Rio Passengers Get More Time on Transit for Single Fare
More time for single-fare transfers will help people commuting from often poorer, more distant communities. Photo via

More time for single-fare transfers will help people commuting from often poorer, more distant communities. Photo via

Recently, we wrote about how public transit costs and long travel times can force people to sleep on the streets in Rio’s central zones. Now, the state government has taken a small but promising step toward relieving these problems by giving riders more time to make transfers using the single-fare system.

Since February, Rio de Janeiro has offered a single-fare pass for inter-municipal travel, allowing enrolled riders to pay a single fare and make one transfer within the public transit system (bus, train, or metro).

Until today, the time limit for single-fare transfers was two hours, at a fare of R$4.40 (approximately US$2.40).

Now, Rio’s state government has approved a half-hour increase in the time allowed for transfers on the single-fare pass.

Rio’s Secretary of Transportation Sebastião Rodrigues said the state government realized that the single-fare pass program – what he called one of the state’s largest social programs – was not reaching the people who needed it most, namely, residents of impoverished outlying areas within the metropolitan region.

With the extra half hour, the state government hopes that these needier riders will be able to take advantage of the single-fare system. The government calculates that 99 percent of riders in Rio’s metropolitan region will now be able to reach their destinations using the single-fare pass.

In the five months since the single-fare pass system began, more than one million residents of Greater Rio’s 20 municipalities have begun using the single-fare pass.

Rio's "Bilhete Unico." Image via Rio Card.

Rio's "Bilhete Unico." Image via Rio Card.

Still, to get more residents signed up, the State’s Department of Transportation is negotiating with RioCard to increase visibility and sign-up posts around the city. For now, riders must either sign up for the fare card online or at one of two transit hubs: Central do Brasil and João Goulart Terminal.

Rio Still Lags Behind

Rio’s system still lags behind São Paulo’s. As Elio Gaspari pointed out in Folha de Sao Paulo, a simple comparison of the two cities’ systems reveals a lack of political will in Rio to “take public transit out of the gutter.”

In São Paulo, the single-fare ride costs just R$2.70 – compared with R$4.40 in Rio – and allows four trips on city buses over the course of three hours. Rio offers just two trips over two and a half hours, and only for inter-municipal travel. In the meantime, Rio’s bus fare went up by 6.18 percent – to R$2.35 –  in February, when the single-fare pass began.

So within Rio de Janeiro municipality,  workers making four bus trips per day (two to arrive, two to go home) on 25 days a month pay R$235 per month. The same trips cost a worker in São Paulo R$135. And with the inter-municipal single-fare pass, workers only save R$13.75 per month.

In Rio there is no discount for frequent ridership. In São Paulo, the R$2.65 Metro fare drops to R$2.33 if a rider purchases 50 passes.

Rio’s Fetranspor, which manages the state’s transport agencies, promised frequent ridership discounts and state-wide single-fare pass programs with the creation of RioCard.

Gaspari points to lack of political will on the part of Rio’s local and state officials in their failure to rapidly implement a more just transit policy that would, in turn, increase ridership and revenues. After all, before Mayor Marta Suplicy implemented São Paulo’s broader single-pass program in 2004, the two cities’ transit systems were on par in their states of neglect.

Now, six years later, 50 percent of Paulistanos rate their train and bus services as good or excellent, and more than 80 percent give top marks to the Metro. Rio is still far from achieving this level of confidence and support in its riders.

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