Sunday, 3 August 2014

The economic cost of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo’s transport failures

FIRJAN (the Industry Federation of the State of Rio de Janeiro) has just released data on the cost of traffic congestion in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. They estimate that together the two cities lost a staggering R$ 98 billion last year, the equivalent of 8% of the cities’ total GDP and 2% of Brazil’s GDP.

Traffic jams are part of daily life in São Paulo
This amount only takes into account lost work hours and doesn’t factor in the health impact of car fuel emissions on the general population or other indirect impacts on the economy. And yet even this conservative estimate is equivalent to the cost of building 200km of extra metro lines every single year!

In fact the amount lost yearly is bigger than the estimated budget for transport capital investment in Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina combined. 

How the results will be interpreted, however, is another matter. The more congestion is seen as a problem, the more consideration is given to building extra lanes and highways thereby reinforcing the car culture. 

In a country where car ownership is increasing, local governments need to start thinking about long term solutions focused on encouraging the use of alternate transportation rather than accommodating additional cars which in turn will attract yet more vehicles onto the roads.

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