The 250km traffic jam

Following the ten-day traffic jam in China in 2010, Brazil recently notched up an ignominious record of their own: a traffic jam that stretched for 250km.

A strike by workers on Sao Paulo’s subway and commuter train system in late May forced 20 million commuters into cars, creating a traffic jam that authorities estimate covered up to 250km of roads and highways at its peak.

According to Reuters, angry drivers promised revenge, the tyres on stranded buses were punctured and protesters were sprayed with tear gas as Brazil’s biggest city entangled itself. Police motorcycles had to clear the way for ambulances through the chaos.

Commuters sat in lines for more than three hours, as the strike prompted virtually any commuter with a car to venture out, a recipe for disaster in a metropolitan area of 20 million people where an expanding middle class means that more than 900 new vehicles hit the streets every day.

Despite Brazil’s economic gains, government spending on roads, public transportation, airports, seaports and communications has failed to keep pace. Other large emerging markets such as China and India have also experienced agonizing traffic as millions join the middle class and acquire cars for the first time.

But Brazil has badly lagged its peers in upgrading its infrastructure, as overall investment only averaged about 17% of gross domestic product in recent years, compared to 44% in China, 38% in India and 24% in Russia, according to a Morgan Stanley report.

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