São Paulo Traffic: Collective Pathology or Poor Policy?

10 Feb

Just a quick note to express my utter amazement at traffic here in São Paulo. I’ve been here for a week and a half now, attending a workshop at the University of São Paulo (USP) and I have had enormous difficulties getting to and from the USP. For the eight kilometers I need to traverse, I take two buses at approximately $2US each (3R), and I don’t believe I’ve done the trip in under an hour and a quarter. When it started to rain one day, I jumped in a taxi. But the meter had run to 12 R (about 7 US) and we had only moved forward about 250 meters. I got out and walked.

"You are a slave to the traffic"

"You are a slave to the traffic"

I have spent a lot of time in Mexico City, which does not even come close to SP’s traffic woes. If it were not for allegedly bad governance and a constant increase of cars (approximately 500  a day), I would be inclined to view the City’s traffic as a collective pathology. How do people stand it?

New York, London, Sao Paulo– these cities are world class, economic powerhouses, national hubs. The difference is political will; Sao Paulo’s city and state governments have lacked the political courage to address the growing constipation of the city’s streets. These are public spaces, for people and pedestrians, but here cars are king. Unlike NY or London, there are few if any parking meters to discourage driving and raise funds for the city. Similarly, there are no tolls to get in and out of the city center– one possible solution to the logjam of SP’s traffic. And public transport is woefully inadequate for a city of this status. What to do?

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