Sustainability on the horizon

Thinking Cities
By Thinking Cities January 27, 2015 15:06

Sustainability on the horizon


Ramon Victor Cesar, CEO of BHTRANS

BHTRANS is the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte’s transit agency, responsible for planning, management and supervision of the city’s transport system. Dagmar Köhler spoke to BHTRANS’ CEO Ramon Victor Cesar about sustainability in transport planning, the city’s international networking and its smart city vision

Belo Horizonte and Polis are working together in the FP7-funded SOLUTIONS project, in which the city is assessing opportunities for the transfer of transport solutions. What are the most pressing transport challenges in Belo Horizonte?

The biggest challenge for mobility in Belo Horizonte is to reverse current trends and make urban mobility more sustainable. We need to integrate the mobility policy into the urban policy. We need to improve the public transport system, to encourage non-motorized modes and achieve a more rational use of the car in the city.

What does Belo Horizonte’s modal split reveal about the current trends?

28 SUSTAINABILITY ON THE HORIZON 3Since 1972, Origin and Destination Surveys are conducted in Belo Horizonte, which serve as the basis for planning, implementation and monitoring results. The most recent Origin and Destination Survey from 2012 points out a strong transformation of urban mobility and for the first time ever, individual motorized modes exceed the use of public transport modes!

How does this compare to that of other cities in Brazil?

Only a few Brazilian cities monitor the evolution of the modal split through surveys but São Paulo is another city with a consistent historic series to which we can compare. Also, the National Association of Public Transportation (ANTP) conducts a national balance of urban mobility information through the Information System for Urban Mobility (SIMU), which provides average values for cities over one million inhabitants. In comparison to São Paulo and “the average Brazilian city”, individual transport modes have an exceptionally high share in Belo Horizonte while public transport is underrepresented.


Is this a challenge arising from the growing middle class and the improved economic situation of citizens in Brazil?

One of the great challenges in any Brazilian city is related to the growth of car use by both the middle class and the lower income classes. The intense changes in modal distribution are associated with doubling the fleet of vehicles in the past 10 years, motivated by the increase in the purchasing power of the population and increase of credit lines to purchase.

MOVE Bus Rapid Transit in Center City

MOVE Bus Rapid Transit in Center City

One of our strategic goals is to make public transport more attractive compared to individual transport. If urban policy aims to reduce distances, the deployment of BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) Corridors in a structural network is crucial to obtain the desired quality. In 2014, the first two BRT corridors were implemented in Cristiano Machado Avenue and Antônio Carlos Avenue and a corridor of High Level of Service Bus in Pedro II Avenue.

Belo Horizonte’s mobility plan, PlanMob-BH, was developed jointly by BHTRANS and the City Council. Is sustainability an explicit objective?

In fact, the Urban Mobility Master Plan of Belo Horizonte (PlanMob-BH) can be considered what the EU calls a SUMP (Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan), because its principles, guidelines and objectives are explicitly sustainable. PlanMob-BHis the first mobility plan in Brazil that complies with the resolutions of the recent National Urban Mobility Law (Law 12.587, of 1/3/2012), and considers the following four basic challenges: 1) Integration of mobility into urban policies; 20 Improvements of public transport; 3) Encourage non-motorized modes; and 4) More rational private car use.

The plan’s starting point was that we realized a strong tendency toward unsustainability. What we did was to build scenarios that consider policies and projects. But rather than thinking that the PlanMob-BH would solve all our problems, we emphasize that implementation needs to be gradually adjusted based on monitoring results and problems delivered by the “Urban Mobility Observatory”. The process needs to be supported by increasing political will of more sustainable measures.

Cycling accounted for 0.4% of all trips in Belo Horizonte in 2012

Cycling accounted for 0.4% of all trips in Belo Horizonte
in 2012

What about the people – do you have the support of citizens to create more sustainable transport?

We still can’t say that there is unrestricted support of our citizens towards sustainable transport in Belo Horizonte, although support is increasing. In 2014, a wide public discussion about the PlanMob-BH was held at the Fourth Conference of Urban Policy and the majority of proposals were validated and supplemented. An Urban Mobility Observatory2was created with the support of almost 60 stakeholders who have joint strategic objectives. Nevertheless, when the subject is restriction of the use of the automobile, clearly this consensus does not exist.

Can international cooperation such as your involvement in European initiatives play a role to achieve a more sustainable transport system?

Belo Horizonte’s participation in European projects is a rich learning opportunity and encourages us to implement new practices towards sustainable mobility. Between 2009 and 2011 BHTRANS participated in the Turblog WW Project3 that brought great results on urban logistics. Now, within the SOLUTIONS Project we move forward with the topic of urban freight movement, tools to implement the mobility plan and infrastructure for bicycles. We are partnering with the city of Bremen, Germany and are supported by experts from various clusters of the project.

BHTRANS operation centre

BHTRANS operation centre

The concept of ‘smart cities’ is heavily discussed currently. Is it such a big issue in Brazil as well and what is your vision of a smart city?

In Brazil, the debate about Smart Cities is picking up speed. The discussion is closely linked to increasing use of technologies and to the democratization of access to the Internet and innovative ways of communication and information. We believe that building a truly smart city is about more than technological dissemination, while technology is necessary though. In the case of transport, Belo Horizonte was one of the first cities to have partnered with Google to make information available on Google Maps and our goal is to make more information available for free day by day to support the development of apps. This year, the new headquarters of the Prefecture-COP have been inaugurated, which include in addition to other municipal services, an operational control Centre of transport and transit, making intense use of ITS tools.


Ramon Victor Cesar is CEO of BHTRANS

Dagmar Köhler is communications manager and Daniela Stoycheva is project manager at Polis,





Thinking Cities
By Thinking Cities January 27, 2015 15:06