Position Papers
Dylan Passmore
University of Toronto (Canada)
Published in
Submitted by
Peter Midgley, gTKP
Related theme(s)
Urban Mobility
Latin America and Caribbean (LAC)

The Missing Leg: The Experience of Walking to Public Transit in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Across Brazil, walking trips are the often forgotten legs of public transit. In 2002, public transit’s share of daily trips across the entire São Paulo Metropolitan Region was just under 30%. With such high ridership levels, and given that walking is the dominant form of access for the region’s 19 million inhabitants, I found it distressing how little attention is given to the pedestrian realm around São Paulo’s public transit facilities.

Pedestrian access issues are rarely addressed by public transit literature and most contemporary analyses of pedestrian perceptions are concerned with understanding why we walk and not what it is like to walk. These two spheres research therefore offer little help in understanding the issue as it exists in São Paulo, where so many citizens lack the disposable income to enjoy market freedom.

I have therefore taken an exploratory approach to understanding this particular pedestrian experience in São Paulo, using professional and in situ pedestrian interviews, and policy analyses.

Through my interviews with pedestrians I found that they predominantly focused on their sense of security as well as social activity in public spaces, the potential danger imposed by motor vehicles and the challenges of unforgiving pedestrian facilities. Under these circumstances they were reluctant to stand still in public areas; were attracted to busy, clean, and organized spaces; avoided attracting attention; walked on the paved roadways, and crossed streets outside of designated areas. There are complex relationships between this environment and behaviour, however, as pedestrians discussed juggling concerns over the risk of jaywalking versus its convenience; traffic hazards versus sidewalk quality; and security versus safety, convenience, physical exertion, and overcrowded transit. Given the complexities of the pedestrian experience while walking to public transit, the topic is not receiving sufficient attention from public transit authorities or any level of government in São Paulo, both of which are deeply fragmented and generally apathetic toward
the issue.

Pedestrians frequently cope with significant problems in getting to transit in São Paulo and, given the importance of walking to public transit, government institutions and transit agencies must devote more time to understanding how they can improve the pedestrian experience by mitigating the stresses and making use of the comforts I have identified in this study.