C40 Voices: Adalberto Maluf reports on recent advances in Sao Paulo’s bus transit strategy

2011 has been a watershed year for Sao Paulo’s bus transit system. The City is advancing a number of initiatives to improve bus technologies, infrastructure and fuels, in keeping with its Climate Action Plan.

Cleaner fuel

Sao Paulo Mayor Gilberto Kassab recently announced the launch of a new clean fuel program to use 10 percent cane diesel in 520 city buses by 2012. This follows the results of a successful pilot phase with cane diesel manufacturer AMYRIS, in which the cleaner fuel (made from sustainable production of sugar cane) delivered an average of 41 percent reductions in emissions.

New bus technology

The City has also presented a new generation of improved electric trolleybuses, having purchased a fleet of 140 buses to be integrated into the Sao Paulo bus system by the end of the year. The buses are made by Brazilian electrical and hybrid bus company ELETRA, a partner of C40-CCI’s Hybrid & Electric Bus Test Program. Earlier this year, the City had also taken steps to further its investment in improving and expanding the infrastructure supporting electric buses.

Bus Rapid Transit & Vehicle Inspection Program

Four Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridors are currently in construction around the City, expanding the existing 113km-network by more than 66km by the end of 2012. Sao Paulo has also benefitted enormously from the installation of Brazil’s first comprehensive vehicle Inspection and Maintenance program (I&M), which started in 2009 and was expanded the following year to include motorbikes. In 2010, the I&M program helped to reduce 41 thousand tonnes of carbon monoxide; according to a study by the University of Sao Paulo, the resulting better air quality saved the city’s public health system, more than US$ 39 million (R$ 65,91 million).

All of these actions are a direct result of the city’s 2009 Climate Change Bill, which aims to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent in 2012 compared to a 2005 baseline. Sao Paulo has set a goal of converting 100 percent of its bus fleet from fossil fuel combustion engines to alternative fuels and technologies by 2017. In addition to the cane diesel and trolleybus initiatives, the City has already incorporated 1,200 buses with 20 percent biodiesel blend, and 50 sugar cane ethanol buses -- out of a planned 200 in 2012. Since 2005, 75 percent of the 15 thousand buses in the City were replaced by newer buses, reducing pollutants in the City by nearly 12 million tonnes, according to the Sao Paulo Transit Authority’s Pollutant Measurement index.

Importantly, these investments are driving the uptake of public bus transport by residents. Whereas buses represented 45 percent of journeys in 2002, they now register at 55 percent -- more than 10 million trips per day in Sao Paulo. And the City is targeting a modal share for bus transport of 70 percent by 2020. Improving mobility, local air quality and the city’s carbon footprint, these efforts are going a long way toward making Sao Paulo a better place to live.