Architects and urban planners make pilgrimages to Curitiba to learn how it became what many call the greenest city in the world. There nearly every family has a car, but only a third of them commute by car. The rest use the bus, voluntarily. The result: traffic flows smoothly and pollution went down by a third, without using new and expensive technology. (The savings in fuel not consumed then improved discretionary household income, leaving people money to improve their lives.) The system is fiscally stable and now counts 2.4 million daily passengers.
The residents of Curitiba recycle 70% of their post-consumer waste, and in the process, create jobs for the poor and homeless. Green space went up from 0.5 to 52 square meters per person, and in the process, solved decades-old problems of recurrent flooding. Yet meanwhile, population tripled. The city was not rich. The solutions implemented were not expensive.
To mark Earth Day 2008 tomorrow, Living on Earth revisits this story and segment recorded 14 years ago in 1994 to learn how they did it. Then in follow-up, for the the following story and segment recorded recently, host Steve Curwood interviews Jaime Lerner, the architect, urban planner, popular three-time mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, and two-time governor for its state, who created the bus rapid transit system, taught adults to recycle through their children, and transformed the capital city into a beautiful, green, and vibrant exemplar for how other cities can solve their problems.