By Megan Bridges & Emma Schad
Rio de Janeiro has a unique shape. The city stretches along the coast of the Atlantic and is flanked by mountains. It curves to accommodate the Tijuca National Forest lands, which makes urban development possible only in the north-south directions. The city itself has many hills and steep grades. The length of the city is perhaps best felt when riding the subway line. The distance between stops allows one to experience and understand its breadth better than any map illustration. The metro in Rio de Janeiro, Metrô Rio, is composed of two lines; the orange and the green lines, called Linha um e Linha Dois. Between the two lines there are 35 stations and a service area of 41km, that is by no means, however, comprehensive of the city (MetrôRio, 2014). Rio de Janeiro’s metro system is comparatively new, having arisen in the late 1970s, and is still in the process of construction to become an extensive system.
Public transport in Rio began in the 19th century with mule-drawn trolley cars. By 1880 these animal-powered lines actually accomplished a span similar to that of the modern metro, connecting the city center to the neighborhoods, or barras, of Sao Cristovao, Tijuca, Botafogo, and Jardim Botanico. Eventually such lines were replaced by electric cable cars, automobiles and autobuses, which favored localized routes over a centralized plan. After the incorporation of the automobile, the city prioritized the construction of roads, highways and streets. The explosion of automobile use resulted in traffic congestion and poor air quality, especially in the mid-1950s and 1960s. Transportation authorities reacted by overhauling the tram system and investing in development projects, such as Rio Mêtro, to mitigate these consequences.
The Orange line, Linha Um, runs northwest from Ipanema to the city center and then on to its final stop at Uruguai in the Tijuca district. A relatively recent public service, the Orange line (Linha Um) was the first line in Metrô Rio’s system. It was constructed in 1979, and included 5 stations built along a 5km stretch between Gloria and Praça Onze to serve the affluent city center. The line also threads through stations Central, Carioca (today’s busiest station) and Cinelandia- all prominent zones of activity and governmental operations. The initial metro line was not an accessible means of traversing the city for most residents, but rather a convenient loop for the typical central city user (presumably a government employee).
The Green line, Linha Dois, is longer, spanning 24 km. The two lines run side-by-side for ten stops, a redundancy not often seen in urban metro lines. The lines then split at Central, where the Green line extends into the northwestern area of the city. This resulted in the expansion of services to São Cristovão and Maracanã in the early 1980s. The final stop of the Green line at Pavuna opened in 1998 and is the northernmost point in the metro’s system.
The Orange line continues to expand. It finally reached the beaches of Ipanema in 2009, and it extended to Barra Tijuca in March 2014.The recent expansion plans in Rio are one of several projects being funded by the Urban Mobility Pact, to which President Dilma Rouseff has allocated $143 billion reais to improve the transportation systems of Rio and eight other cities. This expansion is not only in preparation of the 2016 Olympics, but also a reaction to nationwide social unrest in June 2013 to the rising costs of transportation. These changes, the president argues, will make transportation safer and more accessible. Furthermore, the expansions are expected to decrease traffic congestion in districts like Leblon. At present, the Orange line covers a distance of around 19 km and is still an efficient commuting option for those working in the city center. In total, the 35 stations along the two routes move incredible amounts of Cariocas daily between their destinations in air conditioned modern cars. In 2013 nineteen new trains were put into operation to improve efficiency just before the hosting of World Youth Day and the 2014 World Cup.
Metrô Rio is set to expand its scope with two proposed lines. One line is expected to extend further into Barra Tijuca, an area of incredible growth over the last 10 years, while the other would extend to Niteroi. The line to Tijuca is anticipated to be finished before the 2016 Summer Olympics, however there is no project end date for the third line’s plans.
The availability and modernity of a city’s public transit system may very well be a proxy for their position as a global city. A reliable metro system is a staple of metropolitan life in nearly all leading cities around the world. The continued creation and improvement of these systems may further assert Rio as a city with modern amenities. There are other forms of public transportation in Rio de Janeiro, such as buses, cable cars, aerial trams, regional train lines, and a bike share program that are set to expand their fleet in 2016 before the start of the Olympics.
A law that created female-only riding cars during rush hours caused public uproar when it was enacted in 2006. The law was unanimously passed by the legislative assembly of the state of Rio de Janeiro in response to the high incidence of robbery and assault towards female passengers. The women-only cars have been brought under question by my men and women alike. First and foremost, it is logistically impossible to enforce the male ban on these cars. It is not uncommon to find men seated in the female-only cars who boarded by mistake or to escape the sardine-like conditions of the coed cars. Secondly, some women perceive this designation as punishment, as they have to wait for the female-only car, which is the last car in the line. They also have to push their way through people to board the car, and once they take their seats there is no guarantee that it will be a female-only refuge. Other critics believe that the law violates the constitutional right to freedom of movement, and that it fails to address the deeper structural issues that oppress women. One angry passenger commented, “The state has much, much, much more important things to do than make pink cars… if we accept this, they’ll make a car for white people, one for black people, one for hippies, one for skaters. Are you going to partition the whole city?” Despite its problematic nature, the law demonstrates a willingness by the government to engage with issues related to gendered violence and the effects of gender on one’s urban experience. Time will tell if this policy will continue as the metro system continues to expand. Should female-directed interventions become mainstays in Rio’s public transportation system, they can become defining features that set Rio’s transportation system apart from other global cities.
Metrô Rio is expected to be a prime mover of the masses as Rio de Janeiro continues its quest to be a mega events hosting site. The Confederation’s Cup, 2007’s Pan American Futebol Competition, the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the 2016 Olympics and undoubtedly more events will be held in Rio for as long as the city markets itself as a sports city. Metrô Rio reports that during the Confederation Cup the metro lines transported 50% of spectators, and during the week of futebol activity at Maracanã for the World Cup 70% of spectators relied on the metro to travel between the matches and their hotels. The metro is the main artery of what Rio de Janeiro wants to show off most: its civic center, sports stadiums and beaches. The World Cup, with its international spotlight on Rio de Janeiro, affected the daily operations of the lines. Security increased to around 500 Metrô Rio personnel, and wifi capability was introduced to some of the larger stations. Bilingual signs with English as the secondary language were also introduced in all 35 stations and voiceover English recordings were–and still–are played in the cars during regular service.
The metro lines are also sites of national campaigns. While traveling in the cars during the summer of 2015, one could not help but notice all the promotional materials promoting the 450th anniversary of Rio de Janeiro.
The trolley cars of Santa Teresa, the aerial trams of Complexo do Alemão, and the cable cars of Santa Marta are surely more iconic images of Rio, however the metro is a salient feature of Rio’s identity as a global city, nonetheless. How Rio Metrô decides to advertise, and whether it continues to have women-only cars, accommodate tourists, and broaden its accessibility demonstrate Rio’s uniqueness on these fronts.
Estacion General Osorío do MetôRio
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