Lerner was Mayor of Curitiba for three terms: 1971/75, 1979/83 and 1989/92.
During his first term as mayor of Curitiba, from 1971 to 1975, he started the transformation of the city and implemented the Integrated Mass Transport System, acknowledged worldwide for its efficiency, quality and low cost.
In the two subsequent terms, in addition to the leading-edge urban planning actions, Lerner intensified an encompassing program that resulted in social and environmental advances, ranking Curitiba among the capitals with the highest quality of life in the world.
New paradigms – In 1971, 33-year-old Jaime Lerner took office as Mayor of Curitiba, at the time a city with about 600 thousand inhabitants, suffering from the strong pressure of rural exodus and low industrialization levels.
During these three administrations, Lerner made Curitiba stand out in Brazil and abroad for its cutting-edge urban solutions. He multiplied green areas, by creating parks and planting trees along streets; he closed part of the downtown area to automobiles, preserved historic areas, implemented the integrated mass transport system, built the first day-care centers and health care units, invested large sums in housing and created the Industrial City of Curitiba (CIC), the mainstay of its economic development.
A structure of growth – Soon after being inaugurated mayor for the first time, architect Jaime Lerner put into practice the Master Plan of the city, drafted in 1965, and that he helped detailing while working at the Curitiba Research and Urban Planning Institute (“Instituto de Pesquisa e Planejamento Urbano de Curitiba – Ippuc”).
The plan set forth three basic transformations: physic (road network restructuring, zoning and land use, and mass transport system), cultural (strengthening the identification of Curitiba citizens with the city, starting with the pedestrian mall in “Rua das Flores”, the parks, the “Paiol Theatre” and “Fundação Cultural de Curitiba”), and economic (drawn by the creation of the CIC). At the end of the first term, the city had solidly established the concept of ecological capital.
The city defined its growth pattern by establishing residential, business and service areas and setting forth rules for denser development.
In four years, Curitiba had its first integrated mass transport system, encompassing express buses, feeder bus lines and dedicated lanes, exemplifying the clear priority given to public transport.
Curitiba was the first city in Brazil to restrict the circulation of cars downtown with the creation of a pedestrian mall, the “Rua das Flores”; another innovation was the refurbishment of the historic district, evidencing the concern with the urban memory.
There was also a major cultural transformation with the creation of new meeting points, squares and woodlands, and the reuse of old buildings, such as the “Paiol Theatre” (a former gunpowder depot belonging to the city).
The first large parks were created (Barigui, Barreirinha and São Lourenço). At that time, Curitiba had a little over half a square meter of green area per inhabitant. In the mid 1990’s it had surpassed 50 square meters per inhabitant.
The creation of the “Industrial City of Curitiba (CIC)” provided economic support to the transformation the city was undergoing. Located 10 km away from downtown, integrated to the roads network system by five connecting roads and the mass transportation system, CIC was born as a city (with integrated functions and services) and not merely an industrial district. It was planned to host non-polluting industries, and since its creation it has has never stopped growing. Nowadays, CIC hosts the highest concentration of technology, strategic products and high-tech jobs of Paraná state. There are approximately 5,201 companies located there – 923 industries, 2,021 commercial and 1,491 services. The ensemble of companies, many of them multinationals, generates over 50,000 direct and 150,000 indirect jobs. Since the implementation of CIC, Curitiba has become one of the most important industrial poles in the country, fostering urban development, generation of jobs and income, and environment preservation.
Social programs – Jaime Lerner’s second term (1979-83) as mayor was dedicated to further humanizing Curitiba. Twenty day-care centers were built, the first in the city, as well as the first health-care centers, 13 in all.
The city widened the sewerage coverage and brought improvements to 34 slum areas, assisting over 6 thousand families (about 35 thousand people).
The housing program carried out in the second administration was the largest ever in Curitiba. Twenty five thousand families were assisted under different housing plans. Jaime Lerner focused on small housing projects with different topologies, meshed in the urban fabric, instead of large projects segregated in outlying neighborhoods, as was the practice in other urban centers.
With the creation of the “Iguaçu Park”, the largest urban park in Brazil (eight million square meters), Curitiba made peace with water, substantially reducing floods in its southern area. The city zoo was moved to that park. Other green and recreation areas were also created in that period, in addition to many small squares built in all districts in the city.
In addition to ensuring increasing comfort, safety and efficiency to the mass transportation system, a social fare was created. For the first time a
Brazilian city adopted a single fare, in which shorter travels subsidize longer ones (rendering the fare cheaper to those living on the outskirts, generally the poorest). The single fare was made possible by the physical integration of the mass transport system in bus terminals created under the Mass Transport Integrated Network (“Rede Integrada de Transporte Coletivo – RIT”). Users could take several trips with a single fare. It was a true revolution.
Also during that term Lerner implemented the Interdistrict Lines, running in circles around the center; the Student Line, serving university students and linking the center to the main campuses, and the first articulated buses, carrying 160 passengers.
Great Progress – In his third term of office (1989-92), Jaime Lerner geared the programs to the environment and quality of life.
Lerner invested a lot in housing and created several programs, such as the development of plots of land for low-income people. The “Bairro Novo” program, launched in 1991, provided lots with urban infrastructure to 10 thousand families and houses to 20 thousand more. Today it is practically a city within the City.
In terms of programs focusing on children, Lerner created 30 integral education centers, where students could attend full or part time. The objective was to keep children busy with recreational, sportive and research activities, in addition to providing meals, so that they would not loiter in the streets
The creation of the “Day-Care Center Voucher” widened social programs focused on children. Small and large companies started subsidizing openings in public day-care centers, assisting their workers and funding the creation of new day- care units, in addition to more openings available for poorer communities. All day-care centers were equipped with pre- school facilities. Another project was the “Child and Adolescent Integration Program” (“Programa de Integração da Infância e Adolescência – PIA”). The “PIA” units – many of them in city parks – helped taking children away from the streets and placing them back in school.
The “Trade Line” was also created, a program that transformed old buses into small professional initiation schools. The school buses circulate around the city districts, remaining long enough for students to complete the courses.
Another highlight was the creation of 24-Hour Health-Care Center Units, with emergency medical and dental care and facilities for small surgeries and short-term stay.
The Ecological Capital – The major icons of this term are the “Speedy” buses, the “Garbage that is not Garbage” program, the Botanical Garden, the “Wire Opera House”, the “Pedreira Paulo Leminski” park and the “Open University for the Environment” – (“UNILIVRE”).
The “Speedy” buses and the biarticulated buses with its tube stations, implemented from 1991 on, significantly increased the capacity of mass transportation in the city.
The city landscape also changed. An old asphalt plant created by Lerner in his first term in the “Pilarzinho” district, then scarcely inhabited, was transformed into the “Pedreira Paulo Leminski”, a cultural site for great events. At the site of the two deactivated stone quarries the “Wire Opera House”, a 2,500-seat theatre built with tube-shaped structures was erected and is today one of the city’s postcards.
The “Botanical Garden” represents to the people of Curitiba one of its main environmental landmarks. “UNILIVRE” became an international reference for the dissemination of practices and information about sustainable urban management.
Also in this term there were the programs focused on urban garbage. The first program, the “Garbage Purchase”, concentrated in the poorest areas of the city, where the garbage collecting truck could not arrive and involved the whole community in the collection of the garbage, which was afterwards exchanged for bus tokens. For its encompassing character and its innovative approach the program was awarded in 1990 by the United Nations.
Subsequently, it was created a program for the whole city, the “Garbage that is not Garbage”, that soon reached 70% of households separating recyclable from biodegradable garbage. It started at schools and rapidly spread, recycling 15,000 tons of garbage per year.