"The city is not a problem, it is a solution."
June 2, 2021 11:13 PM   Subscribe

Urbanist, architect and politician, Jaime Lerner, the former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, passed away on May 27, 2021 at the age of 83. Lerner is perhaps best known as the creator of Curitiba's landmark Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, the inspiration for BRT projects on every inhabited continent.

Elected mayor in 1968, Lerner campaigned against planned highway expansion in the central city, instead introducing the Rede Integrada de Transporte, the BRT system. Running on dedicated lanes without traffic, with 240 passenger capacity buses and iconic tubular stations permitting off-board payment, the system provided the city of 2 million with high quality public transportation [8 minute video] without the expense of subway constriction.

Lerner was known for inventive solutions, and for fast work. A commercial street, Rua XV de Novembro was proposed to be converted for pedestrian use; in the face of merchant protests and a possible judicial injunction, his staff pedestrianized the street[4 minute video] -- the first pedestrian street in Brazil -- in 72 hours before opposition could stop the project.

Voted the second most influential urbanist after Jane Jacobs, Lerner continued to advocate for small, responsive interventions using urban acupuncture as a metaphor, and for environmental sustainability. As he said, “If you want creativity, cut one zero from the budget. If you want sustainability, cut two zeros!”

And if you want, you can of course listen to his TED talk.
posted by Superilla (13 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
He was truly a great man, in many ways.
posted by mumimor at 2:06 AM on June 3, 2021

Deep regretful RIP


I got to hear him speak at Brown Uni back in Oct 2009. A giant of man and a visionary
posted by infini at 4:01 AM on June 3, 2021

posted by jquinby at 6:05 AM on June 3, 2021

. 🚌
posted by adekllny at 6:15 AM on June 3, 2021

The department brought him in for a talk when I was in grad school, back before he had gained so much prominence, and he gave a really interesting lecture. I was sorry to see the announcement of his death.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:05 AM on June 3, 2021

For whatever reason, Lerner wasn't interviewed in the documentary Urbanized, but his influence made a strong appearance, particularly with regards to BRT development.
posted by ardgedee at 7:51 AM on June 3, 2021

posted by LobsterMitten at 7:54 AM on June 3, 2021

posted by ocschwar at 8:18 AM on June 3, 2021

Our red state county just got BRT that connects two college campuses. It works pretty well. I doubt I'll leave that kind of legacy.
posted by mecran01 at 8:26 AM on June 3, 2021

posted by clew at 8:36 AM on June 3, 2021

In my experience, BRT is often used a linguistic cover for not doing rapid transit at all. Paint some express busses and suddenly you have 'BRT' apparently. The Curitaba system has dedicated lanes, signal priority, and turnstyle stations. Doing all of that costs almost as much as an LRT / Tram, without many of the benefits. Most cities don't want to spend that much. Ottawa did, but they're busily replacing the highest traffic portions with LRT.

That said, I'm glad that people like Lermer pushed the envelope for what's possible.
posted by Popular Ethics at 11:07 AM on June 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Fair to say that the article could have done better to center integrated transportation network rather than BRT:

"even more critically to the [integrated transportation network]’s success, Lerner mandated that the streets immediately surrounding the routes were zoned for high-density, mixed-use construction, ensuring that ridership remained high."
posted by johnabbe at 12:52 AM on June 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

I've visited Curitiba and would consider relocating there. Super upbeat vibe, lotsa culture going on in "normal" times. And yes, I took the BRT (and enjoyed the ride).
posted by Sheydem-tants at 4:32 AM on June 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

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