Brazil Burns With Bus Fares Double NYC: Chart of the Day

Residents of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro devote a bigger share of their paychecks to mass transit than counterparts around the world even after winning a fight to revoke a 9-cent increase in bus fares.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows residents of Brazil’s two biggest cities must work an average 10 minutes to pay for a bus ticket, more than twice the time needed in Paris or New York. The comparison is based on the latest report by UBS AG on purchasing power in 72 cities. In Beijing and Mumbai, less than four minutes of work buys a ticket.

“It ends up weighing on people’s budgets,” said Samy Dana, a professor at Getulio Vargas Foundation’s business school in Sao Paulo, who first noted the disparity using the UBS data. “Price is only half of the picture. If you look at the quality of public transport, the situation is even worse.”

A wave of protests, the biggest in two decades, erupted across Brazil three weeks ago as a result of fare increases that became a symbol for popular discontent with the cost and poor quality of public services. In a bid to quell the unrest, authorities last week canceled the 7 percent fare jump, returning the price of bus tickets in Rio and Sao Paulo to 2.75 reais ($1.25) and 3 reais respectively.

In Sao Paulo, dissatisfaction with public transport is running at the highest level in 26 years, with the quality of service rated horrible by 55 percent of those surveyed in a poll this month by Datafolha. The average wait time for a bus in Brazil’s biggest city is 21 minutes, according to a poll of 1,512 residents taken last year by Ibope.

One way to improve transportation in Brazil is for the government to boost funding, said Jerome Pourbaix, head of policy at the International Association of Public Transport in Brussels. While mass transit in many European cities relies on subsidies for about 50 percent of funding, the cost of bus service in Brazil falls largely on riders, he said.

Still, with Brazil’s economic growth forecasts being cut, and local governments banned from issuing debt, budgets are already stretched. That means the bumpy ride for Brazilian strap-hangers may continue.