BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL. March 2nd- March 4th, 2011.
Belo Horizonte visit

A two-and-a-half day workshop jointly organized by BHTrans and the Planning officials with the Prefeitura took place on Wed March2-Friday March 4. Attendees included local officials from the Prefeitura and BHTrans, as well as guests from Curitiba, Sao Paulo, and the Clean Air Institute (CAI).

Visit narrative

The first day of the workshop consisted of presentations by local officials, representatives of Sao Paulo and Curitiba, and the team of consultants.   Each group had a different role. Local officials provided a summary of the project to date and of the land management instruments being considered. Sao Paulo and Curitiba representatives presented some evidence from their cities on how development can be oriented towards bus rapid transit investments.

Ralph Gakenheimer presented a summary of his impressions regarding the project from a previous visit to BH and from interviews that he and Sergio Sanchez conducted during the two days prior to the workshop.  Ralph Gakenheimer also presented general recommendations on how the coordination between development and BRT investments could be managed in the context of the projects being considered. Sergio Sanchez described the role of the CAI and summarized the results of the Mexico City Clinic that took place in Oct 2010. Daniel Rodriguez presented case studies of Colombian cities that are attempting or have attempted to develop urban form oriented towards BRT, emphasizing the elements 

During the second day of the workshop, attendees were divided into four groups. Each group received maps depicting current constraints and opportunities for development and redevelopment along the corridors under consideration. Maps included local topography, roads, parcels, current peak hour travel flows along major corridors (by public transportation and auto), current land uses, land prices, and a photo-record qualitatively characterizing areas along the corridors.  Another map also showed the road infrastructure changes that were being implemented as part of the BRT for the corridor. It was made clear that some of those investments (e.g., property acquisition) were already taking place.

Taking into account the constraints and opportunities shown in the maps, participants were asked to brainstorm about the location of major new activity nodes and to consider the type of land use that would be appropriate for each location.  If major infrastructure investments were required (e.g., tunneling or overpasses), participants were asked to identify the tools that could be used for those investments.  

The morning of the third day, teams presented their findings to the group. There was a session of question and answers in which team members justified their choices.  Some additional information emerged from this exchange, which influenced the viability of the proposals made by the teams.

On the afternoon of the third day, Friday March 4, CAI team members had a meeting with BHTrans and Prefeitura staff to debrief and discuss the workshop and other events. During the meeting, local staff and the CAI team briefly discussed the terms of reference that had been developed in late 2010 for consulting services to assist the local staff with the analysis and technical support necessary for the land development strategy complementing the BRT investments.  Local staff made clear that they wanted to use World Bank funds for a different purpose than what was originally anticipated. They cited problems with timing in terms of making use of the funding that had been considered. They also had identified other funding sources

The CAI team suggested the usefulness of evaluating the outcomes of the BRT and TOD investments using ITDP’s methodology; local staff seemed receptive to the idea.

BH staff were interested in having the CAI team return to BH in three to four months to provide additional feedback.  Future confirmation was to be given, pending budget and timing considerations. The CAI team and local staff agreed that meetings in Rosario in May would be useful to getting an update on the project. The CAI confirmed the availability of travel funding for one BH representative to the Rosario meeting, in addition to having the BH Prefeito in attendance. The site visit concluded in the afternoon of Friday March 4.


  • The map-based planning exercise was useful in providing a general sense of the opportunities and the constraints in the corridor. It is somewhat surprising that such an exercise had not happened within the agencies already. It is positive that the CAI team visit appeared to be a catalyst for such an activity. 
  • The changes groups suggested were entirely hypothetical. This is fine, as it provided everyone with a clean canvass where unusual ideas could be explored. Some critical land use regulations were missing from the exercise and could have been helpful in narrowing the discussion and the possibilities of what could be (re)developed. For example, the land adjacent to the Pampulha Airport has important height restrictions. The land next to the lake (across from Pamulha) has important historical value and has strict development regulations preserving it. Similar constraints appeared to exist elsewhere but were raised informally from local sources.
  • The role of a rail (metro) investment from the southern part of the BRT alignment to downtown (Savassi) was unclear. This is the first time I had heard about this possibility, and even during the visit I heard different accounts of the seriousness of this proposal. If the metro moves forward, even on a schedule that is 5 years more delayed than the BRT, it will have important implications for what will happen in the area where both will interface.
  • I was surprised by the last-minute discussion by BH staff about how they wanted to move the funding around and disengage the World Bank from some activities and re-engage it in others. This is a point for CAI staff (Sergio) to follow up with Georges D. at the Bank.  I believe BH staff may see CAI as quite independent and different from the World Bank. Therefore, this change in funding sources may have been viewed as almost immaterial to CAI. Their request for further technical assistance in a few months further confirms that they view CAI as fairly different from the World Bank.
  • I was impressed that both Izabel and Marcio (two key BH staff in transportation and planning) devoted significant amounts of time to the workshop. Again, I this confirms the value that CAI has brought to the table for them, regardless of their involvement with the World Bank for this particular activity.
  • Although the project is in very early phases, I have some doubts about the institutional capacity to carry through with it.  The planning staff at the Prefeitura, although competent and committed, appear a little inexperienced and heavily focused on architecture and urban design. Unsurprisingly, there are few (no?) planners, urban economists, transportation specialists, or other individuals with real estate development experience. These are the services that need to be contracted out, but without strategic supervision from within the agency, the usefulness of the products may be dramatically diminished.
  • BRT appears to be increasing as a federal government priority in Brazil.  With federal impetus, and the looking World Cup and Olympics deadlines in the horizon, it is fairly clear that the BRT project will be implemented in a speedy fashion.  The land development around it may take longer.  A staged implementation approach is necessary. A conventional view may prioritize certain areas first. A less conventional approach is that parcels or projects within nodes are identified and prioritized as (re)development projects. This not only spreads the development risk across multiple nodes in the corridor, but may also be more efficient in terms of timing.

Next steps

Ralph and I will continue to work on the paper for the Rosario meeting. Although we did not get to discuss the paper outline, I share Ralph’s view that the manuscript may be morphing into a more academic paper that could be publishable. I welcome this suggestion.

In the next few days I will send out additional information that we can begin discussing for the paper. In particular, I’ve developed a set of questions and a project sheet template that we can use to collect information about each case study location we want to feature. We also need to finalize the case study locations within the next few weeks.


Sketch Report

Meeting on Bus Rapid Transit. Emphasis on The Antonio Carlos Line

Belo Horizonte, February 28 through March 4, 2011

The main presentations of the workshop:

Sergio Sanchez made a presentation on the purposes and approach of the Clear Air Institute “Projectos de Transport Sustentable y Calidad de Aire. 

His presentation emphasized he objectives of the program for the Latin American Region and he individual countries on the agenda—Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. He focused particularly on overcoming barriers of three kinds:

  • Technical: regarding need for special expertise and experience at project management as well as system design.
  • Social: including a deficit of stakeholder commitment, as well as the rapid rate of motorization in the cities. 
  • Financial: dealing with limitations of incentives to investment, and limited private sector involvement. 

Daniel Rodriguez provided an overview of conclusions from the CLI Mexico City Seminar held during CLATPU/CTS meetings (Oct. 4 – 8, 2011)

He summarized the discussion there as emphasizing:

  • Development issues including examination of the potential demand for land development in the vicinity of BT corridors
  • Mobility politics that complicate commitment to informed solutions
  • Urban Planning tools for land development and transport
  • Management and financial tools for accomplishing projects. 

Ralph Gakenheimer presented a brief report on his earlier (September) visit to Belo Horizonte, with implications for the present meeting.  The points included:

  • The need for more information about the design of Vilarinho
  • Desirability of planning Antonio Carlos and Cristian Machado BRT lines at the same time because they are so closely spatially related. 
  • The need to anticipate further extension of the corridors in the future. 
  • Examination of Barreiro as a model for a station design.

Daniel Rodriguez reported on land development activities in connection with BRTs in Colombia. These included the Estacion Central of Bogota, plan parcial at the BRT of Pereira, and plans for Usma and he Portal Suba of Bogota.  He also discussed instruments for urban planning applicable to this purpose in Colombia.  (expand?)

Ricardo A. de Almeida Bindo  made a comprehensive report on the Curitiba BRT. 

  • (Ricardo attempted to put this file on my flash drive but apparently it didn’t “take.” I am attempting to get another copy from him. Does anyone else have his ppts?)

Ralph Gakenheimer proposed components for BRT: Planning Methodology.  The elements included:

  • Basic structuring questions
  • Participation in the planning
  • Initial corridor and path trial proposal
  • Survey local conditions that facilitate or obstruct densification
  • Alternative sketch devpt. Scenarios
  • Housing demand studies, demand of other locators
  • Marketing of the corridor
  • Ways of providing infrastructure services
  • Defending the intestacies against sprawl

Izabel Dias presented a very useful set on “Instrumentos de Politica Urbana :posibilidades abertas pela legislacion urbanistica de Bel Horizone.”  53 images (Mar 2011) (my file name: BH InstruPolitUrb)   This is a comprehensive treatment of the subject .  I will not try to summarize it here.

The meeting was followed by breakout groups supplied with considerable cartography (of which I have gotten copies) as a basis for making sketch plans for the Antonio Carlos corridor.  

In general, these designs have:

  • Taken as given the trajectory of the BRT line. It excludes approach to the Vilarinho station. 
  • Taken elements of he surrounding development as malleable within the corridor concept.
  • Dealt with possible density changes within these related areas.
  • Changed uses in these areas, especially to provide attractive commercial opportunities a stations along the BRT corridor.
  • Identified particular institutional or service locations in the corridor that could be undertaken as separate projects (including a hospital and a hotel). 
  • Changed land uses in an area adjacent to the university where trucking warehouses are currently located. 

It is important to note that the Antonio Carlos corridor is already basically fully developed.  We are dealing here with changes of use, not really with densification of existing use.  

My view of the next step would be to organize the next phases by type of activity:

  1. Further attention to station locations and other actions close to the operation of the new BRT, including
  2. Finalization of the station locations
  3. Examination of the form of stations in these localities to learn how much space they would require and how they would fit into the locality—along with parking and other ancillary uses.  I believe this would create a need for adjustments not anticipated during this first workshop. 
  4. Traffic and parking considerations at these locations. 
  5. Attention to the development (attraction) of secondary commercial and other services at/near the station locations 
  6. Isolation of special projects that can be undertaken independently (A hotel and a hospital have been proposed)
  7. Isolate special planning areas where uses will change dramatically (such as an area where warehouses are proposed to be dislocated in favor or other development.
  8. Prepare for areas where significant density changes, redevelopment and infrastructure installation should take place. 
  9. Since we have a strong mission here to densify development in order to reduce trip length and encourage more transit usage:  My current view of this exercise is that development along the lines proposed may significantly increase transit usage because of the superior system and perhaps on account of ordinary transit connections.  I expect, however, that any trip making transition resulting from denser occupancy of the corridor will be small. 

This is not necessarily a damaging criticism.  It does suggest, however, that much of the achievement of  this project will be on account of the ordinary transit connections with new BRT (which were not studied) rather than land use re-planning (that was the main focus of study) 

The programming of further planning needs to take place at the level of servicing these individual activities with required professional design capability and guidance, and within a framework that deals with the interrelationships among them. It is also very important to add the secondary transit network planning dimension to this process, with attention also to the land use impact implications of the intersections of feeders with the BRT. 

Important links
  1. Atividades do programa STAQ em Belo Horizonte
  2. Oficina de trabalho: Estratégias de uso e ocupação do solo e transporte coletivo – discussões práticas
  3. BRT: methodology. Ralph Gakenheimer
  4. Instrumentos de política urbana: possibilidades abertas pela legislação urbanística de Belo Horizonte