Brazil's Jaime Lerner, urban transport pioneer, dies at 83

Braziliand architect and urban planner Jaime Lerner, seen here in 2018, helped pioneer the "bus rapid transit" (BRT) system that changed the face of public transportation in cities around the world
Braziliand architect and urban planner Jaime Lerner, seen here in 2018, helped pioneer the "bus rapid transit" (BRT) system that changed the face of public transportation in cities around the world Heuler Andrey AFP/File
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Brasília (AFP)

Brazilian architect and urban planner Jaime Lerner, who helped develop the "bus rapid transit" (BRT) system that changed the face of public transportation in cities around the world, died Thursday. He was 83.

Lerner rose to prominence in the 1970s when he was elected mayor of his native Curitiba, a city in southern Brazil, and launched an ambitious plan to overhaul the transportation system.

BRT is based on the idea that buses -- the transportation of the poor in many places -- can operate with the speed and capacity of much more expensive-to-build subway systems, using dedicated lanes, priority for buses at intersections and innovative bus stop design.

Under Lerner, Curitiba rolled out what would become a model for cities worldwide, the Integrated Transport Network.

Its vertebrae are its iconic tubular bus stops, with elevated platforms that make it easy for passengers to get on and off and a pre-payment system to maximize efficiency.

It has been imitated in more than 250 cities including Bogota, Brisbane, Johannesburg and Marrakesh.

Lerner is also remembered for making Curitiba a model of sustainable planning, creating numerous green spaces and an advanced recycling program.

He served three terms as mayor (1971-1974, 1979-1983 and 1989-1992), and two as governor of Parana state, of which Curitiba is the capital (1995-2002).

In between, he wrote numerous books on urban planning.

In 2010, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Lerner died of a chronic kidney condition, said the Mackenzie Evangelical University Hospital.

His death comes four days after that of another iconic Brazilian architect, Paulo Mendes da Rocha, 92, who won the 2006 Pritzker Prize, considered the Nobel Prize of architecture.