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Rio | The Return of the New Van Plan

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Black-market van stuffed with 10 armed, ninja-style black-clad corpses, December 2007, Rio de Janeiro

Source: O Globo — Portal ClippingMP.
Translation: C. Brayton

A follow-up to Rio Has New Man With Plan for Van, from 2007.

That year, fierce feuds over turf and market share broke out among the militias and drug traffickers who shake down independent operators of vans and mototaxis for «tolls» and «insurance».

It makes you wonder: are such measures also aimed at undermining the economic base of the milícia — cohorts of current and ex-police who invade territory neglected by the state and impose a mafia-style discipline — in these areas.

Probably. Ferraz, the special secretary of supplementary public transportation, made his bones pursuing the militias of Rio. He is also the author of the novel that formed the basis of the film Tropa de Elite |  Elite Squad 2.  The official announcement, from December 2007:

On December 5. Rio de Janeiro mayor Eduardo Paes announced the creation of a special office of supplementary public transportation, led by state judicial police official Cláudio Ferraz, former commander of the anti-organized crime bureau that has pursued the militias of Rio.

The Ban on the Van

Vans may no longer circulate in eleven Rio neighborhoods starting Monday

Starting Monday, vans and VW minibuses that transport passengers will be barred from circulating in 11 neighborhoods in the Southern Zone of Rio de Janeiro. The decree was published by mayor Eduardo Paes yesterday in the Official Gazette, as Ancelmo Goals noted in his column. City hall said the downtown area will be the next to restrict van traffic, but did not say when this would occur.

Under the decree, vans are forbidden to operate inside Planning Zone 2.1, encompassing such neighborhoods as Botafogo, Humaitá, Urca, Leme, Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Lagoa, Jardim Botânico, Gávea and São Conrado.

In the case of Vidigal and Rocinha, two lines will be allowed to continue operating City Park-Gávea and City Park-Fashion mail, but thesevans will be required to observed a fixed itinerary. An estimated 500 vans and microbuses will cease circulating in the region.

Vidigal and Rocinha are long-established shantytown neighborhoods.

The measure came 12 days after an American woman and her companion were assaulted and the woman raped inside a van after boarding it in Copacabana.

The mayor, however, insists that the decree was ready for publication in April, and that recent events only reinforce his decision. The prohibition is part of a package of legislation seeking to regulate this type of transport, but other stages of the plan, such as the reduction of the current fleet of 6,000 to 3,502 vans, have not yet become law.

— It was part of the flight plan. The forecast was April.

—I am not here to say that everyone who operates a van is a delinquent. On the contrary, most of them are good people. At some point, however, the issue becomes a police matter. It was at that point  that we created a special task force to deal with this question —  Paes affirms.

According to the mayor, contracts to operate in Vidigal and Rocinha will awarded by competitive bidding and will link these communities with Jardim de Allah.

— the Southern Zone already has sufficient public transport. It has bus lines, subway and taxis. It is an area of the city that it has no need for van service. Vans are a supplemental form of transport that covers the areas not served by city bus lines.

Van riders are divided in their view of the decision by City Hall.

— This is nonsense, said Kátia Santos, 47, as she climbed into a van in the Leme neighorhood.

Salesman Giovanni Michelino, 42, who lives in Rocinha and works in Ipanema, argues that starting Monday he will have to transfer at Jardim de Allah and transfer to another line in order to get to work.

— I will have to spend more, because vans do not accept the Bilhete Único — «single ticket» — intermodal  pass. During the evening rush, city buses are intolerable because of the volume of passengers departing the Southern zone in the direction São Conrado.

Bus drivers, meanwhile, are wary. Jose Ribamar, who drives the Conrado-Leme route, said the decision would cause unemployment.

— I am very angry. I have worked in van transport since 1996, and I still don’t know how hard this decision is going to hit me.

Law student Breno Akherman, who lives in Leme and studies downtown, defends the decision the ban:

— Vans come in very handy, especially here in Leme. But I still think it is a dangerous mode of transportation, and all its cars are broken down. I prefer to take the bus — the young man says, as he tries to wave down the 472 Leme-Triagem line, which as it happens does not stop here.

Professor of Transportation Engineering at PUC-Rio, Jose Eugenio Leal believes that banning the van can have a positive impact on traffic in the Southern Zone.

— Vans do not play a major role in the part of the city. Alternatives exist, except in Rocinha and Vidigal, where vans are still allowed. I believe that the measure can reduce conflicts, such as the attrition between fixed stop bus lines and van service that stops wherever and whenever it is signaled.

— In this sense there should be a positive impact. In areas that depend a great deal on van service, such as Governor’s Island and Campo Grande, a period of transition will be needed in order to absorb passenger demand.
Rules expected in May

The city’s special coordinator on Alternative Transport, Claude Ferraz, explained that in vans will continue to circulate in other areas of the Southern. As in the quarters of Flamengo, Laranjeiras, Glória and Catete.

— The prohibition applies to Botafogo-São Conrado portion of the line. The latest measure is part of a process designed to normalize public transport in the City of Rio de Janeiro. Recent events and the results of field inspections, which identified 600 irregular transport vehicles in a single month, accelerated the process.

Ferraz says that the Local Public Transport System (STPL), empowered to auction off new lines and reduce the number of vans, is expected in May. The prohibition may also be extended to other areas, such as the expressways. The coordinator adds that regulatory oversight will follow the standard that is already in the process of in being adopted, with the support of Detro, the Military Police, Detran and the Municipal Guard. The inspectors will be stationed at the main access points to the Southern Zone.

—We are studying the measures that we are going adopt — Ferraz affirms.

Guillermo Biserra, general counsel for the Sindvans transport workers union, says his union is studying ways to suspend the decree.

—We are going to take a stand with City Hall, proposing that it suspend its decree. Not only does it affect transport workers, it also harms  the population of the affected areas. Of the licensed vans circulating through the area, 500 will be removed from circulation. Each vehicle carries 200 passengers per day on average. This translates into at least 100,000 trips a day, enough to cause traffic chaos in the Southern Zone area .

Chaos, assuming that each van rider gets behind the wheel of their own automobile.

São Paulo has an equivalent profession, that of the perueiros or gypsy cabbies. In a recent setback, they were barred from servicing Guarulhos International Airport.