Transport documentary interview

I was interviewed recently for a documentary about transportation in Brazil, I had the opportunity to present my observations as a European living in Brazil, but also as an urban designer. Here are some notes about the points that were raised:

  • Freedom to walk in the city.  In America it is illegal to "jaywalk" (to cross the road in any place other than the official pedestrian crossings) and it is regularly punished.  In Britain it is not so enthusiastically discouraged, however I always know that if I find myself in a dangerous position while trying to cross the road in Britain it is almost always because I didn't follow the correct procedure, I didn't cross at the designated place, follow the signs or wait for the green man.  In Brazil I frequently find myself in terrifying situations trying to cross the road and as a British person I automatically assume that I made a mistake reading the signals and I should have taken a different course to cross the road. But this is not the case, often there is no possible way to cross the roads safely. The standard way is to wait and eventually build up the courage to take your risk and it's necessary to run. Therefore it is a numbers game; sooner or later there will be a fatal accident on almost any street  corners. I worry that I may trip and fall over when running, I worry that I can't always run when I get older, it makes me think Brazil is a bad place in which to be old or bad at running. It would be different if these problem crossings were located in in industrial areas far from where people need to carry out their day-to-day activities, but they are in popular residential areas in high density downtown neighbourhoods, where people naturally walk to the local shops and municipal destinations. 
  • Cyclists: rich or poor?  One difference in Brazil is that cycling is associated with transportation for the poor. In Europe cyclists can equally be middle class, wealthy or working class. In fact amongst young, well educated city dwellers car ownership can be unfashionable and more associated with poorer neighbourhoods farther out in the suburbs. Some people I know have bicycles worth 3 times more than a car, some people will spend £3000-4000 on a good bicycle whereas you can get a reasonable secondhand car for £1000.  With this in mind I was surprised to speak with a government official in Porto Alegre at a transport forum. I asked why is it so difficult to cycle to the shopping centres, there are no cycle lanes, no safe way to arrive or anywhere to enter the gate and no obvious or secure place to park a bicycle. His answer was that it is the free market, the private companies who build the shopping centres don't cater for bicycle riders because the shops are aiming to sell to the people with money who travel by car. It's a chicken and egg situation because I know of plenty of well off youngsters in Brazil who want to cycle but are too frightened.
  • A democratic system of transport. One memorable sight in Munich was an eldery couple travelling by metro late at night, about midnight, with a picnic hamper. Obviously they were returning from a day trip. As people age, they naturally start to lose their reaction times, motor functions and/or eye sight sufficiently so they become unsafe to drive, or simply start to dislike driving, as it is stressful at certain times and in certain places. A study in the USA showed how the quality of live deteriorates extremely rapidly when people can no longer drive. (reference pending) Teenagers who are not yet allowed to drive and people with mobility problems or other disabilities are excluded, put in danger or made to suffer by the transport system in Brazil.  A democratic society should allow all its citizens to dislocate around the city equally.  I saw on the TV news in Brazil that approximately 80% of government spending on transport goes towards road infrastructure for motorised transport. However only 20%-30% of the population are car owners, you could argue that the majority of the population use this infrastructure in the form of buses, but bus transport in the big cities is unacceptably inefficient and most customers/citizens are unsatisfied with the quality.
  • Garrafamentos/traffic jams and personal freedom to choose.  Making the traditional trip to the beach from Porto Alegre at for bank holidays (feriados) is an example of a widespread problem in inter-city transport. In the UK we have regular and terrible traffic jams, but there is a feeling that it is somehow more acceptable in the UK; most people stuck in the congestion are aware that they are there by their free choice, they could have chosen to make the journey by train. They  were probably able to make the more ethical choice in means of transport, and leave more space on the roads for other people. In Brazil, people do not have the choice, they get stuck in infernal traffic jams or they stay at home.  There is a feeling of helplessness at this growing problem.
    • Airport improvements or efficient transport to airports? There is much talk in Brazil about improving airport infrastructure ahead of the world cup. But my experience of air travel has been fine. Once at the airport the journeys have been smooth and fairly trouble free. However arriving at the airports is a different matter. In Curitiba the airport is so far away from the city centre the journey can take 2 hours by bus, and worse still, in the absense of a train, the road journey is vulnerable to delays caused by congestion, meaning that people are much more likely to miss flights.  In Porto Alegre the airport is closer to the city, but the train which goes to the airport is extremely slow and the airport station is positioned far from the airport entrance, with no efficient means to walk from the train platform to the airport entrance. In reality it's not too far, perhaps 400m but it could be miles away for all the clarity and lack of direct route. To arrive at the airport is torturous, climbing up and down  bridges, crossing very busy roads, with no pedestrian crossing, it's a matter of wait very patiently and then run, no signage to point passengers in the right direction and no clear route for passengers to take. ie At decision points in the path there are two or more routes to take and no clear way that is the best route to the airport. At the airport entrance the pavement finishes and passengers have to walk in the path of cars turning the corner often at speed, the final 100 m there is no pedestrian path. Passengers have to take the risk of walking in the path of cars and be very vigilant, still unsure if they are really arriving at the airport entrance or round the back of a shed.  It seems to me that there is little point improving airport infrastructure and capacity if it is not done in parallel with transport improvements within the city. Tourists on short visits don't normally choose to drive in a foreign country, and they are not entirely happy to take taxis long distance from the airport when they can't speak the language. The common worry of the tourist is that airport taxis might overcharge. For this reason tourists are normally happier to take trains or buses from airports to reach the city centre and then take a taxi a shorter distance.  Some cities are better than others but a simple solution that would represent a significant improvement would be to run a bus service through the night. In Porto Alegre the bus to the airport runs during normal times from 6-7am until 10-11 at night, which is quite inappropriate to meet the demands of aeroplane arrivals and departures often at nighttime hours.
    • Brazil, to stay behind developed nations?  Brazil seems to be behind the curve of current thinking in transport, even the United States is starting to admit that the big experiment in suburbanisation has many problems. Walkable neighborhoods are starting to have the most expensive real estate, the US is building a large network of high speed rail. Young people in diverse developed countries from Japan to the USA and Europe are making the lifestyle choice to not have a car but to live in a cool location, unlike their parents. There is growing acceptance in the international community that there is simply not enough space or resources for everyone to live the car based lifestlye as in American suburbanisation. My observations so far in Brazil are that most young Brazilians still want the car lifestyle, it is almost universal. And transport engineers in the government are also pulling in the same direction, there is very little infrastructure development taking place on the ground that isn't for automobile transportation. I attended a forum to discuss bicycle infrastrucure and cycle advocates are treated like real leftfield radicals, there is a lack of will to build cycle infrastructure because it is thought that only a dozen hippies would ever use it. In terms of some of these atitudes Brazil is behind the international curve. However, Brazil doesn't have to be behind other rich nations in this, Brazil has unique opportunities now to develop excellent, sustainable and efficient transport systems suitable for an economic giant, suitable for a post-carbon 21st century. Brazil's economic situation means it can acheive this far more rapidly than other countries, where infrastructure is already well established and with less room to make changes. 
    • Dignity in car ownership or dignified public transport? In London, most people I know don't desire car ownership, because the public transport system is quicker and cheaper. It could even be irrational to choose to drive when the journey is stressful, longer, breathing the polluted air, dificulty in finding a parking space, unpredicable timescales. Driving, therefore, is more a choice for the disadvantaged of European cities. Somone I know was an executive director of ICI, the large chemical company, and when he was based in Basel in Switzerland he always travelled to work by tram. It is common to spot celebrities taking the underground in London, the tube is commonly used by millionaires and working class people alike. There is no low-class stigma attached to taking public transport in some cities, but in Brazil there is a common conception that as soon as you have a good enough job you should buy a car. Trains and trams in many European countries are a desirable transport choice for the higher classes. It is dignified, clean and efficient.  Whereas taking a bus in Brazil is very undigified, uncomfortable, frustratingly time consuming, often inaccessible for the elderly and other people who are physically disadvantaged. Also the air quality while travelling by bus is awful.
    • Car travel: a matter of pride and ethics.  One big cultural difference between Brazil  and many European countries is the pride in taking an ethical decision about personal transport. In Denmark approx 90% of politicians travel to work on public transport or by bicycle, (citation coming) it is a matter of pride, they set a good example and this behaviour wins popular support amongst voters, it is politically advantageous. Also the general population see it as a little politically incorrect to use a private car. In Brasil I would guess that at least 90% (perhaps even 100%) of politicians do not travel to work on pubic transport or by bicycle, again it is a matter of pride. A different culture.
    • Economic development, GDP and the happiness indicator.  Everyone I speak to who has been to São Paulo only say good things about the city, but they all have the same criticism: the terrible traffic problems. Even foreigners who have never even visited Latin America know about the legendary traffic problems in São Paulo. It has to be bad for business, not to mention quality of life.  If I were an economist or business leader I would lament the lost opportunities to create wealth when each employee of each business could be wasting valuable working time sitting in traffic for up to 5 hours a day. Money is being thrown down the drain with every hour lost to businesses. If I were a psychologist or sociologist I might think it's a human tragedy that these millions of people are spending hours of every evening sitting in a car, alone, lonely and bored when they could be seeing their children, or doing things they love, playing sports with friends or studying for a university course.  Economically, as well as in terms of mental and physical health, and also culturally as a nation, it's  very unfortunate that these traffic problems persist.  And nobody gains any advantage from the situation. Nobody wins.
    • Education of drivers. One common experience in Brazil is crossing a road in a quiet residential neighbourhood, it could be near a school or park, or near an old people's home, and suddenly a car speeds around a corner without attempting to slow down to take the corner at a safe speed. Often I've closely missed being hit in a collision only by my ability to run. Again, this is not democratic. As a young adult I am in the lucky position to have a healthy body that is capable of sudden aceleration to avoid danger. The deaf or visually impared, the elderly, children and many other members of society are not so lucky as me. They either risk death and injury or are prisoners inside their homes and cars.  When I was learning to drive in Britain, one of the most important things I had to learn was how to turn blind corners at a safe speed, ie very slowly in case there is an injured person lying in the middle of the road or a a child playing just around the corner. This part of driving etiquette is either not taught in Brazil or not accepted in day-to-day driving. I know people in Brazil who are normally peaceful, calm and rational who suddenly change when they drive. Even the most peaceful and patient people become aggressive, impatient and dangerous when driving. I am genuinely scared to travel by car in Brazil, even with friends and even by taxi. A common conception about Brazil by the world outside is the high level of violence associated with poverty and drug gangs. In my experience, living in Brazil for over 2 years, the dangerous thing is how people drive and how the roads are designed. I think the statistics will substatiate my claims; the numbers of deaths caused by car collisions is many times higher than caused by gun crime.
    These are the main points I tried to get across in the filming of the documentary.  I think these could be of interest to planners in Brazil. Some of the problems are very easy and cheap to solve.  It requires will and simple common sense. But a significant challenge in Brazil is to change attitudes, status and self image are inextricably linked to car ownership in the Brazilian psyche. In this way, Brazil really is behind normal attitudes in other rich countries, but conversely Brazil has the economic conditions now to take advantage of the opportunity to be a world leader. In creating world class business hubs and an enviable quality of life for citizens.

    Various other people are being interviewed for the documentary; transport engineers, politicians, other urban designers, drivers, cyclists, elderly people, families, wheelchair users etc.  I'm not sure when it will be released, but am delighted to have been part of this project. I hope it can help clarify some of the problems Brazil faces in relation to transport, democracy, a dignified life for it's citizens and it's reputation outside the country. I see transport as a basic human right that should be accessible for all, but also it makes good business sense. The sooner Brazil provides an efficient system of transportation, the sooner it will reap the benefits  for the economic and social development of the nation.

    What do you think? Do you have any observations or suggestions? Do you have differing opinions? I'm always very happy to hear others' views on this.

    My project won a national award

    One of my projects won a national award with the RIBA, the Royal Institute of British Architecture.  Thanks to everyone else on the team at Grontmij.  Further details on this project are here on this blog.

    The budget for this city centre renewal project was £4 million.

    USA building new favelas as sustainable urban design

    The US authorities are building new favelas?  Really? It's true!

    A visionary architect originally from Guatemala is convincing America that it needs to build new developments to be just like favelas, obviously with the sanitation sorted out. And he really makes sense.

    For some time it seems, Brazil and other countries have followed trends in the USA  for many things: from what to wear, what TV to watch and what kind of lifestyle they should be aspiring to.  One surprising thing for me, as a European visiting Brazil, is how car-centred cities in Brazil are, just as if Brazil is trying to catch up with America and it's experiment in suburbia over recent decades (in fact Brazil could be even more in love with the motorcar than the USA). But the experiment seems to be in the final stages now, and there is a buzz in the US about various ways to bring back a sustainable and humane approach to urban development. Ambitious projects such as high speed rail, transit (public transport), streetcars (trams), walkability measures for each neighbourhood, smartgrowth and people are talking about placemaking, is filling the internet with chatter. So I am hoping that Brazil will continue to follow America, and perhaps even a little quicker than America, in readjusting to a post-carbon future, but not only because of oil, but for the quality of life of it's citizens.  Who doesn't want to live in beautiful cities? Places that inspire paintings, romantic and photogenic backdrops to people living the best moments of their lives, places cared for and cherished by those who live in them and places that live on in the hearts of visitors. See alao this article and this one about places that inspire.

    In a sweet piece of irony - and perhaps also a significant shift in cultural values - I've just seen a very interesting piece of news from the US in which an architect is taking favelas from Latin America, specifically Tijuana in Mexico, as an architectural example to follow in building new city neighbourhoods in California and New York. 

    More recently an exhibition at MOMA showcased the favela inspired designs in an exhibition and Teddy Cruz's plans were chosen as one of only 12  examples in the world of small scale projects that exemplify a shift in architectural paradigms, his work was described as "one of the most cutting edge sustainable housing projects in the world."   Congratulations Teddy Cruz, it's inspiring! See below for the short article and my attempt at a translation into Portuguese:

    Apenas a uma curta distância da fronteira EUA-México, uma comunidade densa em breve vai vibrar com atividade. Casas serão colocadas bem juntas, com todo o espaço restante utilizado por lanchonetes, bancas de mercado, e locais de reunião. Vai ser muito diferente dos subúrbios estéreis do sul da Califórnia , mas não se enganem: será do lado americano da fronteira.

    De fato, se o arquiteto Teddy Cruz conseguir o que ele quer, as favelas de Tijuana, México, agirão como um tipo “blueprint” os planos para um novo caminho de desenvolvimento urbano. “Arquitetura tem sido muito distante das políticas e das economias de desenvolvimento” diz Cruz. “A gente precisa repensar o jeito que temos vindo a desenvolver, e que queremos dizer quando falamos sobre habitação, densidade, comunidade e vizinhança.”

    “Atrás a precariedade de comunidades de baixa renda,” diz Cruz, “há uma sofisticada colaboração social: Gente compartilha recursos, faz uso de cada pedaçinho, e se cuida uns dos outros.”  Cruz está incorporando esta espírito de iniciativa e inventividade para planejamento de dois novos bairros; em San Ysidro, uma cidade de fronteira no sul de San Diego, e em Hudson, Nova Iorque. Se eles funcionarem como previstas, se tornarem poderosos estudos de caso para uma nova abordagem ao desenvolvimento urbano que poderá ser implementado em todo o país.

    Em colaboração com a entidade sem fins lucrativos, Casa Familiar, o bairro San Ysidro incluirá 30 unidades habitacionais bem ao lado de espaços onde empresas pequenas podem operar. O modelo também leva em conta “equidade de suor”; onde pessoas que ajuda com a construção podem ganhar "créditos aluguel" por o trabalho.  Hudson, no entanto, seja não uma cidade de fronteira, mas, como o Cruz diz, os mesmos conflitos são presentes – especificamente, “uma enorme lacuna entre os ricos e os pobres”. O plano de Cruz, tem como objetivo; pular a lacuna de renda com bairros em vários loteamentos que são integrados na cidade. Os bairros vão incluir 60 casas, playgrounds, um mercado/uma feira, agricultura urbana, e centros de treinamento para trabalho, tudo gerenciado por uma coalizão de grupos sem fins lucrativos.

    Ambos dos projetos precisam que o Cruz passa por além do tradicional papel de um arquiteto; ao invéz de projeta para um cliente, ele está trabalhando com as prefeituras para mudar o quadro teórico de qual vem desenvolvimento urbano.  “Além de projetar edifícios, arquitetos devem conceber processos políticos e econômicos também", diz Cruz.

    In English:
    Just a short drive from the U.S.-Mexican border, a densely packed community will soon hum with activity. Homes will be jammed together, with any leftover space commandeered by taco stands, market stalls, and gathering places. It'll be a far cry from the sanitized suburbs of southern California, but make no mistake: It will sit on the American side of the border.

    Indeed, if the architect Teddy Cruz gets his way, the shantytowns of Tijuana, Mexico, will act as a blueprint of sorts for a new kind of urban development. "Architecture has been so distant from the politics and economics of development," says Cruz. "We need to rethink the way we've been developing, and what we mean when we talk about housing, density, community, and neighborhood."  Behind the precariousness of low-income communities, says Cruz, there is a sophisticated social collaboration: People share resources, make use of every last scrap, and look out for each other. Cruz is incorporating this resourcefulness into the planning of two new developments, in San Ysidro, a border-town community in southern San Diego, and in Hudson, New York. If they work as planned, these projects will become powerful case studies for a new approach to urban development that could be implemented across the country. 

    In collaboration with the nonprofit Casa Familiar, the San Ysidro development will include 30 housing units alongside spaces where residents can run small businesses. The model also accounts for sweat equity, allowing people who help with construction to gain rent credits for their work. Hudson, meanwhile, may not be a border community, but Cruz says the same conflicts are present-specifically, "a huge gap between rich and poor." Cruz's plan aims to vault the income gap with developments on several lots that are integrated into the city. The developments will include 60 housing units, playgrounds, a market, urban agriculture, and job-training facilities, all managed by a coalition of nonprofit groups. 

    Both projects require Cruz to go beyond the traditional role of an architect; rather than designing for a client, he is working with city governments to change the framework in which developments rise. "Beyond designing buildings, architects should design political and economic processes as well," he says.

    Long escalators as public transport

    The longest outdoor covered escalator system in Hong Kong, transports thousands of people every day down the hill, and at the end of the day the direction switches and they go back up again. This must be a relief after a busy day shopping and weighed down with bags. Local populations must be very glad of this public transport service, especially on hot or rainy days, and people with mobility problems and the elderly can really take advantage of the extra mobility it offers.  Generally, the quality of life for everyone in the area is improved, there is something dignified about this public transport. Not only that but it has to be excellent for the local economy - most people are travelling to market and back.  This seems like a sensible solution to large populations living on steep sided hills.  

    O mais longo sistema de escada rolante, ao ar livre e coberto em Hong Kong, transporta milhares de pessoas todos os dias descendo a colina, e no final do dia a direção muda para que eles voltam-se novamente. Este deve ser um alívio depois de um dia de compras e carregando muitas sacolas. Populações locais provavelmente sejam muito feliz com este serviço de transporte público, especialmente em dias quentes ou chuvosos. Pessoas com problemas de mobilidade e os idosos pode realmente aproveitam a maior mobilidade que ele oferece. Geralmente, a qualidade de vida para todos na área é melhor, parece que há algo digno sobre esse transporte público. Não só isso, mas tem de ser excelente para a economia local - a maioria das pessoas estão indo para o mercado. Esta parece ser uma solução sensata e um bom exemplo para as grandes populações que vivem em colinas íngremes.

    The hard life of pedestrians in the city - Brazil

    As a British person walking around the streets in Brazil I notice a big difference in the quality of the pedestrian environment. Also, Brazilians visiting Britain normally express surprise at how clean the streets are. I don't actually think the streets are cleaner at all, but I think they mean that the pavements are smoother and don't have piles of household rubbish on the floor. Streets in Britain are probably dirtier but in other ways, people don't scrub the pavement outside their houses like in Brazil.  So, in Britain the streets are "clean" as in smooth and flat. In Brazil the pavements are extremely varied, but broken paving slabs, extreme inclines, big holes sharp metal spikes sticking out of the ground are commonplace, I have to really watch my step, every step of the way. For British people used to living in a sterile world, where it is quite literally illegal, immoral and possibly impossible to hurt yourself in the course of work or walking in the street, I often view Brazil as a "health and safety" nightmare. I joke that within hours of landing in Brazil, British people will probably hurt themselves just walking around. We're not accustomed to watching out for dangerous pavements.

    One curious detail that dramatically affects the pedestrian environment in Brazil is the ownership of the public realm. Every building facing a pavement has ownership and responsibility for the ongoing maintenance of the pavement that runs along its edge. So, in effect this produces a very irregular pedestrian environment. You can have a short stretch of excellent quality pavement, perhaps even decorative, but this can stop abruptly and dispatch you onto a piece of rutted mud, full of puddles and even deep services holes, at times it even feels like you could be an intruder on private space. All this forces pedestrians to walk on the road in the line of cars. Often, away from the city centre there is not even a hint of a pavement.  

    Respect for pedestrians is another thing, motorists rarely slow down when they see a pedestrian crossing the road. Junctions are often designed very dangerously and like I mentioned above sometimes there is no pavement in which to take refuge. As for people with disabilities or elderly folk I really don't know how they get about, and in fact you almost never see them out, or children in prams. I'm glad I don't have small kids and that I'm not old yet.

    This news, blogged by Raquel Rolnik seems like a step in the right direction

    The hard life of pedestrians in the city
    09/05/11 by raquelrolnik
    "More than 30% of the total journeys made in the metropolitan region of São Paulo are by foot, according the research “Origin and Destiny” undertaken by the city in 2007.  However, the policies that protect, qualify and give sustenance to this type of journey are rare. A consequence of this is the fact that it is that pedestrians are the principle victims of Paulista transport. Research by CET (Company of Engineering and Traffic) divulged today show that, even where pedestrian crossings exist, a majority of motorists don't respect the traffic lights.
    In the research, 89.6% of motorists disrespect the law of pedestrian priority on crossings. Moreover, 69.5% of the people that travel on foot feel disrespected by motorists.  At the end of the last month, the State imparted that the city council would soon announce the creation of eleven zones of pedestrian protection. These areas will have special signals, will be reinforced by traffic police to guarantee that motorbikes and cars don’t invade the pedestrian crossings, and  will have people holding flags to to signal that vehicles should stop. The fact is that it’s really difficult to travel for those who travel by foot in São Paulo. Not only in terms of security, but also the quality of the pavements, lighting and other issues. Even public transport receives more attention from the public powers than pedestrian space. We hope, then, that the methods announced by the city coucil will only be the start of a much wider policy regarding the space of the pedestrian in the city."

    A dura vida dos pedestres na cidade
    09/05/11 por raquelrolnik
    "Mais de 30% do total de deslocamentos na região metropolitana de São Paulo são feitos a pé, de acordo com a pesquisa Origem e Destino realizada pelo metrô em 2007. Entretanto, são raras as políticas que protegem, qualificam e dão sustentação a esse tipo de deslocamento. A consequencia disso é o fato de que são os pedestres as principais vítimas do trânsito paulistano. Pesquisa da CET (Companhia de Engenharia de Tráfego) divulgada hoje mostra que, mesmo onde existem faixas de pedestre, a maioria dos motoristas não respeita esta sinalização.
    Dentro do universo pesquisado, 89,6% dos motoristas desrespeitaram a regra de prioridade ao pedestre na faixa. Além disso, 69,5% das pessoas que se deslocam a pé sentem-se desrespeitadas pelos motoristas.
    No fim do mês passado, o Estadão divulgou que a prefeitura anunciará, em breve, a criação de onze zonas de proteção para pedestres. Estas áreas terão sinalização específica, reforço de agentes de trânsito para garantir que motos e carros não invadam as faixas de pedestre, e orientadores de tráfego que usarão bandeiras para sinalizar que os veículos devem parar.
    O fato é que é mesmo difícil o deslocamento de quem anda a pé em São Paulo. Não apenas em termos de segurança, mas também da própria qualidade das calçadas, da iluminação, entre outros aspectos. Até mesmo o transporte coletivo recebe mais atenção por parte do poder público do que o espaço do pedestre.
    Esperamos, então, que as medidas anunciadas pela prefeitura sejam apenas o começo de uma política muito mais ampla de melhoria do espaço do pedestre na cidade."

    Trains: time and distance between cities

    em Português em baixo)

    In danger of appearing like a terrible colonial English person from the past, (during the colonial period India built a substantial network of trains, some of Africa too, Mauá in Brazil sought technical and financial assistance) but in this article I reference modern day France as a model for an efficient rail network.  Germany, Italy and other continental European countries also have enviable train services in comparison with Britain now.
    I have been imagining how Brazilian cities could be connected if they had some railways as efficient as in France.

    In FRANCE:
    It takes 3 hours to travel from Paris to Marseille according to this website

    Paris - Marseille   -  distance = 630km   -   time = 3hrs 00min

    x = distance ∕ time
    x = 630 ∕ 3
    x = 210

    Therefore to find time between cities I'll use the following formula:
    time = distance ∕ 201

    (All distance and time measurements are APPROXIMATE but based on proportional "as the crow flies" measurements of France) see table below.

    (e em Português)
    Mesmo correndo o risco de parecer uma inglesa arrogante do passado colonial (durante o período colonial, a Índia construiu uma grande malha ferroviária, algumas na África, e Mauá do Brasil procurou assistência técnica e financeira dos britânicos na criação da primeira ferrovia no Brasil) gostaria de  deixar claro que este artigo faz referência à França moderna. Pois a França tem um modelo de malha ferroviária eficiente. Alemanha, Itália e outros países europeus também têm serviços de trem superiores a Grã-Bretanha agora.

    Tenho imaginado a conectividade das cidades brasileiras, e como seria se o Brasil tivesse algumas ferrovias tão eficientes quanto a França.

    Na FRANÇA:
    Leva 3 horas para ir de Paris a Marseille, de acordo como esse website. 

    Paris a Marseille  - distância = 630km    -  tempo de viagem = 3hr 00min 

    X = distância ∕tempo de viagem

    x = 630 ∕ 3
    x = 210

    Portanto, para determinar o tempo de viagem entre as cidades, usarei a seguinte fórmula:

    Tempo = distância ∕201

    (Todas as distâncias e tempos são APPROXIMADOS, mas baseados em medidas em linha reta, proporcionais à França.)

    Journey Time:
    São Paulo - Brasília
    4h 03min 
    Brasília - Campo Grande
    4h 12min
    São Paulo - Campo Grande
    4h 14min 
    São Paulo - Belo Horizonte
    2h 19min
    Brasília - Belo Horizonte
    2h 57min
    São Paulo - Curitiba
    1h 35min
    São Paulo - Porto Alegre
    4h 00min
    Porto Alegre - Buenos Aires
    4h 00min

    (em Português em baixo)
    The first thing you would say is that an aeroplane is far quicker. On the surface that's true, if you take just the time of the flight, but first add up the time taken to complete the following:
    • Travel to airport
    • Check in
    • Waiting to board the plane
    • Down time when you switch off cellphones and other equipment
    • Luggage reclaim
    • Exit airport and locate taxi or car
    • Travel to destination
    Train travel on the other hand offers:
    • City centre to city centre
    • No time wasted at check in
    • No time wasted waiting to board the plane
    • No down time when you switch off cellphones and other equipment during the flight
    • No time waiting at the conveyer belts for luggage
    • Arrive in city centre at or near a major transport interchange
    and in addition:
    • More legroom
    • Seating at tables on trains is conducive to have business meetings or to be social
    • It's ok to walk about on the train to stretch the legs
    • The restaurant car provides a refreshing diversion
    • Designated quiet coaches allow for sleep, reading or contemplation
    So, including the extra additions of time in taking a plane for short flights it's actually quicker or about the same time to go by train.  In France, people generally take the train to travel internally because the price is about the same and it is usually quicker to take the train.

    "Climate terrorists", as some call them, will have to answer to the next generations why they flew when it wasn't entirely necessary, here is a comparison chart showing CO2 for trains compared with aeroplanes. Trains are generally between 80 - 90% less polluting.

    Train travel has many advantages over buses; an overnight train has private or family sleeping compartments with lockable doors and horizontal beds. Schedules are timed to leave and arrive at convenient times in order to get a good nights sleep arriving in time for office hours. There are usually restaurant carriages and it's possible to walk the whole length of the train to stretch the legs. There's not so much danger of deep vein thrombosis, like with flying. In France there is a overnight "disco train" for energetic youngsters to dance the night away.

    The Orient Express accross Europe,  is synonymous with luxury travel, it became legendary as the setting of Agatha Cristie's most popular novel. 

    The Siberian Express, from Moscow to the other side of Russia is on the "to do before I die" list of many people.

    In the US through the Rocky mountains some long distance trains have windows in the roof to enjoy marvellous views of the mountains.

    In China, a huge high speed rail network has been in construction. Now a 300 km per hour bullet train connects Shanghai to Beijing in 4h 48min.

    Travelling by car, in comparison, is slower, more dangerous, claustrophobic, there's no space to move and it is antisocial - in more ways than one - you close yourself off from other travellers going the same way, not to mention warming the planet for future generations.  It's possible on a train, although not necessary, to share a conversation with the stranger sitting opposite you at the table, or if you travel with friends you can make the most of the time. 

    A customary right of passage for many of Europe's teenagers, is to take an extensive tour of Europe by train. Young people can get a discount railcard that allows them to travel anywhere in Europe for a month. It's called the Interrail. I went "interrailing" when I left school at 18 and it was a life changing experience, I saw so much and met so many people across 15 countries. We had the freedom to get on any train to absolutely anywhere in Europe. Then in the morning we could wake up in a new capital city. If we had to drive, fly or take the bus it would have been tiring, problematic, more dangerous and a lot less sociable and fun.

    Adventures travelling by train

    Quality time with family

    Plenty of legroom

    UK politition working on the train

    Working on the train

    Keep on working, gaming or watch a film

    Starting the party on the train

    Sharing a bottle of champagne on the train

    Restaurant carriage

    Sleeping compartment
    Imagine waking up in this train station in Italy

    A Primeira coisa que vocês diriam sobre a tabela em cima é que um avião é muito mais rápido. Superfícialmente isso é verdade, se levarmos em consideração apenas o tempo real de vôo, mas agora, por favor, faça um exercício mental; adicionando as seguintes coisas:

    O tempo necessário para:
    •         Deslocar para o aeroporto
    •         Fazer “check in”
    •         Esperar para embarcar no avião
    •         Tempo perdido quando os celulares e outros equipamentos estão desligados durante o vôo
    •         Esperar no desembarque da bagagem
    •         Sair do aeroporto e encontra um táxi ou carro
    •         Deslocar pelos bairros periféricos da cidade para o destino

    No outro lado viajar de trem oferece:

    •          Deslocamento do centro da cidade para centro da cidade, esse fator é muito mais eficiente no tempo
    •          Não há tempo perdido no “check in”
    •          Não há tempo perdido esperando para embarcar no avião
    •          Não há tempo perdido quando tem que desligar celulares e outros equipamentos
    •          Não há tempo perdido esperando a bagagem na esteira transportadora
    •          Chegada ao centro da cidade no entroncamento de transporte público, ou perto dele

    Há também:
    •          Bastante espaço para as pernas
    •          Assentos com mesa, propício para um piquenique familiar, uma reunião de negócios ou um tempo com os amigos.
    •          É permitido caminhar por todo o comprimento do trem para esticar as pernas
    •          O restaurante a bordo do trem fornece uma refrescante trocar de lugar, e um lugar onde podemos tomar café da manhã ou começar o fim de semana.
    •          Existem vagões do trem tranqüilos para dormir, ler ou contemplar a paisagem (onde não podem ser usados telefones celulares, video-games, ipods ou entrar crianças).

    Então, incluindo todos os tempos extras que fazem um vôo curto demorar, na verdade, é mais rápido ou tem aproximadamente a mesma duração ir de trem. Na França, pessoas não pensam em voar dentro do próprio país ou para países vizinhos, porque o preço é igual, e normalmente o trem é mais rápido.

    Pessoas ignorantes e despreocupadas com o meio-ambinte, terão que explicar para as novas gerações, porque eles voaram quando não era absolutamente necessário, aqui há um gráfico de comparação, que mostrar a quantidade de CO2 emitido por trens em comparação com aviões. Trens são geralmente entre 80-90% menos poluentes.

    Viajar de trem tem muitas vantagens sobre os ônibus; trens noturnos têm compartimentos privados ou familiares, para dormir com portas fecháveis e camas horizontais. Os horários são programados para sair e chegar, as horas que são convenientes para obter um bom sono, chegando na hora que os escritórios começam a trabalhar. Trens são muito meno chatos do que os ônibus, porque num trem sempre podemos trocar de assento ou caminhar pelos vagões. Dessa forma não há tanto perigo de trombose venosa profunda, como se estivessemos sentado sem mexer para muitas horas.

    Na França existe um “trem de danceteria” em que jovens energéticos podem dançar a noite inteira.

    O Expresso do Oriente, que passa pela Europa, é sinônimo com viagens de luxo, tornou-se lendária como o cenário do livro mais popular de Agatha Christie.

    O Expresso da Sibéria, de Moscou para o outro lado da Rússia, está na lista de “coisas para fazer antes de morrer” de muitas pessoas.

    Nos Estados Unidos, nas Montanhas Rochosas, alguns trens de longa distância têm janelas no teto para que os viajantes possam ver a vista maravilha das montanhas.

    Na China, uma malha enorme de trens de alta velocidade, vem sendo construída. Agora, um trem, de 300km p/h, passa de Xangai a Beijing em apenas 4h 48 min.

    Viajar de carro, em comparação, é muito devagar - a metade da velocidade, mais perigoso, claustrofóbico - não tem espaço para se mexer, e é anti-social, em mais de um jeito; indo na mesma direção, mas sem contato aos outros viajantes, sem mencionar o aumento do aquecimento que causam ao planeta. Embora não é obrigatório, é possível no trem partilhar uma conversinha com um desconhecido que está no assento do outro lado da mesa, conhecer um parceiro de negócios ou até encontrar o amor da sua vida. Algumas das mais interessantes pessoas que já conheci, encontrei em trens, uns dos meus melhores amigos também. Se estiver viajando com colegas, amigos ou parentes pode aproveitar o tempo com qualidade ao lado deles, jogar cartas, xadrez, brincar com as crianças e muito mais.

    Um ritual de passagem para muitos jovens europeus é fazer uma grande tour. Jovens podem comprar um bilhete especial de desconto que lhes permitem viajar para qualquer lugar na Europa durante um mês. É chamado o inter-rail. Fiz inter-rail depois que saí da escola com 18 anos, e foi uma experiência que mudou a minha vida, conheci lugares importantes e fiz novos amigos. Tínhamos a liberdade de pegar um trem para absolutamente qualquer lugar na Europa. Pegamos normalmente um trem à noite, e acordamos no próximo dia numa capital nova. Se tivéssemos dirigido, voado ou ido de ônibus, não teríamos percorrido uma distância tão grande, tão rápido, a as férias teria sido menos divertidas, menos sociáveis e todos nós teríamos nos cansado muito mais.

    Há outros ártigos sobre infraestrutura de transporte sustentável aqui, imaginando o transporte no futuro, e aqui falando sobre o congestionamento de trânsito.

    There are similar topics about sustainable transport infrastructure here, imagining transport in the future, and here, traffic congestion.