24 April 2013

Riding on that Monster Bus!

Nearly every day in Rio there is a fatal accident involving public transportation. In response to the brutal gang rape of a USAmerican woman a few weeks ago the city government stopped all van service in the Zona Sul of Rio, massively impacting mobility options for residents of Vidigal and Rocinha, two of Rio`s largest favelas (not to mention the impact on those who make their living with the vans). One of the results of this short-sighted, band-aid solution is to overcrowd the dangerous bus system even more. Bus drivers wield their carriages like twenty-ton baseball bats, there is little to no regulation and even when drivers are fined for their egregious violations of law and common decency, the bus company will pay the fine to FETRANSPOR, a regulatory agency that acts on behalf of the bus companies. There is no projected reform of Rio`s transportation system underway, the federal government continues to subsidize car production and consumption in pursuit of the Brazilian Way of Life, and those whose lives fundamentally depend on public transportation will soon experience yet another increase to the already outrageously high fares.

Rio`s Mayor announced the increase in a meeting with Brazil`s finance minister. In the same breath he asked that Rio`s debt ceiling be raised from 40% of liquid receipts to 120%. Can anyone guess why Paes is asking to both increase transportation fares (that go to private companies) and asking to borrow more public money at the same time that huge areas of the city are being privatized, occupied by the military, and otherwise cleared for real-estate development? If anyone has been looking for the ghost of Margaret Thatcher, I think she had a cup of tea in the Malvinas and then hot footed it to Rio.

One of the more bizarre stories of recent weeks was the discovery of two arms floating off of Posto 9 in Ipanema. The arms were tied together with cords and the only thing the papers had to say about the case is that officials were going to figure out who they belong to. I have not been able to find anything more about this story but will try to give it some fresh legs.

Speaking of, one of the great initiatives in Rio is the development of the Transcarioca trail. This will (supposedly) unite between 160 and 220km of trails through Rio`s national, state and municipal parks. As with everything else, the idea is to have the trail ready before the World Cup. Let`s hope this project gets on the ground!

This weekend, the Novo Maracanã will open its doors to a limited public for a test game between the Friends of Bebeto and the Friends of Ronaldo, two members of the 2014 Local Organizing Committee. The privatization scheme has been big news here and there are numerous protests planned for the event. Tear gas mask, check. Eye drops, check. Running shoes, check.

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