Curitiba: A Leader in Transport Innovation

The City of London recently hosted the first-ever Clean Bus Summit, which brought together city transport officials, manufacturers and other stakeholders to help chart a path for deploying clean buses in cities around the world. The Summit came on the heels of the C40 Clean Bus Declaration, a commitment by 24 cities (and counting!) announced at the C40 Latin American Mayors Forum earlier this year, which seeks to deploy 40,000 clean buses in C40 cities around the world by 2020.

In light of this exciting achievement, we wanted to honor one C40 city that has long been a leader in transport innovation: Curitiba.

History of Transit Leadership

In Curitiba, sustainable transport has been a priority for more than 40 years. In 1974, when many larger cities were investing in subways, Curitiba took the same logic that made the underground trains successful and applied it to its bus system: boarding on the level of the bus, fare payment in advance, exclusive lanes for buses and integration to other buses of the public transport network. Using these features, Curitiba created the BRT system (Bus Rapid Transit), a model that was replicated in more than 150 cities worldwide.

Continuing a streak of transit innovation, Curitiba then tackled the integration of bus lines, making it so that passengers could use one ticket for as many bus lines as they liked. In 1991, Curitiba created the Inter 2 system, also known as Ligeirinho, a bus outside of the BRT system that can transport more people quickly, comfortably and safely.

In 1992, bi-articulated buses – buses with two articulations linking three cars – were launched throughout Curitiba’s Transit System, replacing many of the older Express line buses over the next few years. Meanwhile, the city continued to adapt infrastructure and add stations to make the system faster and even more efficient.

The Road to Sustainable Transit

In 2011, BRT expanded its carrying capacity with the implementation of the Direct Line – a bus with fewer stops, reducing the travel time for those who travel longer distances. In 2012, the city added hybrid buses to its public transport network, cutting carbon emissions by reducing overall fuel needs by 35 percent. These hybrid buses also cut down on pollutants like NOx and smoke. Today, there are 30 vehicles of this type in operation in Curitiba’s fleet.

Since 2014, Curitiba has been promoting 100 percent electric buses, including testing a model from Chinese company BYD that is totally silent, has a range of 250 kilometers, and consumes 75 percent less power than its diesel counterpart. Curitiba has 13 fully electric vehicles, including 10 cars and three mini-buses, which it obtained through a partnership with Portugal.

In the first five months of the project – called “Ecoelétrico” – the 10 electric cars showed savings of 82 percent compared to the consumption of gasoline-powered vehicles, and avoided an estimated three tons of carbon emissions.

The project’s aim is to show how electric vehicles can provide savings and reduce environmental impact at the same time. In Curitiba, the project is in constant expansion: in March 2015, two taxis exclusively powered by electricity were put in test in the city. The taxi is financially advantageous – it can be 70 percent more economical than a similar gasoline-powered vehicle.

With a long history of innovation in sustainable urban transport, Curitiba remains committed to the concept, constantly seeking ways to make its transit systems smarter, more efficient, and ultimately setting a model for cities around the world.