A couple of years ago I had the pleasure to visit Curitiba, a wonderful city in Southern Brazil. In the 50s and 60s, Curitiba embarked on a radical approach to urban planning. While the rest of the world, especially North America, was growing around transportation in a car, the leaders of Curitiba decided to grow around transit and walkability. I like cars. I have owned a car in the past and understand there is a need for cars in our society. If you have a family, transit does not always work. If you have a disability, a car might be a requirement. There are many advantages to cars, but cost is not one of them. Cars are expensive; roads are even more expensive not only to build but to maintain. A transit pass in HRM costs $70 a month and is tax deductible. There is no car owner in the city that can get car insurance cheaper than that.
The beauty of Curitiba is the life in the centre of the city. People are everywhere, walking to and from work, home, and play. Curitiba has integrated a great transit system that is used by 85% of the population. With a wonderful mix of green space, residential and commercial properties, Curitiba has managed to grow in a responsible way. In the 50s Curitiba had a population of a couple hundred thousand people, and has since grown to almost two million. Curitiba is the perfect example of how transit, urban planning, and creative ideas are methods to enhance growth, not hinder it. In 2010 Curitiba was awarded the Globe Sustainable City Award for excellence in urban planning and responsible development. In 2007, the city was placed third in a list of “15 Green Cities” in the world, according the U.S. Magazine “Grist”.
Do I think Curitiba has all the answers? No. Did they make mistakes? Yes. Can HRM learn form these mistakes? Yes. Are we doing enough? No. With example like Curitiba we can work together as a city and handle the growth that is coming to HRM in a responsible and sustainable way.