21 December 2010

BRTs, forced removals and end of year terror

The forced, violent removal of people and homes in preparation for the crashing wave of mega-events has begun. In addition to the 119 favelas marked for removal by the city government last year, there are many thousands more homes, businesses, and temples that will be eliminated to make way for the soon-to-be-infamous BRT lines. A bit of explanation:

BRT = Bus Rapid Transit. BRT lines are dedicated bus lines that function like rail lines in that they have fewer stops and only permit one kind of vehicle in a designated space. In Brazil, BRT lines are hailed as a solution to the chronic transportation problems created by planning cities for cars. Why? Because in the 1970s, they were installed in Coritiba and have had a reasonable degree of success there, turning BRTs into a kind of hegemonic transportation solution for urban planners worldwide. Rio de Janeiro is in the process of installing 3 BRTs. Each one will claim around 3,800 homes and businesses and have upset every religion in Brazil by announcing the demolition of 50 houses of worship.

These are the principal problems with the construction of BRT lines in Rio:

  • Forced removal of at least 10,000 homes, businesses, and public spaces
  • The continued dependence on the internal combustion engine and “things on rubber wheels” for mobility
  • The solution for 21st century transportation problems in a city of 13 million is the same as a 1970s solution for a city of 1.5 million
  • BRTs require dedicated concrete sluices that will divide communities in the same way as elevated highways (like the Linha Amarela)
  • BRTs deliver only 30% of the passenger capacity as light rail
  • All of the BRT lines will have their terminal points in Barra de Tijuca. There will be no linking of the city from East-West, nor will there be connections between the Baixada Fluminense and the City of Rio
  • This will augment, not reduce, the influence of the Rio bus mafia in city affairs
  • The three BRT lines will alter urban space forever, further fragmenting the city along class and geographic lines
  • The three BRT projects are being constructed with public money yet will be run by private concessionaries. These projects will consume tens of billions of reales and have not been sufficiently discussed in public forums before being implemented. 
There has already been significant resistance to the forced removals. The city government is attacking homes in the night with bulldozers, continuing a long tradition of the SMH (City housing authority) of violence against those who don’t get out of their way immediately. The BRT projects are part of a larger Olympic building initative that is targeting favelas for removal before 2012. I will be presenting a paper at the ANPUR conference in Rio in May about the BRTs of Rio de Janeiro. My paper abstract (in Portuguese) is below. For more information about the terrorist actions of the city government in the Vila Harmonia and Vila Recreio II favelas, see the Newsletternomade.

ANPUR abstract:

As linhas BRT do Rio de Janeiro – fragmentação através de integração 

Uma peça fundamental do projeto olímpico do Rio de Janeiro é a instalação de três linhas de BRT, Bus Rapid Transit. A prefeitura do Rio, em parceria com o Comitê Olímpico Brasileiro, projetou as linhas sem qualquer discussão em audiências públicas, justificando o investimento nesse tipo de transporte como necessário para a maior integração do “anel olímpico” – uma invenção retórico-geográfica que disfarça as carências de transporte na cidade.

O presente trabalho está baseado na perspectiva de que as linhas de BRT compõem parte de uma estratégia de fragmentação sócio-espacial do município. Ao invés de atender as necessidades atuais do transporte metropolitano, tomando-se em conta o fluxo de veículos e seu uso, as BRTs se limitarão a atender as exigências das classes dominantes. O resultado será desastroso para o transporte públicoafetando negativamente a mobilidade da maioria da população e fragmentando barrios e comunidades. Tendo em vista que essas intervenções determinarão a estrutura de transporte na cidade pelos próximos cem anos, elas demandam uma discussão urgente e mais ampla, baseada no pensamento crítico.

Combinando mapas e dados obtidos junto à prefeitura do Rio sobre as trajetórias das BRTs e visitas aos locais onde serão implantadas (com milhares de desapropriações), e comparando a experiência recente da instalação de uma BRT em Johanesburgo durante a Copa do Mundo 2010, este trabalho mostrará que as três linhas de BRT na capital fluminense irão agravar a fragmentação e a segmentação da cidade, privilegiando zonas já favorecidas com altos índices de investimento público. A pesquisa alerta para a possibilidade da criação intencional de uma metrópole na qual a classe operária se vê isolada e impedida de locomover-se com facilidade dentro das regiões que ocupa – pois o transporte de massa está disponível apenas para levá-la às zonas mais ricas, para trabalhar. A falta de integração entre as zonas menos favorecidas limitará as possibilidades de desenvolvimento econômico local e fortalecerá as divisões sócio-geográficas já existentes na cidade.

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