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Oxford University researcher honoured for study of Rio de Janeiro bus project

Young Researcher of the Year Award for Rafael Pereira’s paper on how Rio de Janeiro’s Bus Rapid Transit system improves access to jobs

The International Transport Forum’s 2019 Young Researcher of the Year Award will go to Dr. Rafael H. M. Pereira of Oxford University’s Transport Studies Unit and Brazil’s Institute for Applied Economic Research (Ipea).

Dr. Pereira, a Brazilian national, will be honoured for his pioneering work on urban accessibility and equity at the 2019 Summit of Transport Ministers in Leipzig, Germany, on 23 May.

The award-winning paper investigates the impact of Rio de Janeiro’s TransBrasil bus project on the accessibility of employment opportunities for different income groups. TransBrasil is a proposed 32-kilometre Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor that would be among the largest articulated bus services in the world in terms of passenger numbers. It links Rio de Janeiro’s Deodoro and North region with the city centre.

Dr. Pereira’s findings show that well-integrated public transport can deliver substantial accessibility gains for lower-income groups and thus reduce inequalities in access to opportunities.

His paper highlights that the parameters chosen for analysing the accessibility impact of projects such as the TransBrasil corridor can significantly influence the outcomes. Hence, policy makers need to be sensitive to this effect.

Based on 2010 Brazilian census data, Dr. Pereira identified the number of formal jobs accessible to different income demographics in Rio via public transport and walking within 30, 60, 90 or 120 minutes of travel. He found that the BRT’s impact on accessibility changes depending on how this travel time threshold is set. With long time travel thresholds of 90 and 120 minutes, the TransBrasil BRT would deliver much smaller accessibility gains. If time travel thresholds are set at 30 or 60 minutes, the accessibility gains for users would be noticeably larger.

Moreover, the travel time thresholds also affect social equity, as the distribution of accessibility improvements is different across income levels. With lower travel time thresholds of 30 or 60 minutes, users from low-income groups would benefit more from better access, as they are more dependent on public transport than other income groups. In case of higher travel time thresholds, accessibility gains would be more even across the different income groups.

The full implementation of TransitBrasil could improve access for up to 58% of the city population. The accessibility of jobs would increase by 11% on average. Even partial implementation of the TransBrasil corridor would improve accessibility and the result would be more equitable than other recent transport investments in Rio.

“Dr. Pereira’s research methodology stands out from other academic studies on the short-term equity effects of transport investments”, said Young Tae Kim Secretary-General of the International Transport Forum. “His detailed analysis shows in a nuanced manner how choosing a travel time threshold has important implications for transport equity analysis.”

Dr. Pereira said: “I am very honored for the ITF’s 2019 Young Researcher of the Year award. This award speaks volumes about the generous guidance and support I have received from supervisors and colleagues at both Oxford and Ipea to conduct my research. The award is very timely as I am currently leading a large project exploring how the methods used in this research can be incorporated into transport planning and project prioritisation at various levels of government in Brazil. I am confident this recognition will greatly contribute to drawing attention to this project and help me build a career with high impact on transport policy decision-making in my country and beyond.”

The winning paper was chosen from 19 submissions by a jury of international transport policy experts from Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Russia, Singapore, Turkey, and the USA.

Read the winning paper here

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