The transportation systems of Buenos Aires, Chicago and São Paulo: City centers, infrastructure and policy analysis

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - south america, mode - rail, mode - bus, mode - car, land use - planning


Great cities, Comparative study, Infrastructure, Land-use, City centers, Transport policy


We compare the passenger transportation systems of Buenos Aires, Chicago and São Paulo. The selected cities represent distinctive combinations of land-use, infrastructure, and evolution of transport policy. Analysis is centered on accessibility to downtown areas, where transportation processes converge in an environment where space is scarce. In two of the three cities institutional arrays that legally establish unified decision making have shown little capacity to launch fare or physical coordination between modes. In two of the three cities the concentration of public transportation supply to historical downtowns has not been an attraction factor, and downtown uses have expanded to less accessible areas. Gentrification in Chicago is also another process showing that land use changes are related to many factors, transportation being only one of them, and not always a necessary one. In all three cases the use of railways, as a set of inherited infrastructures, has seen an increase whose magnitude suggests a link to modal reassignment due to increasing congestion. Scarcity of space in old downtown areas is being counteracted through more intense use, or through the expansion of vertical space for transportation operations.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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