city an urban agglomeration of around one million people. Less than one million I would call a town from a Brazilian perspective.

By one hand, São Paulo city has almost 12 million inhabitants, what is more than twice the population of Ireland, for instance. Most of its inhabitants are from the Brazilian Northeast, besides the Italian and Japanese descendants.
That is viewed as a city almost out of urban control and of difficult management success because the urban chaos is present in many aspects. The most visible is in transport modes and theirs negatives externalities, like traffic congestion and air pollution.

By the other hand, Curitiba is considered as a town if compared to São Paulo. But it is not if compared to Londrina and other regional towns of Parana State.
At present Curitiba has almost two million people and it is growing fast due to several reasons: southern strategic location, positive cultural aspects, climate, industrial base, and so on.

Curitiba costs are ludicrous when compared to São Paulo costs to the citizens. Although the distance between Curitiba and São Paulo is just 400 kilometers, what is a short distance for Brazilian dimensions. One can go by car in less than five hours from here to there and vice-versa, or by air in just 40 minutes jet flight.

However, the generalised costs to their citizens are completely different. To commute in São Paulo Metropolitan Region it is not the same as commuting in Curitiba Metropolitan Region. It is not only by the time aspect of commuting but because everything that is associated to metropolitan quality of life.

São Paulo is said to be a city of helicopters since that is a mode of transport used by some executives. This says a lot about its travel time.

Congestion is a starting problem in Curitiba city but some traffic control remedial measures can reduce it to normal level of service. It is far from the São Paulo congestion problem.

It is said that this year Brazil will add 3 million cars to its fleet. Although this can be perceived as something good from the citizen economic income standpoint, it will demand more road systems on major cities and towns.

Is there a sustainable future for our cities and towns if they continue growing and receiving more cars than they are able to accommodate?

Schumacher's “Small is beautiful” theory is desirable but this is not the real case in most of the Brazilians cities.