Tuesday, November 23, 2010

When 18 million people need to move around

Don’t ever have a medical emergency in Sao Paulo between 7-10am – 4-8pm. Traffic here feels like LA threw up on Atlanta. The only difference is that Sao Paulo’s traffic is much more urban in nature… making it way more fun to pace yourself. All the beautiful people passing you at the stoplight and 10 min later you’ve moved 10 feet and you still see them strolling along up ahead like a Sunday in the park, smiling eating ice cream, holding balloons…while you sigh in caged misery. Oh yes and you are paying for the pain. The agonizing, hitched my cab to a snail pain of impatience and unimportance. Today I justified spending $30 dollars to ride barely a mile and it took just under 2 hours. Why? Well it was pouring outside and I was an idiot to wait until 6pm to head home, launching myself smack into the middle of (rush?) hour. Not sure what’s so rushed about it with the exception of my temperament.

How do people do it? Literally the worst traffic I have EVER seen, heard or read about.  The city’s current solution besides expanding metro train service (which I fully support regardless of what it costs) is to mitigate through fines. Once a week according to the last number on your license plate you cannot drive during peak hours. Tomorrow is Alex’s ‘off’ day so he has to leave around 6am to make it to work before the cops swarm the highways and ticket all those breaking the rules (same goes for the evening between 5-8)! It’s certainly an interesting idea to try and curb a piece of the problem but Paulistas (people from Sao Paulo) with a little money instead buy two cars with different license plate numbers to avoid the inconvenience! According to CNN, the city is adding cars at a rate of 1000/day! Or better yet, if you have even more money you just buy a helicopter. This is the ‘City of Helicopters’ and around rush hour you hear lots of them buzzing over the financial district like flies on poop. The Washington Post says, “Helicopter companies estimate that liftoffs average 100 per hour. The city boasts 240 helipads, compared with 10 in New York City, allowing the rich to whisk to and from their well-guarded homes to work, business meetings, afternoons of shopping, even church.”  For the rest of us ants down here we have to fight it or avoid it.  Today I hope I learned my lesson and may I be lucky enough to avoid it as much as possible but it’s a reality and coarse welcome from a buzzing metropolis.

*Picture courtesy of Getty Images

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