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Praça dos Três Poderes, BrasiliaJuly 19, 2010

Praça dos Três Poderes, Brasilia
July 19, 2010

Despite Brazil’s size, both in terms of land area and population, the country’s transportation network is fairly undeveloped and not as extensive as one might expect.  Roads, rather than rail, serve as the primary mode of moving both people and freight on intercity and intracity trips.  The country has over 18,000 miles of railroad tracks making it the 10th largest in the world.  However, the government has not invested heavily in railway development since 1945.  A Rio de Janeiro-São Paulo high speed line was proposed to be opened in time for the 2014 World Cup, but as of 2015, it is not expected that such a service will begin before 2020.

Several Brazilian cities have subway systems, including São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre, Recife, Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Teresina and Fortaleza.  Several others are being constructed.  However, these systems tend to be quite small relative to the population of the cities they serve, and buses are often the primary form of public transit even in these cities.

At one time, there were over 100 different tram networks throughout the country, and Rio de Janeiro had electric streetcars before London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Lisbon, or any other city in Latin America.  Today, trams are limited to heritage operations in Campinas, Campos do Jordão, Itatinga, Rio de Janeiro, Santos, and Belém.

Curitiba, in Brazil’s south, is known throughout the world for its progressive urban planning practices, including one of the world’s first successful bus rapid transit systems.  The system features level boarding, off board payment, and dedicated lanes throughout the city.  Despite not having a subway and being a city of only about 3 million people, the rate of public transit use in Curitiba is among the highest in all of Brazil.