By Erico Guizzo
São Paulo operates the world's most complex bus system
It's a warm Tuesday night in São Paulo, and as on most nights during rush hour here, a swarm of cars clogs every centimeter of Rebouças Avenue, slowing traffic to a crawl. But inside bus 7598, Carlos Soares holds on firmly to keep his balance as the jolting vehicle whizzes past the congestion. The bus he's on is one of thousands in this city that run in special lanes that cars are forbidden to use. Convoying one after the other, the buses form a kind of virtual train on tires.
"Look at their faces," says Soares, a 20-year-old video producer, pointing at the drivers stuck nearby. "They're mad because the buses took one of their lanes. But for us on the bus-we love it."
With 26 391 buses, 1908 lines, 34 transfer stations, and 146.5 kilometers of dedicated busways, São Paulo operates what is currently the world’s most complex bus system. Extending from bustling downtown avenues to narrow neighborhood streets, this sprawling network of lines is the basis of public transportation here. One in every five paulistanos—as residents of São Paulo are called—hops on a bus every day to go to work, school, or other destinations. Daily bus ridership in the metropolitan area is some 10.5 million passengers. With such people-moving capacity, the entire population of Belgium could ride on São Paulo’s buses over the course of a single day.