Sustainable Cities- Curitiba

Sustainable Cities- Curitiba

March 9, 2021
  • Location: Curitiba, Brazil
  • POPULATION: 1.6 million
  • LAND AREA: 142 km2

Curitiba is situated in the South of Brazil in the temperate climate zone.

The cities political borders cover an area of approximately 435 km2 .

Curitiba is the capital city of Paraná with a metropolitan region consisting of 25 municipalities holding a population of 2.5 million people.

Since post-WWII Curitiba has become a centre for economic activities mainly due to its central location and regional transportation network

Curitiba was the processing and distribution center for the surrounding agricultural industry, workers began turning to Curitiba in search of employment. The city was experiencing rapid growth and had a thriving agricultural sector  and attracted migrants from Japan, Syria and Lebanon. This led to increasing  demand for:

  •    Housing
  •    Services
  •    Transportation

The residents feared problems such as Urban Sprawl, fewer open/green spaces and lost character

In 1943 the Agache Plan was designed by Alfred as an attempt to manage urban growth in the city. It was a spoke-and-wheel design with the focus of a central business area from which access streets where connected to radial avenues.

This design failed to include the rapid expansion of auto-mobiles during the 1950’s. The plan was never fully implemented except from the ideas about radial avenues due to lack of funding.

The success of Curitiba is due to a number of factors, including a long-term plan for development designed in 1966.

As a response, the Public Administration of Curitiba developed a preliminary urban plan for Curitiba. This was the base from which the Curitiba Master Plan was developed during the influence of Brazilian consulting firms.

The Curitiba Research and Urban Planning Institute, IPPUC was established in 1965 to coordinate the implementation of the Master Plan.

The main objectives of the Plan were to manage transportation, limit the physical expansion of the central city focusing on;

• Changing the radial urban growth trend to a linear through integration of the road network,

• Transportation and land use,

• Decongestion of the central area and preservation of the historic center,

• Demographic control and management,

• Economic support to urban development and Improvement of the infrastructure.

Transportation oriented development

The development of Curitiba is twisted with its public transport system which is based on buses. Bus transport system was selected because of its extremely low costs of installation and operation in addition to its fast and easy construction process.

The bus system consists of three types of buses for different functions, distinguished by different colors (red for express, green for inter-district and yellow for conventional buses).

Concentric circles of local bus lines connect to five radial lines that go outward from the center of the city.

On the radial lines, triple-compartment buses in their own traffic lanes carry 300 passengers each.


The population has doubled since 1974, yet car traffic has declined by 30%. The system reduces the fuel consumption and air pollution as well as environmental costs of urban mobility

 Urban terminals are built at the end of each express bus lane with social services and smaller terminals which are located every 1400 meters. The innovative local public transport system is considered as the pioneer of urban development in Curitiba

– 4000 passengers per day on special bus

– 25% less congestion

– public transport is now used by 75% of commuters on weekdays – Create a subway line running North to South

Urban growth is also restricted to corridors of growth – along key transport routes. Tall buildings are allowed only along bus routes.

The Trinary Roads.

They go as fast as subway cars, but at one-eightieth the construction cost.” 2 million passenger per day.

Designed to encourage density along the corridors, the system expands according to the needs of its riders.

Its efficiency encourages people to leave their cars at home. Curitiba has one of highest rates of car ownership in Brazil, and high population growth. Yet auto traffic has dropped substantially; Curitiba has the highest public ridership of any Brazilian city (about 2.14 million passengers a day), and it registers the country’s lowest rates of ambient pollution and per capita gas consumption.

Expansion of walking and cycling paths:

The IPPUC and URBS also installed bike paths as an additional transportation alternative

This plan strategized the addition of 300 km of cycling lanes by 2016. Priority has been placed on the creation of roughly 25 km of cycle friendly routes along BRT routes, as well as the deployment of 50 km of lanes within eight of Curitiba’s parks.

Much of the green space was achieved by using federal funds for flood control to build small dams across rivers, creating lakes and parks for the city population.

The Curitiba Metropolitan Area (RMC) is on the Upper Iguacu River Basin and had a population of 2.5 million in 2004. The river has a low capacity and historically has flooded frequently, giving rise to a large natural flood plain unsuitable for development. Several factors related to urban growth exacerbated the natural flood risks.

Flood waters diverted into new lakes in parks solved the problem of dangerous flooding, while also protecting valley floors and riverbanks, acting as a barrier to illegal occupation, and providing aesthetic and recreational value to the thousands of people who use city parks.

Where floods used to occur regularly parks were used to transform flood plains into a beautiful place

  • Woodlands have become more common now because they take up some of the water which helps stop flooding.
  • A drainage system has now been put into the river and lakes to make sure it doesn’t overfill and cause a flood.

Waste Management

In the late 1980’s it was the first city to offer a wide variety of recycling services.

Curitiba recycles 2/3 of its household waste this figure is one of the highest in the world.

 The recycling plants are made up of recycled material and employ people who find it hard to get jobs for example immigrants and disabled people, this makes the employees feel valued and it helps to improve the lives.

Colour co-ordinating teams collect the waste that has been separated in inorganic and organic waste. It is then sorted and sent out to other recycling plants to process. Cans are recycled at the fraction of the cost of producing new ones. Nothing is wasted, Books are sent to the public libraries’ for all to use and artefacts are placed in a museum.

The “green exchange” employment program focuses on social inclusion, benefiting both those in need and the environment. Low-income families living in shantytowns unreachable by truck bring their trash bags to neighborhood centers, where they exchange them for bus tickets and food.

This means less city litter and less disease, less garbage dumped in sensitive areas such as rivers and a better life for the undernourished poor.

There’s also a program for children where they can exchange recyclable garbage for school supplies, chocolate, toys and tickets for shows. Under the “garbage that’s not garbage” program, 70% of the city’s trash is recycled by its residents.

Once a week, a truck collects paper, cardboard, metal, plastic and glass that has been sorted in the city’s homes.

 The city’s paper recycling alone saves the equivalent of 1,200 trees a day. As well as the environmental benefits, money raised from selling materials goes into social programs, and the city employs the homeless and recovering alcoholics in its garbage separation plant.


As another result of the population fast growth, the outskirts of Curitiba where built with huge only residential areas, developed by phases of standardised 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

‘Sixty per cent of the lower-income people are involved in the construction industry

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


If they owned a small popular one floor house they were also allowed to start a small business in it. Commerce’s appeared in the former housing areas , solving both jobs and diversity needs. 

Refurbishment of the city center into a heritage realm in the authority of pedestrians has begun in 1970s. Old buildings were allowed to be rehabilitated with new functions, whilst the public squares were empowered by commercial and cultural facilities. Historical urban elements of Curitiba are used as shopping mall, theatre, creativity centre, cultural documentation service, museum; some operate 24 hours, 7 days a week. Downtown area was transformed into pedestrian public space with shops, restaurants and cafes, and the Flower Street (Rua das Flores) which was an urban recreational place (Brendan, 1998). As mentioned formerly, the priority had been given to public transport rather than private cars.

 The great challenge of making a city friendly toward its citizens is not an easy one and Curitiba planners and politicians came up with innovative ideas and bold solutions to make Curitiba one of the most pedestrian friendly city’s in the world today.



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