Matchmaking database

Blackburn village is an informal settlement in Durban. To support match making between growing job opportunities and the inhabitants of the settlement iTHUBA centre has been established. Through gathering data such as income and education levels and gathering data on foreseen job opportunities in the area matchmaking can take place. Many inhabitants do not have the right skills for jobs in retail, hospitality, security and construction, hence a tailored skills development programme is developed to bridge that gap and to prepare job seekers for the interviews with employers. A large urban development in the vicinity that includes housing, offices and retail will drive the regional job market. The unique approach of the iTHUBA is that it links job demand and supply within a specific geographic area.This contributes to reduction of transportation needs which in poor households in South African cities easily add up to 40% of the monthly family expenditure. The programme also offers a nursery for mothers with little kids so they are able to attend trainings and anticipate upcoming job opportunities.
Source: iTHUBA
Picture: Tongaat Hulatt

City Permits for Sharing Services

Three startups in San Francisco raised more the $200 million for their electric scooter sharing product. This new San Francisco trend, that allows you, with your phone, to scan a bike, take a ride and leave it for the next to use wherever you want. The latter has not only sparked complaints by citizens annoyed by scooters left on the pavement, it has come to the city attorney issuing a cease-and-desist order to the startups. The scooter and bike sharing programmes without docks and dedicated parking spaces have led globally to discussions on the regulations related to sharing of private sector products in public spaces. Although the intentions and impacts of bikes and electric scooters for short rides in cities should be encouraged, regulations and permits for operators in cities should be respected. Scootergate in San Francisco is exemplary for many challenges that cities face when going Smart. Implementation of Smart City technology even frivolous ones like electric scooters requires Smart regulations and well thought-through partnerships. Per region globally the way public space is being used and managed is very different and as such requires tailored approaches to regulations and public-private partnerships.

Sources and links:
https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/San-Francisco-has-no-interest-in-banning-electric-12849134.php
http://www.businessinsider.com/electric-scooter-startup-war-in-san-francisco-2018-4
https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/16/electric-scooters-are-getting-closer-to-regulation-in-sf
Picture: San Francisco, GPS, Creative Commons

100 Smart Cities

Mumbai

The Indian government will develop 100 Smart Cities in the next 15 years. The current urbanization level is around 31% accounting for 60% of India’s GDP. The urbanization level is expected to grow rapidly in the coming 15 years and hence the Indian Government developed an ambitious plan to develop plans for these ‘engines of economic growth’ using the latest principles for sustainable urban development and new technologies. Accordingly, the current thinking is that 100 cities to be developed as Smart Cities may be chosen from amongst the following:

  • One satellite city of each of the cities with a population of 4 million people or more – 9 cities
  • All the cities in the population range of 1 – 4 million people – 44 cities
  • All State Capitals, even if they have a population of less than one million – 17 cities
  • Cities of tourist and religious importance – 10 cities
  • Cities in the 0.5 to 1.0 million population range – 20 cities
  • In Delhi, a new smart city through the land pooling scheme has been proposed

More than one and a half year ago the Indian government already launched the initiative. At that moment in time the ‘100 Smart Cities’ plan was conceived as a mere technological approach to the city. The Note on Smart Cities that is to be found on the website of the Indian government now takes a much broader and interesting approach. Summarised ‘Smart’ is being defined as providing basic infrastructure and services, resilient and attractive urban patterns, quick and transparent planning processes and new technologies. In a sense the ‘100 Smart Cities’ strategy is upscaling the ‘pilot project’ hundred fold in order to generate a real and lasting effect on a broad range of cities across the country. Learning from these examples and all the new brainpower that this ‘grande project’ attracts should equip local governments with the right tools and guiding principles to cope with the rapid urbanisation in the country.
Picture: Martin Roemers

Ride-Sharing Services

ride-sharingRide-sharing services, like Uber, and taxi-hailing apps show us how increased connectivity shapes the behaviour of citizens. This has an impact on the mobility patterns of people, vibrancy of the city, on job opportunities, job efficiency and convenience. Two recent quotes on this matter:

“How Uber Is Changing Night Life in Los Angeles”, From the NY Times: 
…“It became very clear to me that I could use Uber and have the kind of life I wanted,” he said. “I feel like I found a way to take the best parts of my New York lifestyle, and incorporate them in L.A.”
Mr. O’Connell is part of a growing contingent of urbanites who have made Ubering (it’s as much a verb as “Googling”) an indispensable part of their day and especially their night life. Untethered from their vehicles, Angelenos are suddenly free to drink, party and walk places. Even as their business models are evolving, these ride-sharing services, which include Lyft, Sidecar and others, have upended the social habits of the area, and rallied its residents to be more peripatetic. A night out in Los Angeles used to involve negotiating parking, beating traffic and picking a designated driver. Excursions from one end to the other — say, from the oceanfront city of Santa Monica to the trendy Silver Lake neighborhood on the eastern side — had to be planned and timed with military precision, lest they spiral into a three-hour commute. More often than not, they were simply avoided.

“Before Uber was a thing, I would rarely go to Hollywood,” said Drew Heitzler, an artist who lives in Venice, a potentially treacherous drive away. “The prospect of going to Hollywood on a weekend night, if I was invited to a party or an art event, it just wouldn’t happen. I would just stay home.”
Now Mr. Heitzler, 42, uses the ride-sharing app at least weekly, gladly leaving his car behind when he socializes. “In Los Angeles, you have the ubiquitous D.U.I. checkpoints everywhere,” he said. “If you’re going to go to a party, you either don’t drink or you Uber there and Uber back, and problem solved.”….

‘Cab Fair’, From the Economist:
RU LI is typical of many Beijing taxi drivers these days—relaxed, smiling and, at rush hour on a Friday afternoon, politely declining to pick up passengers from the street. He is waiting by a mall in central Beijing for a customer he has connected with using Didi Dache, China’s leading taxi-hailing app. Across the street are two other taxis that have also arranged pick-ups using the same app.
Not long ago taking a taxi in Beijing was unpleasant for customer and driver alike. Passengers hunted desperately for cabs. Drivers, angry at working conditions and low fares, waved them away. The vague threat of a formal strike loomed and, before smartphones, might have happened.
Today the experience is transformed. Taxi-hailing apps have given drivers more control, as the apps match drivers with passengers, who can offer a tip as an incentive. The government stepped in, too: last year Beijing authorities raised the minimum fare by 30% to 13 yuan ($2.10), the first increase in a decade.

Like most drivers Mr Ru, who is 32, also uses the app Kuaidi Dache (which means “Quickly Hail a Taxi”), owned by Alibaba, an internet conglomerate. (Didi Dache, owned by Tencent, another conglomerate, means “Honk, Honk, Hail a Taxi”.) Owing to fierce competition, the rival apps offer subsidies to drivers as well as customers, who pay for the ride through their smartphones. The two apps each have more than 100m registered users and, at the end of March, claimed a combined 11m daily orders for taxis. Unlike apps in the West such as Uber, which use a network of drivers in competition with taxi firms, Chinese apps work in co-operation with them.
Thanks to the apps and to the rise in cab fares, Mr Ru says that, instead of 12-hour workdays and only a few days off each month, he now works ten hours a day, five days a week, for the same money—about 5,000 yuan ($800) a month…

Picture: Emily Berl for the New York Times
Sources: New York Times, the Economist

Digital Matatus

“Digital Matatus shows how to leverage the ubiquitous nature of cellphone technology in developing countries to collect data for essental infrastructure, give it out freely and in the process spur innovation and improved services for citizens. Conceived out of collaboration between Kenyan and American universities and the technology sector in Nairobi, this project captured transit data for Nairobi, developed mobile routing applications and designed a new transit map for the city. The data, maps and apps are free and available to the public, transforming the way people navigate and think about their transportation system.”


Source: www.digitalmatatus.com

Open Data Initiative

Client: Rijkswaterstaat Year: 2013
Project:
Rijkswaterstaat, the Dutch department of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment responsible for the safety and maintenance of the Dutch national infrastructure works on the Open Data Initiative of the current cabinet. SmartCityStudio assists in the analyses of opportunities of the large body of data that exists within the organisation and advises on what steps to take to create innovative applications from datasets with third parties. To achieve this the raw data should first be ‘cleaned up’ and made accessible. SmartCityStudio assists in the conceptual thinking around a paradigm shift – from thinking in hardware to thinking in software – within Rijkswaterstaat. This in order to create opportunities for among others Smart Traffic Management, Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), Mass Evacuation Software and Water Management.

Airport and Region

Client: Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment Year: 2012
Output: Spatial models for the future development of Schiphol Airport and the Amsterdam Metropolitan Region.
Project: How to balance future economic developments in the Amsterdam Metropolitan region with the noise pollution contours of one of Europe’s busiest airports? Although limits of the noise contours have been legally set, the way they could be interpreted varies. This opens a playing field in which local politics, private parties and environmental agents act and follow their individual interests. The project entitled SMASH generated three spatial models of the playing field until 2040 through a series of large conferences and workshops with many stakeholders involved. These models are input for the national policy of the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment for the airport and the metropolitan region around.
Picture: Kitty Terwolbeck, Creative Commons

Shared Electric Car Network

Paris has been wired with a shared electric car network: Autolib’. Modelled after the successful Velib’ bike-sharing program Autolib’ has won over 70.000 clients since its launch in 2011. The program combines a sharing concept with an easy-to-use internet platform, an urban transit strategy and clean fuel technology. It fuses low tech and high tech, people and the city in one system. Although SmartCityStudio is very positive about the distribution and amount of stations implemented in the metropolitan area of Ile-de-France, this new urban ecology has not only been cheered. The criticasters somehow surprisingly come from the green party in Paris according to the Chicago Tribune:

“Conservatives intially attacked Autolib as a vanity project of the Socialists who control the Paris city hall, but have toned down their criticism as the scheme’s popularity has grown. …But Greens fear the 1,800-strong fleet may be drawing Parisians away from public transport rather than from their gas and diesel-powered cars…The Greens, who voted against Autolib while remaining part of Socialist Mayor Bertrand Delanoe’s majority, have asked for an audit on the scheme’s finances and its impact on traffic. “We remain very sceptical on Autolib,” said Denis Baupin, Green MP for Paris and transport councillor until last year.

As opposed to this criticism Autolib’s backers make some bold claims, according to the Chicago Tribune: “The project, they say, is breaking down social and physical barriers between the two million inhabitants of affluent central Paris and the other eight million who live in the “banlieues”, the often neglected high-rise suburbs outside the “peripherique” ring road. “There was a time when Parisians thought the banlieues were where they sent their rubbish and built council blocks or cemeteries,” Paris transport councillor Julien Bargeton said. “That relationship is changing, and Autolib shows that,” he told Reuters, estimating that about a third of all trips in the electric cars take place between Paris and its outskirts.”

Some information on the system itself. It is a public private partnership. The French Bollore Group invested in the fleet of Italian designed cars (Pininfarina) and spends 50 million euro’s annually to keep the fleet running. The City of Paris has invested 35 million in the charging points. As a customer you can choose between a yearly subscription (144 euro’s and 5 euro per half an hour), a monthly subscription (30 euro’s, 6 euro per half an hour), a weekly subscription (15 euro’s, 7 euro’s per half an hour) and a one day subscription (10 euro’s and 7 euro’s per half an hour). A total of 1750 cars has been registered in January 2013 and the Bollore Group’s goal is to deploy 3000 cars by 2013. By February 2013 the fleet had 65.000 subscribers and has driven a total cumulative of 15 million kilometer. There are over 650 charging stations in around 50 municipalities in the area of Ile-the-France with over 4000 charging points. The Bollore Company plans to expand the system on a short notice in Bordeaux and Lyon.

Sources: Wikipedia, Chicago Tribune, Paris, Autolib. Picture: Mairie de Paris

Intelligent Street Lighting

According to the University of Technology in Delft (TU Delft): “TU Delft is testing an intelligent street lighting system on its campus, which uses up to 80% less electricity than the current systems and is also cheaper to maintain. The system consists of street lights with LED lighting, motion sensors and wireless communication. This enables the installation to dim the lights when there are no cars, cyclists or pedestrians in the vicinity. Wireless communication between the street lights and a control room is also possible. The system was developed by alumnus Management of Technology Chintan Shah, who won a competition in 2010 with this concept for improving energy efficiency on the university campus.”

“Shah’s system consists of electronic gear that can be added to any – dimmable – street light. The system comprises street lights with LED lighting, motion sensors and wireless communication. At first glance, it looks a lot like a widely available type of garden light with a motion sensor, but there are significant differences. In Shah’s system, all surrounding street lights light up if anyone approaches. And the lights never go out completely; they are dimmed to approx. 20% of the standard power. Passers-by move in a safe circle of light as it were. An added bonus is the fact that the lights automatically communicate any failures to the control room. This makes maintenance cheaper and more efficient than it is now.” Source: TUDelft, Picture: Bristol Rising 

Responsive Bike

The Copenhagen Wheel, developed by the SENSEable city LAB from MIT: “Smart, responsive and elegant, the Copenhagen Wheel is a new emblem 
for urban mobility. It transforms ordinary bicycles quickly into hybrid e-bikes that also
function as mobile sensing units. The Copenhagen Wheel allows you to capture
 the energy dissipated while cycling and braking and save it for when you need
a bit of a boost. It also maps pollution levels, traffic congestion,
and road conditions in real-time.

Sense and Sustainability: 
Controlled through your smart phone, the Copenhagen Wheel becomes
a natural extension of your everyday life. You can use your phone to unlock and
lock your bike, change gears and select how much the motor assists you.
 As you cycle, the wheel’s sensing unit is also capturing your effort level and
information about your surroundings, including road conditions, carbon monoxide,
 NOx, noise, ambient temperature and relative humidity. Access this data
through your phone or the web and use it to plan healthier bike routes,
to achieve your exercise goals or to meet up with friends on the go. 
You can also share your data with friends, or with your city – anonymously
if you wish – thereby contributing to a fine-grained database of
 environmental information from which we can all benefit.”
Source: senseable.mit.edu/copenhagenwheel/
Photo above: by Max Tomasinelli www.maxtomasinelli.com
Picture below: screenshot SENSEable city.

 

City Deals

In the UK cities have gained more power and control over their own urban planning. This decentralization of power offers them the possibility to invest in infrastructure and regeneration projects. They can claim future tax receipts of their local businesses directly from the state if they come up with a plan.

At least two of six key principles of the City Deals put forward by Whitehall in London are Smart: Putting cities in the driving seat: cities, not Whitehall, are best placed to understand the economic opportunities and challenges they face. Many have already taken the initiative and begun to develop credible economic strategies, and these will be the starting point for our work with cities. Focusing on the wider metro area: Encouraging deals across the wider economic area has clear merits in terms of scale, geographical reach and economic governance. Deals will be negotiated with groups of authorities across a functional economic area.” The first wave of City Deals are being made with: Greater Birmingham, Bristol City Region, Leeds City Region, Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester City, Newcastle City Region, Nottingham City Region, Sheffield City Region. The second wave will invite twenty other cities and their wider areas. Picture: Manchester Skyline by Andrew Brooks

 

Air Quality Information

According to Smartplanet: “For Parisians wondering if it’s a good day for a jog or a bike across the city, soon they’ll only need look up to learn how clean the air is. Baptized the Observatoire Atmosphérique Generali, a new, one-of-a-kind hot air balloon at the Parc André Citroën will take flight this spring thanks to a new partnership with the European insurance group Generali and the balloon’s designer Aerophile. The balloon will visibly inform about 400,000 Parisians daily about the air quality near traffic and away from roads. Moreover, the balloon will carry new instruments to study air samples above Paris. The balloon is part of Generali’s commitment to addressing preventable health costs related to poor air quality in France. A recent European study of nine French cities revealed that none respect the World Health Organization’s guidelines for appropriate amounts of ozone and fine particulate matter in the air. The study suggests that nearly 3,000 yearly deaths, 1,000 hospitalizations, and lowered life expectancy could all be avoided if France cleaned up the air. The Observatoire Atmosphérique Generali will play a role in monitoring such conditions in Paris. And the insurance moguls at Generali know who is paying for much of the nearly 5 billion euros that the study says could be saved if France cleaned up its act. In tandem with City Hall, the observatory will hold classes every morning for Parisian children, offering up to 30 people at time the chance to get a bird’s eye view of the capital while learning about air quality. The partnership between Generali, Aerophile, and the city will last five years starting this spring.” Picture: Aerophile

Smart car parking

At the 19th Intelligent Transportation Systems Congress in Vienna in October last year Smart Car Parking has been presented as a way to lessen traffic congestion in the city.

According to itsworldcongress.com: “Siemens and Streetline, Inc. have launched the first of its kind smart parking project in the city of Braunschweig, Germany to provide parking relief to residents and local businesses.  The project is locally-led by BELLIS, a public-private partnership from Siemens AG and the Braunschweiger Versorgungs AG & Co. KG (BS | ENERGY). The advanced parking technology monitors parking space availability, distributes real time parking information to Streetline’s free “Parker” smartphone app, and tracks parking patterns and habits to help City officials better manage parking throughout the City. This is the first advanced parking project implemented jointly by Siemens and Streetline in Europe. The announcement was made from the Intelligent Transportation World Congress being held this week in Vienna, Austria.”

“The City of Braunschweig has approved installation of parking sensors and networking equipment to monitor real time data in designated parking locations throughout Kurst-Schumacher-Str, Nimes-Str and Tauben-Str. “Parker” by Streetline provides drivers with the location and general availability of parking spaces, shows the amount of parking time remaining, and allows users to pay for parking via their mobile phone where available. The advanced parking project will also provide a platform for DLR (German Aerospace Center) to do ongoing research on parking infrastructure and services, as part of their Transportation and Mobility portfolio.”
“One major factor contributing to city traffic congestion is motorists searching for parking,” said Hauke Juergensen, CEO Intelligent Traffic Systems, Siemens. “This modern technology from Streetline provides motorists an easier, more efficient way to find an available parking spot and provides the City of Braunschweig a cost-effective way to improve quality of life in their town in a time when city budgets have never been tighter.”

Clean fuel strategy

According to a European press release at the 24th of January: “The European Commission announced an ambitious package of measures to ensure the build-up of alternative fuel stations across Europe with common standards for their design and use. Policy initiatives so far have mostly addressed the actual fuels and vehicles, without considering fuels distribution. Efforts to provide incentives have been un-co-ordinated and insufficient.

Clean fuel is being held back by three main barriers: the high cost of vehicles, a low level of consumer acceptance, and the lack of recharging and refuelling stations. It is a vicious circle. Refuelling stations are not being built because there are not enough vehicles. Vehicles are not sold at competitive prices because there is not enough demand. Consumers do not buy the vehicles because they are expensive and the stations are not there. The Commission is therefore proposing a package of binding targets on Member States for a minimum level of infrastructure for clean fuels such as electricity, hydrogen and natural gas, as well as common EU wide standards for equipment needed.

EC Vice President Siim Kallas responsible for Transport said. “Developing innovative and alternative fuels is an obvious way to make Europe’s economy more resource efficient, to reduce our overdependence on oil and develop a transport industry which is ready to respond to the demands of the 21st century. Between them, China and the US plan to have more than 6 million electric vehicles on the road by 2020. This is major opportunity for Europe to establish a strong position in a fast growing global market.”

The clean fuel strategy is committed to various clean fuels ranging from electricity to hydrogen. This post focuses only on the ambition for electric vehicles.

……”Electricity: the situation for electric charging points varies greatly across the EU. The leading countries are Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK. Under this proposal a minimum number of recharging points, using a common plug will be required for each Member State (see table attached). The aim is to put in place a critical mass of charging points so that companies will mass produce the cars at reasonable prices. A common EU wide plug is an essential element for the roll out of this fuel. To end uncertainty in the market, today the Commission has announced the use of the “Type 2” plug as the common standard for the whole of Europe.

Smart bike parking

Last week Prorail, in charge of Dutch rail, presented a revolutionary system that should put an end to the chaos around train stations caused by bicycles. Previous trials in Utrecht, Groningen and Zutphen show that the system creates thirty percent more space.

The bicycle parking system works by using switches built into the bike racks. When a bicycle in a rack is inserted it is determined by a computer. On large screens is shown how many places are still available. The administrator of the bicycle parking can also see how long a bike has been parked. If it is longer than the allowed period, he has the right to remove the bike. This smart parking should put an end to the estimated 60,000 so-called abandoned bicycles that nationwide are parked around stations. These are bikes that will never be retrieved, but they claim 15 percent of the storage spaces available. Previous experiments in Utrecht, Groningen, Zutphen show that the system delivers 30 percent more space. Not only due to the removal of all abandoned bicycles. The available space is also effectively used. Travelers have an overview of the amount of places still available. Now, though only 90 percent occupied, travelers think the parking is full. With the introduction of the new system it is easier to utilize the parking for the full 100%.

Bus Rapid Transit system

Although old news,  Bogota’s Transmilenio Bussystem is a concept which should be added to this Smart City Studio Blog. According to Camilo Santamaría presenting at the UN-habitat Expert Group Meeting in Nairobi, february 18th 2011:

“Transmilenio bus system shows how public transport-oriented city planning can stimulate urban renewal whilst improving the use of space and energy resources. The city is located between a river and a mountain range, and contains a number of heritage buildings in the central business district. It has a population of roughly 6 million people, and is likely to grow an additional 2 million in the next 15 years. Constrained by natural boundaries and a historical urban core, planning for a growing population with a significant number of living below poverty lines is a challenge.The bulk of employment opportunities are located in the CBD, which is situated at the Northernmost edge of the city alongside the mountain and is surrounded by a number of smaller towns to the South. Faced with the challenge of moving people between residential areas and places of work, the city realised that a bus system would be the most cost-effective means of providing public transport, and would require significantly less land than a car-centred approach. Curitiba’s BRT model was adapted to include passing lanes for buses, as observed in Quito. The implementation of the Transmilenio and inclusion of sidewalks, cycle lanes and public transport routes into city design has created numerous opportunities for urban renewal. Areas once designated for roads are now used by cyclists and pedestrians, and a number of tree-lined avenues and public parks have been created around the stations and commuter routes. These green spaces attract members of the public, and the streets are once again busy with people instead of cars. To cater for growing demand for public transport, the city is now considering a metro system to service major routes”.

This article is extracted from the report: “What does the green economy mean for sustainable urban development”, by UN-habitiat, Expert Group Meeting, Nairobi, 17-18 February 2011

Driverless cars in California

According to BBC News Technology:
A bill to bring driverless cars to roads in California has been signed.
State Governor Jerry Brown backed legislation on Tuesday, and said: “Today we’re looking at science-fiction becoming tomorrow’s reality”. The bill was signed at the headquarters of Google, which has been testing a fleet of 12 autonomous computer-controlled vehicles for several years. Google co-founder Sergey Brin said self-driving cars would be “far safer” than those driven by humans. Other manufacturers, including Audi, Ford and Volvo have also been experimenting with the technology.

The bill, drawn up by Senator Alex Padilla, will establish safety and performance regulations to test and operate the vehicles on roads across the state.
It requires the California Department of Motor Vehicles to draft the regulations by 2015.

Google has said that it has logged more than 300,000 miles in its cars without an accident – although one of its vehicles was involved in a minor crash in summer 2011. The company said it was being driven manually at the time.
“I think the self-driving car can really dramatically improve the quality of life for everyone,” Google co-founder Sergey Brin said, adding that he thought the vehicles would be commercially available within the decade.

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-19726951

picture: Google

 

For a Bike-City

Sunday July 1st more than 1200 cyclists cycled the streets of St. Petersburg to show that the demand for the popularization of bikes exists in the city. The cyclists gathered included people from all ages. Riding among others the infamous Nevski Prospekt should encourage the Governor to impove the infrastructure for cyclists in the city. Although the winters might be too cold to ride your bike, the spring and summer offers endless white nights to cycle. The bike gains popularity worldwide as a convenient way of travelling around the city. Yet not a lot of urban societies have developed a bike-culture and the necessary infrastructure for it. Bike infrastructure should be on top of the agenda of any city. Using the bike for transport reduces carbon emissions, keeps people fit and more over is simply the fastest way to travel within the city. The city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands is maybe the best known example of a bike-city. Within the innercity more than 55% of the daily journeys is done by bike. Giving priority to the bikes means creating bikelanes and creating spaces to park bikes on the streets. Above all it requires a change of urban culture where no longer the car is the dominant consumer of public space. In the Smart City the car will inevitably loose ground.

More Metro

According to the Economist on 31st of March:

“THE abiding memory from many a business trip to São Paulo is of traffic jams. But South America’s biggest city now offers a new way to nip between meetings. Line 4 of the city’s metro, opened in stages over the past two years, links several business districts—the city centre, Avenida Paulista and Faria Lima—for the first time. This would hardly be worthy of remark in other international cities. But São Paulo’s 71km (44 miles) metro network is tiny for a city of 19m. Mexico City’s metro is more than 200km long; Seoul’s is nearly 400km. Even Santiago, a city one quarter the size of São Paulo, has a metro that is 40% bigger.

Unsurprisingly, demand on Line 4 is overwhelming. It already carries 550,000 passengers a day and expects 1m once it is complete. Rush hour is alarming. But despite the crush, refugees from the jams above are ecstatic. The line has cut many commuters’ journeys from the city’s poor periphery by half an hour. It is all the rage to start business meetings by gloating over your speedy arrival.

São Paulo’s first metro lines were built in the 1970s by the federal government. But the constitution of 1988 handed urban transport to states and cities, which had less money and no experience of such projects. Years without investment or maintenance followed.

Line 4’s second phase, given the go-ahead on March 24th by the state governor, Geraldo Alckmin, will add five more stations and 1.8 billion reais ($1 billion) to the 3.8 billion reais already spent. Despite such price tags, more metro lines are essential, says Carlos Carvalho of IPEA, a government-linked think-tank. Nothing else can carry the 60,000-70,000 passengers per hour demanded on São Paulo’s busiest routes. Some are being planned, but they will take years: ground was broken on Line 4 in 2004. Quicker, cheaper projects are also needed, he says: upgrades to existing lines and suburban trains, plus lots more dedicated bus corridors, and perhaps congestion-charging too.”