Friday, December 31, 2010

Touring Sao Paulo by Metro

Sao Paulo is described in the guidebooks as being the New York City of Brazil. A huge sprawling metropolis, the Rough Guide describes the city as having South America's Park Ave - Avenida Paulista, and 100s of art museums, cultural centers, and theater venues. In fact, not only does the city have above ground monuments and places of historical interest, but the below ground arts scene is also worth noting. When I say underground, I really mean it. The Sao Paulo metro system has an extensive art collection with millions of visitors each day.

In addition to this novel idea of showcasing public art at approximately 60% of all metro stations (see above station map), the Sao Paulo metro system runs guided tours of the city using the metro. A collaboration between the city of Sao Paulo and the Sao Paulo metro, Turismetro is a free program which offers two tours per day on the weekend. For the cost of a metro ticket (about US $1.75), visitors get a one hour guided tour in English/Portuguese of a particular city neighborhood (and the metro station, of course!).

Here's how Turismetro describes itself:
TurisMetro is a great way to get to know Sao Paulo. There are 6 itineraries to the city's historical landmarks, totally assisted by specialized tourist guides and the readiness of the fast Subway system. Take a trip to the best of what Sao Paulo has to offer. Embark on the TurisMetro.

Our itinerary took us to Luz, the red light district that the city is working hard to revitalize. There, were introduced to the neighborhood's importance in Sao Paulo's cultural and financial history. Our tour included one English and Portuguese speaking guide and one assistant (see picture below - our guide is in red and the assistant in yellow). Our guide provided us with historical details while the assistant's main purpose was to keep track of all of us (we were only 6 people) in the busy metro system.

At the Luz station, our guide showed us the largest work of art in the metro system which was inspired by objects in the lost and found! Located between the Luz metro station and the Luz suburban train station, the piece is 73 meters long by 3 meters tall and was built by an artist named Maria Bonomi. The color yellow represents the northeast of Brazil; white, the peace that Sao Paulo (a city filled with lots of violence) wants to find; and red, the richness of the soil which enables coffee plantation to grow two crops per year.

Talking to our guide I found out that 3 million people ride the Sao Paulo metro per day (measured in number of rides). I also learned that the maximum speed of all trains on the metro is 88 km/hr. This struck me as quite fast, especially in comparison with how slow car traffic moves on the city streets during rush hour or other random times of the day. The Sao Paulo metro is expanding and building a new line, the yellow line, which will have a maximum speed of 100 km/hr.

Another interesting thing to note is that on some of Sao Paulo's green line trains there is no operator. Our guide told us that soon they will be transitioning all of Sao Paulo's metro system to be operator-less. For the meantime, however, to assuage any passenger concerns, they tint the windows on the control cabin on the first car of the train so that people won't know if their train has an operator or not!


  1. nice write-up, Lausanne's M2 is fully automated as well

  2. When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in. Cheap flights to Sao Paulo