The City We’ve Been Waiting For

June 14, 2011

Want to see what a city looks like when a bunch of architects, urban designers and landscape architects take over? If so, the documentary, A Convenient Truth is for you.

Curitibia, the Brazilian capital of the state of Parana, population 1.75 million,  is consistently voted the best place to live in Brazil and is one of the world’s shining examples of an eco-city. Residents there are so enamored with their City government that 96% of them are proud to be Curitibians and proud of their local government. Wow!!

While the planners of Curitibia look primarily to the ubiquitous city components of transportation, mixed use development, green space and low income housing, the way they approach each of these topics—looking at everything through the lens of larger systems such as job creation, efficiency, and public relations—makes all the difference. Nothing is approached in isolation.

For example, when they develop low income housing, they also build shops below, and provide would-be tenants with business development support, as a result, out of 17,000 new housing units, they also create close to 6,000 new businesses (and jobs). When they build public parks, they are also addressing problematic flood plain areas, looking to the natural flow of rivers, and developing the needed catchment areas. In an effort to save on costs, they even bring in sheep to trim the grass. Nothing is overlooked.

Their public transportation system is a wonder in and of itself—with an amazing 60% ridership—even though car ownership in Curitibia is high. Color coated buses run every minute, along a trinary road system, maximizing efficiency and time for passengers. The enterprise is a partnership between the City and the privately owned buses. Buses are reimbursed by the City on mileage traveled, not passenger fare. As buses become more efficient and effective, ridership goes up, adding to the City’s coffers and allowing them to reinvest in more infrastructure.

And finally, when Curitibia wanted to start cleaning up the favelas or slums developing in surrounding hillsides, they offered free bus fares to residents in exchange for garbage and recyclables. This led to the cleanest favelas in Brazil, offered residents there more mobility, and brought about the world’s first curbside recycling pick up. Curitibia now has one of the world’s highest rates of recycling (70%) works with area businesses to continually develop new markets for waste, and uses the entry level waste sorting jobs as a springboard for further job training and development for employees.

We will be showing, A Convenient Truth, this Sunday at 3 PM. Please join us if you can. This is a must-see for all those interested in developing a thriving, more ecological and equitable Spokane.

Juliet

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