Curitiba- Transforming City with Bus Transit

Curitiba’s urban planners recognised early on that, even if growth in population cannot be controlled, the development of infrastructure in the city can guide the city’s development. Using bus transit supported by Master Plan, the city changed its radial configuration of growth to a linear model of urban expansion along mixed land use transport corridors. Curitiba approached public transportation not as a solution to advancing problems of congestion and pollution, but as a tool to develop a compact, sustainable and inclusive environment.



Curitiba is the capital city of the State of Parana in Southern Brazil. Currently, the city has a population of more than 1.8 million (2015) distributed within city limits of about 430 square kilometres and a total metropolitan area population of over 3.2 million (IBGE estimate, 2010).
Integrated transportation and land-use planning was adopted in Curitiba to address rapid population growth and to keep it from becoming an uncontrollable, sprawling metropolis (Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas, Inc., 1996). In 1964, Curitiba prepared, the “Preliminary Urban Curitiba”, a plan which evolved over the next 2 years to become the “Curitiba Master Plan”. Parallel with the evolution of the plan, in 1966, Curitiba created a planning institute, the “Instituto de Pesquisa e Planejamento Urbano de Curitiba (IPPUC)”, to develop, supervise, monitor, and continually update the Master Plan. (Karas, 1985). The Master Plan directed Curitiba’s growth along proposed bus lanes called “Structural Axes”, by creating articulated densities along the corridors.
Curitiba’s integrated transportation system plays an important role in the realisation of this Master Plan. It is a system of median bus ways along the five “structural axes” complemented by “direct” express service on parallel arterial roads, and by an extensive feeder bus network.

Transforming City with Bus Transit

The BRT in Curitiba was key in the transition of the city from radial to a linear model of urban growth. The transport system is based on the major radial corridors of the city or the “structural axes”. Each of the structural axes was developed as a “trinary system” comprising three roads. The central road of the three contains a two-way bus-way that feeds into transfer points called “terminals,” and also provides a limited number of traffic lanes. Approximately at the distance of one block from each side of the central bus-way/service road, a one-way traffic road of three or four lanes is developed for use by private vehicles. Intensive high density land use development has been permitted and encouraged on the block between the bus-way and the main traffic roads on either side. This land use form creates a concentrated, high demand for transport services along a narrow corridor that can be met efficiently by a track-based public transport service – the bus-way. The bus-way system along the five structural axes is only part of the Curitiba city-wide bus mass transit system. The system, termed the Rede Integrada de Transporte (RIT – Integrated Transport Network), provides a hierarchy of types of bus service, which include city bus-ways, inter-district express service and feeder network, all operated under an integrated tariff system. Curitiba achieved its intended compact development, independent of private vehicles, using policies and practices in majorly four arenas- land use planning, public transportation, parking policies and

institutional mechanisms.

Land use planning

The Master Plan prepared in 1964 directed urban development in Curitiba to the “structural axes”. Several land use policies emerged in the city which helped to bring out the best of the “trinary road system”. These included –
• The master plan allows only high-rise (10 to 20 story buildings) and mixed development along the BRT corridors. Also, large-scale shopping centres are only allowed in transit corridors.
• Land within two blocks of the bus-way has been zoned for mixed commercial- residential uses. Beyond these two blocks, zoned residential densities taper with distance from the bus-ways. It brings together various land uses in walkable areas within short distances from the transit station.
• The zoning prescribed by the structural axes has a combination of control and incentives. This includes various bonuses to develop as planned; incentives to transfer development rights; firm control over location of large scale development (such as large shopping centers); provision of incentives to developers to increase residential density close to the transit corridors; and development of transit terminals with a wide range of facilities.
As one move further away from the corridor, buildings become shorter, less dense and lastly it turns into predominantly residential areas. This land use planning has led to greater number of people staying within the first zone and the density gradually decreasing towards the feeder corridors.

Public Transportation

The public transportation system (RIT – Integrated Transport Network), provides a hierarchy of types of bus service, which include city bus-ways, inter-district express service and feeder network, all operated under an integrated tariff system.
• The bus-way system has been instrumental in driving land use development and has been used to stimulate development along the structural axes. The buses run frequently and reliably, and the stations are convenient, well designed, comfortable, and attractive.
• Travel demand for the bus-way system is generated as the bus-ways enter and cross the central business district (CBD) while traffic access is limited by traffic management methods (bus-only access, pedestrianisation, parking controls, etc.).
• The BRTS offers many of the features of a subway system at the low cost of a bus system. This includes vehicle movements unimpeded by traffic signals and congestion, fare collection prior to/ boarding, quick passenger loading and unloading.
• The inter-district express
• The bus feeder services integrated into the bus-way attract commuters through interchange terminals and stops.

Parking Policies

Parking policies have assisted in shaping travel demand, particularly to/from the central area in Curitiba. Some policies are-
• On-street parking is limited in location and duration
• City’s central area is partially closed to vehicular traffic
• Off-street parking is expensive
• Within structural corridors, development must provide off-street parking

Institutional mechanism25

The organisations involved in implementation of the BRTS are the city government (Curitiba Mu
nicipality); research and urban planning institute (IPPUC); public transportation corporation (URBS)and private bus operation firms. The inherent structure of the organisations and institutional policies help the system function efficiently.

• An auxiliary to the city’s executive branch of government, the Curitiba Institute of Urban Planning and Research – IPPUC (Instituto de Pesquisa e Planejamento Urbano de Curitiba) was responsible to plan and test solutions. Due to the dual responsibility, new plans were generated, tested, accepted by the community, and put into practice quickly. The population began to trust the ideas of the Institute, and this trust has largely been responsible for changes in the mentality of the city’s inhabitants.
• Work based on the Master Plan in 1965 was financed by the Development Company of Parana and by the Curitiba municipal government’s Department of Urban Development. Operation of the bus system is financed completely by bus fares, without any public subsidies. The Inter American Development Bank, the private sector, and the Municipality of Curitiba financed the north-south Bi-articulated Bus Line project (approved in 1995).
• The municipal government collects detailed operational information, audits the implementation and collects income received from the whole system, and pays the operators for services rendered in real costs. Detailed regulations establish the rights and obligations of the operating companies, define the faults and penalties, and seek to eliminate waste while constantly improving the quality of service. This arrangement ensures the fair distribution of income among operators and prevents unhealthy competition among drivers over specific routes.
In addition to the land use-transport sector, Curitiba has also followed enlightened policies on housing, environment, waste recycling, social matters (particularly for the young), and other initiatives.
• Areas outside the transit corridors are zoned for residential neighbourhoods. Also, Public housing for low income families are built along the transit ways.
• Single fare system of ticketing subsidises the cost of commute for long distances (mostly used by low-income population residing in periphery of the city) over shorter trips. Besides being socially just, the system facilitated the implementation of fare integration between different companies.
• In spite of having potential to raise funds for a heavy rail or subway, Curitiba built on its previous bus systems network and developed a BRT system to guide development, and in the process developing a low cost public transportation system.


Long-term vision, strong leadership and flexibility in plan has lead to the success of TOD in Curitiba. By utilising the existing corridors for BRT and adopting measures to intensify development along these corridors, Curitiba established a public transit system at relatively low cost. Through the use of public transportation and land-use instruments, the local governments effectively directed population growth to establish compact dense settlements independent of private vehicles.