The role of land use planning

The importance of urban density in improving the financial sustainability of transport systems highlights a key role for urban land use planning to encourage density around transport routes and terminals.

Land use to complement transport investments in Curitiba, Brazil

In Curitiba, Brazil, complementary reforms to land use planning alongside transport investments have ensured financial viability and popularity of their BRT system, implemented in 1974. This has been achieved in two main ways 20:

  • Land use regulation to encourage transport orientated development – higher density in areas surrounding BRT lines and major roads. On sites along the planned transport axes, legislation permits buildings with total floor sizes of up to six times the total plot size, with density of development decreasing with distance from public transport links. In this way, the city has been able to ensure linkages between residential and commercial density and the transport requirements that come with such density.
  • Land use planning actively encouraged use of public transport by providing pedestrianised access to public transport in the city centre, as well as dedicated land space allocated to exclusive bus lanes.

By complementing land use and mobility investments, the costs charged per passenger have been able to be maintained at affordable rates: citizens pay only approximately 10 percent of income on travel 21. As a result of improving convenience, affordability and proximity of this system, by 1991 it was estimated that 28% of commuters has switched from car to BRT travel 22.


  • 20 Ken Gwilliams, ‘Transport Pricing and Accessibility’ (Brookings: Moving to Access, 2017).
  • 21 Gwilliams.
  • 22 Federal Transit Administration and Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, ‘Issues in Bus Rapid Transit’, Prepared for the Bus Rapid Transit Forum, 1998.