Urban mobility is one of the challenges that Rio de Janeiro, like other large Brazilian cities, has to face as a result of the urbanization process that gradually expanded distances between home and work, besides stimulating private transportation and creating a system in which public transports compete against each other. The introduction of the Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) represents a shift in the logic of public transportation in Rio. Its main function is to integrate the various modes of public transport that arrive in Downtown, instead of establishing another competition.

A rail network of 28km will connect subway stations along the VLT, the Main Suburban Train Station (Central do Brasil), the Providência cable car, the Ferryboat Terminal, the Santos Dumont Nacional Airport, Cruise Ship Terminal and bus terminals, including the Main Interstate Bus Station (Novo Rio) and BRT Transbrasil Main Terminal, significantly changing traffic in the downtown area. Included in the Bilhete Único Carioca (Carioca Single Ticket) and the Bilhete Único Metropolitano (Metropolitan Single Ticket), when all six lines are operative in 2016, system capacity will reach 285 thousand passengers per day. The LRV complements the Porto Maravilha Urban Operation that has among its main objectives to increase the number of inhabitants in the Port Region, which has for decades being characterized as an urban void. Occupation of this region indicates a more concentrated city that makes better use of its spaces.

Workers install rails in the Via Binário (Binary Road) of the Port.

In order to establish this new transport, the City Hall of Rio made a public-private partnership contract with the Concessionária VLT Carioca (Carioca LRV Concessionaire). An R$ 1.157 billion investment was made, including R$ 532 million of federal resources from the mobility Growth Acceleration Program (PAC) and R$ 625 million of the concessionaire. Infrastructure works began in 2014. The appropriate equipment is leased and the first passenger coaches will be delivered in the second semester of 2015. The five trains that will circulate in the streets of the city are in the last stages of production in La Rochelle, France, and will arrive in Brazil until the middle of the year. Other 27 trains will be produced in Brazilian territory.

The six LRV lines will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in order to facilitate and radically change the transportation of people in the central region of the city, speeding up the access to other zones of Rio. The average distance between stops will be 300 meters. The maximum waiting time between trains will vary from 2.5 to 10 minutes, according to the line. The system, which includes 32 stops throughout the Port Region and Downtown, will begin to fully operate in 2016. The project arranges the delivery and operation of 32 trains, with 3.82 meters of height, 44 meters of length and 2.65 meters of width, apt to carry 415 passengers at an occupancy rate of 6 standing passengers per square meter, plus 64 seated passengers and room for two passengers in wheelchairs. Customers will be able to buy individual tickets in every stop of the system or use their single tickets in validating machines.    

Map of the Light Rail Vehicle track in Downtown and the Port Region
The LRV uses electric energy, thus significantly reducing pollutant gas emission and obeying the most advanced standards of sustainability, accessibility and urbanism. The absence of catenaries - aerial cable power - is also a positive aspect for avoiding visual pollution, therefore enhancing the value of the architectural patrimony of streets and avenues in its path through historic downtown. In conjunction with the implementation of BRTs and investments for improving other modes of public transportation, the establishment of the LRV in downtown Rio will bring a positive impact to the entire Metropolitan Region.

Alberto Gomes Silva, president of Companhia de Desenvolvimento Urbano da Região do Porto do Rio de Janeiro (Cdurp), a company of the City Hall of Rio, manager of Porto Maravilha

This paper was published in Revista TCMRJ - March 2015, n.60.