Ticket To Ride

February sees a protest march on Avenida Paulista about the fare increase from R$2,70 to R$3. Source: markhillary‘s YouTube stream.

The cover article of the Sunday magazine of newspaper Folha de São Paulo yesterday was about some upper middle class folk who supposedly started using more buses to get around town.

The article even included a ‘beginner’s guide to catching a bus’. The interviewees included a bloke who would catch a bus in off-peak times and a gal who didn’t mind changing buses four times to cross the entire city.

It could be that the mag is trying to sort of educate people who would never even dream of using public transport in São Paulo, let alone buses, trying to tell them that it is a good thing to do, from an environmental and financial point of view.

And sure, the bus network has improved a bit around here in the past decade. There are dedicated bus lanes now, some bendy buses were introduced to busier lines, a travelcard scheme… I think that’s about it?

In any case, is it really possible to convince someone who owns two, or even three, cars and is used to driving to fetch the paper around the corner, that using the public system, or even bikes, is a better option?

Armed robberies on buses have become an almost daily occurrence, many companies use vehicles that are filthy, old and uncomfortable, and poorly-trained drivers do not respect speed limits… and cycling in São Paulo is still something akin to a suicide mission.

It is a vicious circle: those who are better off will not catch the buses due to a mix of fear, prejudice and laziness. People then tend to rely more on their cars, which worsens traffic jams, as well as the performance of public transport. And the populace is forced to accept the sh*tty old bus service, and pay a premium for it – in a year’s time, bus fares increased from R$2,30 to R$3.

Some guy in the magazine article was quoted as saying that buses are ‘something for the poor’. It reminds me that, in London, everyone from the company chief executive, the city mayor to the cleaner use public transport to go everywhere. Everyone has equal opportunities to demand good quality transport – and people do exercise that right.

You often see the poorer crowd and students, who depend on buses, protesting about the fare increases that give us nothing in return. But why can’t the rich do something about it too, so there is decent public transport for us all?

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