Using technology to transform public transport in Teresina

Bus station

Like many urban areas in Latin America, the metropolitan region of Teresina (Brazil) faces rapid urbanisation, low-density development, and extensive land consumption. These pose significant challenges for Teresina and its 1.2 million inhabitants, which wider issues such as climate change are exacerbating.

Against this backdrop and with a lack of institutional capacity, fostering sustainable mobility and civic participation would seem difficult. But Teresina has a plan, and its work as part Euroclima+ – an EU-funded programme assisting climate action in Latin America - is helping it form its response.

The region is developing a comprehensive strategy to promote greener mobility and investing in walking, cycling and public transport infrastructure. Together, this should form the basis of Teresina’s transformation into a people-centric place. Measures include developing the city’s first SUMP; implementing a Bus Rapid Transit System (already ongoing); piloting a low-emission zone; and realising the Walkable Downtown project.

However, the lack of institutional capacity makes it difficult for Teresina’s local authority to deliver quality services and encourage public participation alongside providing new infrastructure. This applies to public transport in particular. The municipality wants services to be reliable, have them perceived as being value for money, and to improve relationships among mobility stakeholders.

Innovative technologies like blockchain have been identified as a way to solve trust issues and information asymmetry among groups. For instance, a blockchain platform is being developed for transport operators, administrators and users with the support of Euroclima+. Such measures should help tackle governance issues and enable better bus system operation, whilst fostering civic engagement and allowing collective oversight of public transport.

The current implementation phase consists of activating the local innovation ecosystem. Close collaboration with and integration of various public transport stakeholders views’ means the diagnosis will reflect the complexity of operating Teresina’s public transport.

Even though the expected outcome is a digital solution, a multidisciplinary team is engaged in translating complex concepts - such as blockchain - into accessible tools. The focus is not the technology itself, but to increase the capacity of the city and its citizens to monitor and demand improvements in public transport and ultimately improve their daily journeys and lives.

Teresina is a member of the Euroclima+ Community of Practice, and it has participated in CIVITAS projects such as Mobility Urban Values. See its presentation at the CIVITAS Forum 2019 here.

Photo credit: Municipality of Teresina (2018)

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