Mayor Parker on economic mission in Brazil

March 27, 2012 10:19:46 AM PDT
Houston Mayor Annise Parker hit the underground of Sao Paulo, Brazil on Monday for a closer look at the state-of-the-art subway system that transports the city's massive population. It's all part of an economic mission to strengthen international ties with Brazil.

To say Sao Paulo is a large city would be an understatement. The city itself is home to some 12 million people; the greater metropolitan area has around 20 million residents. Moving so many requires a comprehensive transportation system.

Underneath this vibrant city is where Brazilians really get moving. Its subway system is a mix of old and state of the art -- specifically Metro Line 4. It opened just last October, with the help of Houstonian Steve Clark, an expert in rail design.

"Oh, it's fantastic. This line is carrying over 600,000 people a day, and it interconnects four of the major commuter lines that come into Sao Paulo," said Clark, ARUP Rail Business Leader.

Mayor Parker and members of the Houston delegation got a first-hand look at the new line. The first thing you notice is nobody's driving the trains.

"It's not manned, it's 100 percent automatic, it doesn't have operators. So it's quite impressive," said Claudio Andrade, Via Quatro Director.

The lack of operators allows programs to put trains closer together, allowing for more efficiency. While impressed with the scale of the project, Mayor Parker admits it's something we'll never quite see in Houston.

"Many Houstonians embrace mass transit. Would they embrace it to the extent here? I don't believe they would. We have too many other options. We're a rich country. Everybody wants to have a vehicle," said Mayor Parker.

There are plenty of cars in Sao Paolo, too. But even with advances, this subway system doesn't meet the massive demand.

"We need more, much more. We have 7 million people using the public system every day," said Andrade,

The number of people who use mass transit in this city daily is more than twice the population of the entire greater Houston metropolitan area. Yet this city is still known for its world class traffic jams as well.

More on the mayor's agenda

Mayor Parker is in Sao Paulo, meeting with a number of airport officials, trying to bring more flight routes to Houston. The hope is that an increase in flights will bring an increase in trade.

The airport meeting is just one of a number of economic efforts business leaders have planned for this trip.

The trip continues for another two days before heading to Rio de Janeiro. Leaders are expected to visit a number of soccer stadiums. With the new Dynamo stadium opening, there are hopes of drawing more soccer players and international games to Houston.

ABC13's Miya Shay is traveling with the mayor's group in Brazil and will have continuing reports on Eyewitness News and abc13.com.


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