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Jaime Lerner

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Jaime LernerJaime Lerner (born December 17, 1937) was governor of the state of Paraná, in southern Brazil. He is renowned as an architect and urban planner, having been mayor of Curitiba, capital of Paraná, three times (1971–75, 1979–84 and 1989–92). In 1994, Lerner was elected governor of Paraná, and was reelected in 1998.

Early life

Lerner was born to a Jewish family originally from Poland in Curitiba. He graduated from the Escola de Arquitetura da Universidade Federal do Paraná; (Architecture School of the Federal University of Paraná) in 1964. In 1965, he helped create the Instituto de Pesquisa e Planejamento Urbano de Curitiba (Institute of Urban Planning and Research of Curitiba, also known as IPPUC) and participated in the design of the Curitiba Master Plan.

As Mayor of Curitiba

In 1988, Jaime Lerner announced his candidacy for mayor of Curitiba with only 12 days remaining before the election. During his first term, Lerner implemented the Rede Integrada de Transporte (also called Bus Rapid Transit), and continued to implement a host of social, ecological, and urban reforms during his ensuing terms as mayor.

As mayor, Lerner employed unorthodox solutions to Curitiba's geographic challenges. Like many cities, Curitiba is bordered by floodplain. While wealthier cities in the United States such as New Orleans and Sacramento, have chosen to build expensive, and expensive-to-maintain levee systems to build on floodplain. In contrast, Curitiba purchased the floodplain and made parks. The city now ranks among the world leaders in per-capita park area. Curitiba had the problem of its status as a third-world city, unable to afford the tractors and petroleum to mow these parks. The innovative response was "municipal sheep" who keep the parks' vegetation under control and whose wool funds children's programs.

When Lerner became mayor, Curitiba had some barrios impossible to service by municipal waste removal. The "streets" were too narrow. Rather than abandon these people or raze these slums, Lerner began a program that traded bags of groceries and transit passes for bags of trash. The slums got much cleaner.

Similarly, Curitiba has a nearby bay that was a dumping ground that would be extremely costly to clean up. Lerner began a program that paid fishermen for any garbage they retrieved (by the pound). This way, they can make money even outside fishing season, supplementing their income. The savings to Curitiba is in the millions.

Lerner instituted many innovative social and educational programs. Barrio kids can be apprenticed to city employees if they don't want to go to school. Although his term as mayor is not without controversy, Curitiba does not have the gangs of much more populous cities such as Rio de Janeiro.

Bi-articulated bus of Curitiba

Perhaps the crown jewel of Curitiba's achievements is its Bus Rapid Transit system (called "Speedybus"). Originally, the city was given Federal money to build a subway (Curitiba is not a small town), but Lerner discovered that "heavy rail" like a subway costs ten times the amount for "light rail" (trolleys), which, in turn, costs ten times a bus system, even with dedicated bus ways. The "light rail" savings usually touted to sway municipal decision makers occur because even trolleys can have relatively fewer drivers than a 40-60 passenger bus. Lerner got Volvo to make 270 person Swedish articulated buses (300 Brazilians, says Lerner)[1], so that the problem of a lower passenger number to driver ratio was no longer an issue. The city built attractive transit stops with the look and feel of train stations, and all with handicapped access equipment, inducing private firms to purchase and operate the buses. A hierarchy of buses of six sizes feed one other. The city controls the routes and fares, while the private companies hire drivers and maintain equipment.

Natural land-use patterns within the city of Curitiba support public transit systems. Buildings along the dedicated bus ways are up to six stories tall, gradually giving way, within a few blocks, to single story homes. This mix of densities ensures sufficient user population within walking distance of bus stops.

As Governor of Paraná

As governor, Lerner used a policy of attracting investment to turn Paraná into one of Brazil's industrial hubs, generating investments of over US$20 billion between 1995 and 2001. Following upon his experience in Curitiba, Lerner focused on issues like transport, education, health, sanitation, leisure, and industrialization.

UNICEF awarded Lerner the Child and Peace Prize in 1996 for his programs "'Da Rua para a Escola'" (From the Street to School), "'Protegendo a Vida'" (Protecting Life), and "'Universidade do Professor'" (Professor's University).

Post-political career

At the General Assembly of the International Union of Architects in July 2002, Lerner was elected president for a period of three years.[2] Lerner is also a professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the Universidade Federal do Paraná, his graduated university, and has been a guest professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

In April 2005, Jaime Lerner participated in the Symposium of China Bus Rapid Transit Initiative (Shanghai) to promote the BRT project in some larger cities. He was specially interviewed [3] which made an impact on mayors and urban planners across China.


Lerner's publications include:

  • Grupo de risco (Editora Igel, ISBN 857063093X, 1990)
  • Acupuntura urbana (Editora Record, ISBN 8501068519, 2003)
  • O vizinho: parente por parte de rua (Editora Record, ISBN 8501068772, 2005)


Lerner has won a variety of Brazilian and international prizes:


  1. ^ Acupuntura urbana, 2003
  2. ^ Jaime Lerner, UIA President, 2002-2005
  3. ^ Listen Talks of the Father in BRT

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