Phase 3A · Curitiba’s urban strategies



The city of Curitiba is located at the south of Brasil, as the capital and biggest city of the state on Paraná. Is has a population of  1,760,500 people aproximately. It dramatically changed during the early 70’s when inmigrants from all over Europe (Germany , Poland, Italy , Spain.. ) and Asia (mainly Japan) came to curitiba to work in the agriculture and after, to live into the existing under developed urban area, generating social economic and environmental controversies.


On the other hand, the city itself is known for its strategically ecological and social management  as decisions and politics made between 1970 , when Jaime Lerner became mayor, and the 90’s  have taken the city to become  a ‘ sustainability model city’ , receiving  in 2010 the Global sustainable city award. 


Unchecked population growth and migration to urban centers throughout Brazil have led to large numbers living in poverty. These patterns have also led to areas of heavy pollution and rampant rates of deforestation.

Population groups involved

By the end of the 19th century, a drastic increase in European migration caused Curitiba’s population to rise above 50,000. Curitiba continued to experience rapid growth into the 1940s when its population exceeded 150,000 with a growth rate of about 3.5%. The city was faced with increasing demands for housing, transportation, and other essential services.

Curitiba experienced yet another surge in population growth beginning in the 1950s. From 1950 through 1990, the population swelled from 300,000 to 1.5 million. Until nowadays this growth has continued almost arriving to the 2 million by 2009, becoming the 8th most populated city of the world.

Economic growth occurred in parallel to a substantial inward flow of Brazilians from other cities of the country, as approximately half of the city’s population was not born there.


Population evolution since 1970

In 1971 Jaime Lerenr, a young architect by then , becomes mayor of Curitiba. Continuing the master plan started by its predecessorm he built a system within a city in need of social , and environmental changes, with a poor economic situation. As a political official with a solid background in architecture and urban planning based on four main pilars:



Agents involved.

* Private companies: Most of the new activities for the city that needed a huge investment such us public transportation or separated waste big amount pick up, were provided with an agreent between private companies and city council. These agreements were based on dividing the city per areas and not per services , so the situation of the companies could not endanger a whole public service.

*Low income and education population groups: Most of the city’s new problems were based on the fast growth of the population, but also of where did these people came from. Immigrants from Europa and other cities of Brazil came around 1950 to work at the countryside. These people moved around 1970 to the urban areas, especially to the center and outskirts of Curitiba, having no basic education and no jobs, so no opportunities.





In 1962, there were 321 separated private, informal sector bus companies, which were forced by the Mayor to consolidate into 10 separate formal sector companies. The private traffic was a growing sector , having rates of about2.5 vehicles per capita. In comparison, Monaco has 1.5 v/c nowadays and the average in Brasil is 0.5 v/c


Evolution of vehicles per habitant




Public transportation was improved by the stablishment of a bus network inspired on the underground strategical plan.

Large investment in infrastructure and effective planning by the government enabled full recovery of operating costs and bus procurement. By giving private operators full exclusivity to operate bus services and removing operating risks  operations have been profitable.The establishment of a government-owned company for supervision of the entire bus system greatly assisted management .

Passengers could access the city center from any part of Curitiba’s region only with the payment of a ticket and transfering themselves from one kind of bus to another. This changes can be made in two kind of stations, terminals in the outskirts (to chane from regional buses to local ones) and tube stations.




Curitiba’s bus network.




RED: They travel exclusively through reserved roads in the trinary system .curitiba31

SILVER:  The direct line, ‘Speedy’ The stops are further from each other (2-3 km) connecting city center areas faster.

ORANGE: Connects the city with another town through bus terminals in the outskirts of the city. In this bus terminals passenger are allowed to change busses without paying a new fee.



Tube stations

Every kind of city busses stop in the ‘tube stations’ where passengers pay their tickets and access to the buses. They are leveled to the height of the bus. This allows the bus traffic to go faster, as drivers must not wait for the passenger to pay their fee and makes easier the universal access to people with reduced mobility.


31 ph_1301163306


 THE TRINARY ROADS.Redesign the existing acces roads to the city.

With smaller budget then the usual for a new road system,5  existing roads where transformed to relate the growth of the city to a new system of public transportation.

Each of them had three roads . At the center , an exclusive public transport way to buses and emergency vehicles; so anyone arriving to the city with the public transport would reach any point fast , no matter the traffic jam. Next to it , two fast car roads of one direction to access the city , gather the local traffic.

The other two roads, consisting of 3 faster ways, conduct the regional traffic ; so the city can be passed through with out causing more traffic and slowing down tha accesses. Ths roads are also one-way, so crossroads generated between them havo no need of roundabouts , as the vehicles don’t turn its direction; and it saves money in traffic lights: traffic light timing is reduced to half .

Traffic and building density were related with building regulations; the closer to the center road of the trinary system the higher that it was allowed to build.


Trinary road section.recycling


The fast population growth boosted the construction of Favelas in the under developed areas of the city as hills and river sides. Usually constructed very close one to another, the usual garbage collection is not possible. Favela’s inhabitants throw then their wastes into the river and the lands; damaging the natural environment and contributing to generate  non-hygienic areas.


The idea for this situation  was to involve  favela’s inhabitants into the collect of organic and non organic waste. With  smaller trucks that fit in tha small streets, they  took  the trash out of these areas, where regular garbage collector trucks could pick it up.

This people were paid with free public transportation tickets, costing nothing to the government or private transport companies as they  where being paid by kilometers traveled per day and not passengers.



Relationship between main slums and garbage picking points.


As another result of the population fast growth, the outskirts of Curitiba where built with huge only residential areas, developed by phases of standardized buildings. Housing developments were made, with low fee payments every month for its inhabitants , so they could become full owners in a long term program.


COHAB, the Brazilian habitation company started a project in the early 80’s which main goals where to connect this areas with the city center, and also to make them fully independent. They were lacking of any services , jobs , commerce; and it was the fear that those related to low-income population groups could become isolated ghettos.



The strategies in this case where mainly city council’s management but truly effective.


Program ‘Autogestão’ allowed social housing inhabitants modify theyr homes as they wished, with no effects on their contracts.That way inhabitants  would feel more comfortable about paying the fee every month.

If they owned a small popular one floor house they were also allowed to start a small bussines in it. Commerces appeared in the former housing areas , solving both jobs and diversity needs. Giving this new areas the diversity the center had, would also give the people living in there more dignity feeling ans a sense of community; as their area is as valuable as the main areas of the city, in habitation terms.


Standarized housing areas / small bussineses in local houses


 Liceu do Oficio_ Job schools that provided easy simple necessary job studies so people could either work in the city or establish their own home family business.

Linhas do Oficio_The commerce appearance in the resicential areas generated a network conected by the implemented bus lines , allowing them to be known in another areas.

guia_investidor_2010_port_1a5.p65Self-employment evolution for the last 10 years.



Unemployment rates in Curitiba 2009


green 4

Underprivileged population with no access to a house , established themselves into poorly made constructions in the free areas of the city. Curitiba has a high risk of floods, as many rivers cross the city, and this free areas where the usual path of the water when rivers fled.

Curitiba’s city council had no budget to build underground piques or ditches at that time and the people living there had to be relocated as their lives were in danger.


Instead of building, excavate. 

Illegal houses where removed and people relocated in the existing social housing for free. The released areas where transformed into huge green areas with a system that could intake the fled water, in case of huge rains, such as lakes and irregular ground design. 

barigui06 Praqua.Bariguia

Parks for flood.

As a result of these new huge green areas, buildings and neighborhoods around were revalued, taxes were higher and the government could easily pay  the investment  made for its development. 

Also it was used as an strategy to offer scenarios for resident immigrant populations to maintain connections to traditional ways of buildings and living.

guia_investidor_2010_port_1a5.p65Green areas network.


Curitiba’s case is a recognized success as it integrates different level of strategies. The city urban planning was seen as a whole unique project, involving at the same time social, economical, environmental and cultural issues.

What must we learn about Curitiba’s case?

Leadership: Jaime Lerner’s legacy of commitment with the sustainable and social planning continued with Tamiguchi’s government. The results of the previous intervention had given to curitiba’s policy’s trust from central government, translated into funds that made their proposals able to work out.

Trust and commitment relationship with citizens:  The proposal it’s a small action taken from a real complex lecture of the environment they were designing for: low income-and-education population. It doesn’t only include government strategies and funds but asks citizens for their economical and emotional implication, subliminally saying: If you don’t learn and develop the business for yourself none of this effort is worthy.

Cultural Heritage: Many of the city’s buildings are “recycled” and retired buses are often used as mobile schools or offices for educational programs . A flooded quarry was turned into the Wire Opera House inside two months, and another into the Free University of the Environment, which educates people on ecological issues.

Appropriate rather than high-tech solutions: Curitiba could have chosen a number of technologically sophisticated solutions to its woes. Two examples illustrate this point. The conventional wisdom was that cities with over a million people needed a subway system to deal with congestion. The other prevailing dogma was that cities that generated over one million tons of solid waste annually required expensive mechanical garbage separation plants.


Global urban Development. Metropolitan economic  strategy  report . Curitiba, Brazil. FAZZANO, Alicia

Curitiba, Brazil’s transport and zoning policies. UNESCAP Case Study

Natural capitalism. Chapter 14 ,Human capitalism. HAWKEN, Paul

Curitiba flood management .  E.M., Carlos

Guia do investidor, Curitiba 2010

A convenient truth. Documentary by  VAZ DEL BELLO ,Giovanni  




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