New BRT Corridors in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil help ensure people take public transport

Context of Transport Climate Action

Rio de Janeiro, with a population of 6.5 million residents, is a city with complex geography and strong urban pressures. As incomes in Rio de Janeiro have risen over the last decade, motorization has increased to the point that the city is now facing widespread issues with traffic congestion and is suffering from other traffic related social, economic and environmental issues. Rio de Janeiro’s automobile fleet has grown steadily at an average rate of 5 percent per year, from around 1.7 million light-duty vehicles (LDVs) in 2001 to about 2.8 million in 2011, which represents a total increase in motorization of 61 percent during the ten-year period. In the streets of Rio, traffic congestion has also increased significantly. In 2003 the average speed for private vehicles on the most important transportation corridors in the city was 27 km/hr. By 2012 the average speed had declined by 35 percent to just 20 km/hr. By 2032 the average speed in the city is expected to decrease to 16 km/hr. Given these patterns in motorization and the decrease in average speeds, the city of Rio de Janeiro has adopted an aggressive plan to improve public transportation options in the city and metropolitan area.


The 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics have provided the city with a unique opportunity to develop a strong network of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT[1]). As part of a suite of urban improvement programs, including improved bicycle infrastructure and pedestrian projects, the city is working to implement four new BRT corridors by 2016. Combined, the corridors will bring the total to 150 km of busways when complete and city officials expect that these corridors will accommodate demand for approximately 1.7 million daily trips.

It is also expected that this significant investment in public transit will reduce dependence on personal vehicles in Rio de Janeiro. The BRT encourages the use of transit over personal vehicles and facilitates dense, compact urban grown along the corridor. Through a reduction in congestion, avoided personal vehicle use, and increased efficiency in public transit, the BRT reduces emissions for the city. Furthermore, by anchoring additional improvements such as bike lanes and station area development, the corridor encourages more local trips and a more connected, less car dependant urban form.

[1] BRT – is a high capacity bus service that provides a high quality of service running on dedicated lanes and routes similar to metro


In 2012, the city opened it’s first world-class BRT line, Ligeirão Transoeste, and in 2014, TransCarioca began operations in time to support the crowds during the World Cup. By 2016, Rio will have a network of 150km of BRT across four lines, linking all zones of the city, including the City Center, international airport and domestic airport. It will integrate with the subway and commuter train, as well as with the light rail circuit planned for the Port of Rio area, part of a key urban regeneration legacy project tied to the Olympics.


Projects that encourage mode change from cars and taxis to public transport are important both within the city of Rio to lower air pollution and greenhouse gases as well as on the Avenida das Américas in particular, to improve travel time, and to reduce vehicle congestion and cost of travel. Rio also has a metro service that integrates with the BRT.

Using the Transportation Emissions Evaluation Model for Projects (TEEMP), a methodology developed by ITDP and recommended by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and inputting the information from the project to estimate the impact on vehicle distance traveled along the corridor, the reduction of carbon emissions and pollution, and fuel consumption over a 20-year period. Compared to business as usual, these two corridors BRT scenario shows an average reduction of 172,716 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year over the next 20 years. Particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions also are shown to be reduced by 7.2 and 119 tons per year, respectively.

Potential for scaling up

Until recently, rail had dominated the urban transport conversation in Brazilian cities. The high profile roll out of Rio de Janeiro’s four BRT corridors is helping change the conversation about transit in cities across the country and the region. Decades after Curitiba pioneered the concept of BRT, Rio’s BRT corridors are bringing cutting edge design back to Brazil. As cities throughout the country and the region invest in bus improvements and public transit, Rio’s example of ITDP’s Gold Standard design sets the bar for other cities to match.

In addition, as Rio de Janeiro looks to the future, plans for additional improvements to public transport are in the works. With extensions to public transit routes, additional biking infrastructure, and policies on urban design, Rio hopes to bridge social divisions within the city and build a stronger, more interconnected city.

Selected references



Rio de Janeiro, Brazil






Brazil, Mitigation, Passenger, technology


Consorcio Operacional BRT Rio


Gabriel Lewenstein

Rio de Janeiro is investing in the construction of four BRT corridors, “not only to address the increase in passenger demand during the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, but primarily in order to leave a consistent legacy in the area of urban mobility for the population.” - Deputy Secretary of Transport, Carlos Maiolino,