Transit Activism and the Urban Question in Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Tonucci, João; Veloso, André; Kipfer, Stefan
Date Written:  2016-05-22
Year Published:  2016
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20472

The demand for free transit has been an important starting point of recent mobilizations in Brazil, notably those that shook the whole country in the summer of 2013. This interview with local activists and researchers João Tonucci and André Veloso zeroes in on transit organizing in Belo Horizonte, the third largest metropolitan area in Brazil.



Movements such as Tarifa Zero BH and MPL were created to discuss and turn transit into a central urban question. The whole debate regarding the Free Fare agenda is to put into practice the idea of "the right to the city." In the early 2000s, when the agenda shifted from partial free transit for some constituencies (e.g.: for high school students, for unemployed and so on) to free transit as a general principle, the movements stressed that public transport is the main tool that gives access to the city and to urban life (leisure, health and education, etc). Without such access, the city cannot fulfill all of its urban potentials; in fact, "the city only exists for those who can get through it" is one of the main mottos of the free fare movement. Public transport in Latin America was born under the sign of private enterprise; as such, it was subject to political pressure and compromised by all sorts of deals and negotiations. To change how contracts are given out, how transit is financed and to make it free for all users is to subject a central aspect of urban life to democratic control, and to advance in the trench warfare against the current process of commodification of daily life. Together, these measures could be seen as a step toward the right to the city as a commons.

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