A-Z of Welcome Aboard

Ever noticed how airlines welcome you aboard? As you go down the jetbridge and through the open aeroplane door, what happens. In Australia and New Zealand domestic travel, crew members check your boarding pass and usually greet you. This is generally the case with international flights. Not so  in the USA as passengers wander onto the plane ignored by cabin crew.

 These have been my experiences with domestic and international cabin crews.

Air Asia-there were flight crew on board?
Air Canada- Calm cheerfulness
Air France- Gallic hospitality-feel like I am coming home
Air New Zealand - Awesome Kiwi friendliness
American- Surly
British- mix of friendliness and British reserve
Cathay Pacific- Refined Charming
Delta-Down to Earth
Emirates-Extremely welcoming
Frontier- Fun and Friendly
JetBlue- some of the friendliest attendants ever
Jetstar- ugh
LAN- Latino politeness and warmth
Lufthansa- Lovely welcomes every time
Qantas- Warm and professional
Ryanair- reserved, resentful,
SAS  -uber Scandanavian reserve
Singapore- almost subservient, almost forced greetings
Southwest- Fun, sometimes manic but always Fun with a captal F
United- Usually grumpy
V Australia- warm and groovy
Virgin America - Aloof coolness
Virgin Blue/Australia - Harried friendliness

What do you think? Whats your experience?

My 757th Flight on a United 757-uber fail

Thanks to Flight Memory.com and my  friend Tony (see blog post), I know exactly how many fights, miles and hours have been spent in pressurised tubes of metal flying around the world. Even after many flying hours, and despite the determined efforts by some airlines to make travel as horrible as possible,  I am still wildly excited about plane travel.

United flight 967 at gate in LAX
Flight 737 on a Boeing 737 with Southwest was a fun experience. Flight 747 on a Qantas Boeing 747 was made very special by the delightful cabin crew. Flight number 757 was United's turn on one of their aging Boeing 757s and it epitomised the worst of air travel.

In DC for a client conference, the flight back to LAX was my 757th in my life so I sought a Boeing 757 flight.
Thanks to my friend Troy, we found United flight 967 out of Washington Dulles

What went wrong with United 967:
  • Modern flying means being cramped
    My seat is in red!
    There was one empty seat left on the plane-the one next to me-was I lucky or what? My seat 40C, aisle seat at the very back of the plane was not near the extra legroom room Economy Plus section nor was it in the  757s' very generous exit rows and despite United automatically wait-listing me for an upgrade it wasn't  in the First cabin either. Like most United flights, they actually had oversold it (ie sold more tickets than seats on the plane hoping enough people would not show)

  • Washington Dulles airport is a horrible trek
    The airport is 41km out of downtown DC. A new metro line is being built and will be finished by 2014 but in the meantime there is a slow local bus or a coach/metro combination or taxi with bad traffic.  I opted for a cab organised by my hotel which was driven by a lovely 20 year old college guy from rural Maryland. Turned out to be driving the cab for a cousin and he did not know the way out to Dulles airport:  "Dude I am on the left land of the freeway heading toward Richmond, where should I be? "

  • Check In Friendly Fail
    I never usually check luggage in but was carrying extra stuff as I was Australia bound. The Premium Economy check in line was fast but the actual human interaction was underwhelming- Mr Check In couldn't give a damn. It never ceases to amaze me how US airlines fail to support their employees to be friendly at every touch point. I know check in staff are underpaid and stressed but United needs to help them make an effort to make customers feel welcome. I get tired of the videos by United saying what a great airline they are and how happy they are we have chosen to be with them when every employee makes me feel like they resent me being there. The actual welcome aboard was friendly and the Crew even offered to stow some extra luggage in a closet for me.

  • My Technology Prowess uber fail
    I had chosen to download the boarding pass to my phone.  As I stood in the security line holding my carry on bag, my passport and my cell phone, I somehow advanced my Iphone screen so the boarding pass disappeared.  There was no cell phone signal in then security area so after 7 minutes of trying and letting people in front of me, I returned upstairs. There I found cell phone coverage and re-loaded the boarding pass. I have now sworn off mobile boarding passes particularly as I have no hard copy evidence of my boarding pass

  • On my 757th flight
    United Nil Interest in my 757th flight
    Despite tweeting about it and mentioning it to ground and flight staff,  there was no reaction. Airlines I know are  more focused on more important matters such as safety and viability and not eccentric passenger quirks! Oh well- it excites my dork side!
  • Two Hour Weather Related Delay
    The doors closed two minutes after departure time but we sat at the gate while ATC gave us  a “rerouting” to avoid nasty weather. After a while we pushed back, we lumbered slowly around the airport to come to a halt on the tarmac with a line of other planes. Soon there were planes everywhere all grounded because of the weather. After about two hours we finally were cleared for takeoff. As the rain started, we launched off into turbulent skies. To his credit, the captain briefed us 3 times while we were waiting but I think one every 15 minutes would be better -we were given a glass of water and a football show during the wait time
  • Meals run out
    With the removal of catering for economy passengers on United, on a 5hr 5 minute flight, the airline sells snack boxes, chips, candies, cookies. At row 36, the crew ran out"that's right, no food left"nine hours between meals.

  • Movie was single screen – The 757 is an older plane so in seat entertainment is I didn't engage in watching as my sound was crappy

  • Drink service was slow on a fully laden flight with with the poor woman was serving by herself

  • Cabin Safety
    757 Safety Card on flight
    I love watching approach and landing but the guy by the window in my row was a closed window man. Airlines in Australia and NZ insist on window shades being open for landing saying its for safety. United has no such stipulation. I find it amazing that we can fly over amazing landscapes and passengers snap their shades closed to watch movies set in the same landscapes! He would peek out his window every now and again and when he did I would edge forward and stare outside. Finally he left the window shade for our last 45 seconds of flight. 

When we finally landed in a stunningly smooth landing.  We got thanked for flying the friendly skies. my entire row laughed at this point. If nothing else, the last row bonded!

Luggage return was fairly prompt.  I got to the empty V Australia counter at 923pm for my 1020pm Sydney bound flight to find it was closed.  Thankfully the supervising agent re opened it for myself and two other weather delayed passengers.

Rating: 4/10 for my Flight 757. Seeing my average rating of all flights with United is out of ten -that's consistent with my overall United experience. I did like being on the 757 and am excited I managed to score another significant flight..now for 767 on a 767.

Okay Mr Jeff Smisek you apparently are producing a great airline---hurry up!

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Touring Brasilia- the Tourist Experience

This is my fourth article on my recent experiences on Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. When I told people that I was going to visit there, I got one of three reactions:
  1. Why?
  2. Where?
  3. What for? 
I was regaled with tales of people going mad with boredom in the sterile cityscape and the empty streets. Even Brazilians said to me that it would not take long to see the sights! Brasilia gets such a bad rap - from anyone who has never been there. The locals I spoke to, however, liked their city.  Many who were born there, bristle at the negative be stereotypes perpetuated by other Brazilians and visitors. Overall, as mentioned last week, I have appraised it as a good city.

I arrived at the interstate bus station which is an impressive modern building that looks like it is in the middle of nowhere. As an example of how tricky it is to navigate Brasilia,  nowhere in any literature about the bus station does it say that it's right next to Shopping Metro station (home of park shopping mall) I took a cab from the bus station to my hotel which cost 36 Brazilian Real on the meter (about $21) . Next time I would take the metro for 3 Real ($1.77 ) and get a 5 Real ($3) cab from the galleria station to my hotel.

How I filled my time

  • I took a two hour City Bus tour which was a brilliant introduction to Brasilia. Again here is where being a tourist is difficult, None of the websites that had tour information had correct times. The tour started at the TV Tower and took in all the key parts of the Monumental axis of the Pilot Plan . On my tower were 9 people : 2 from Brasilia,  6 from other parts of Brazil and me. Reading through their  registration list for the week, I saw no other English speaking tourist! The tour had a taped commentary - on my trip it was in English and Portuguese.
  • I then spent more hours gazing at the monumental buildings of Brasilia
  • the museums did not take long to go through but had some great stuff-labelled mostly in Portuguese of course
  • I went up the TV tower the highest building in the city twice- day and night
  • I walked around the commercial centre of the city people watching, architecture gazing and window shopping
  • I shopped at one of the main shopping malls
  • I checked out the amazing Brasilia bar scene- its very fun with all these little bars scattered everywhere
  • I ran through, walked through and hung out in the City Park including a sunset 
  • I  enjoyed the city markets
New Towns in Brasilia
  • Although I felt a little like a burglar, I wandered around the residential zones of the city. I kept thinking someone would challenge me exploring the super blocks
  • I took the metro out to the new settlements
  • Next time, I would spend time on the Lake and check out the  Zoo and Botanic Gardens

The city does not get many international tourists from what I saw. This results in it not too easy to be a tourist there for a few reasons:
  1. Few international flights land there- most of them go to the coastal cities of Sao Paolo or Rio
  2. Most of the key websites for services in Brasilia were only in Portuguese eg
    • Brasilia Metro  http://www.metro.df.gov.br/
    • Brasilia Buses  http://www.tcb.df.gov.br/
    • Main Tourist website  http://www.brasiliatur.df.gov.br/
    • City information: http://www.gdf.df.gov.br/045/04501001.asp
    • Cultural activities http://www.sc.df.gov.br/
  3. Any English information was largely out if date or inaccurate or unclear eg there's a new bus to the airport which stops in the southern hotel sector where I was staying. But where? no one could tell me where the bus stop was for it-a detail that I'd important if you need to catch a bus to ye airport. As it happened the bus stopped for me in the street -I was the only one on it
  4.  most of the posts about Brasilia from other tourists were negative warning people to stay away!
The Brazilian tourist authority's need to set up a comprehensive accurate website promoting their city with positive testimonials.

Upcoming: blog post on Brasilia's' Buildings.

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My 737 Milestone

A Qantas 737-800
I have been flying too much! Another milestone with my 200th flight in a Boeing 737. I have flown 737s more than any other type of aeroplane. (767- 106 times, 747 - 93 times)

From Iceland in the North to New Zealand in the South and East to Honolulu in the West, I have flown to or from 84 airports in 737s operated by 23 airlines. around the world, although over half of the flights were a single carrier Qantas (see airline list below)

I think of the 737 as a reliable functional car but not terribly exciting. I don't overly like them. 
The 737 is a short- to medium-range, twin-engine narrow-body jet airliner. They can carry between 85 and 215 people. 

According to Wikipeda, the 737 series is the best-selling jet airliner in the history of aviation with an  average of 1,250 of them airborne at any given time, with two departing or landing somewhere every five seconds!

No wonder its my most commonly flown plane!
Boeing recently announced that they wuld raise 737 production to 42 a month.

Another factoid is that I have flown 99 of the 200 737 flights in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Below are maps of the places I have flown the 737:
  • New Zealand
  • Europe
  • USA
  • Australia 

My NZ and Pacific flights with Air NZ and Qantas

Europe with BMI Baby, Lufthansa, Malev, SAS,  SkyEurope (now gone), 

USA - 23 states with a 737!

Australia -every state and territory in a 737- most with Qantas. There were 4 Ansett 737 legs. 

Beautiful Brazil- My 50th Country visited

To misquote Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: "Brazil is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean you may think it's a long walk down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to Brazil". As the fifth largest country in the world, total area is 8,514,877 km2 (3,287,597 sq mi )

 For US people that's almost 13 times the size of Texas. Its about 35 times the size of the UK. For Europeans its five tomes larger than France
Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Holland combined. It is 10% bigger than Australia. 

Population: 190 million.

It became the 50th country I have visited and my first in South America. It also popped into my five favourite countries list! I loved Brazil.

I found Brazilian people to be warm and fun. The stereotypes I had of Brazilians actually proved to be true. They are loud. They are very much into touching each other when they talk. And they seem to live music and dance. I came across a group of teen boys in the Park publicly comparing their salsa moves -keen to impress women. In a shopping mall, a group of people,spontaneously started dancing to a song that came over the PA system. In car park, a group of guys were admiring each others car – sound systems and dancing away as they compared woofers and bass.

People inside and outside of Brazil waned me about the crime. Having been to El Salvador, India and Baltimore, I was not too phased. Brazil has a high crime rate- much higher then I am used to in Australia, although in slightly higher than that of much of the USA.

I handled Brazil in the same way as other places:
  1. No jewellery
  2. clothes similar to that worn by locals
  3. looking like I knew where I was going (not an easy task in Brasilia see blog post)
It must have worked because people kept asking me for directions! So much for trying to fit in an be inconspicuous!

 I also made sure I only used ATMs inside the airport and at shopping malls. NB the ones at the airports charged the most expensive ATM fees I have ever paid anywhere in the world! I had a lot of difficulty getting cash out of Brazilian atms. Some ATMs were not equipped for international cards despite displaying the Visa and or MasterCard logos. Some would not accept a card with a chip. Banco d Brasil was consistently the one that I could get cash from.

Prices in Brazil were much higher than I expected. In a country where a lot of the population earns a dollar a day and the average middle class half that earned by their counterparts in the USA, I found prices surprising. Public transit costs in Brazil were only just a little less than Australia or USA, taxis abut the same pricing. Clothes were cheaper.  Accommodation in the cities was very close to international prices (although what you go for the money seemed greater). Meals were about half what I would pay in Australia in urban restaurants and dead cheap in rural areas (all you can eat for $5?)

The food was amazing- lots of fresh fruit, vegetables. They are very high meat consumers and some friends commented they struggled to be vegetarian.

Appraising Brasília -How does this planned city rate?

I had been long been fascinated by the architecture, the structure, the layout and its impact on the people who call Brasilia home. Some people say its a success and others warn of its  failures.

Brasilia is the 160th city over 100 000  people I have visited. And I have rated every city and update the ratings regularly!!! (ESFJ personality). These ratings are based on my perceptions and experiences.

Overall Rating out of 100
I gave Brasília an overall score of 81.4 per cent. This gives it  74th place out of the 160th cities I have visited. Bizarrely , Canberra, the planned capital city of Australia also ranks 74th in the same list with the same score of 81.4 per cent.  I promise no manipulation. 

At President's Palace
Aesthetics - 7th place
Aesthetically Brasilia is stunning with the nice setting, beautiful lake and the amazing Oscar Niemeyer architecture set amongst greened landscapes. I found much of the "Memorial spaces" too grand and daunting.  They seem to reduce the significance of humanity within them.

Culturally - 92nd place
For a capital Brasilia needs more. It is beaten in this area by 91 of the cities I have been to. More festivals, more museums, more displays and more theatre are needed. While I was there, the grassed area on Monumental Axis was being used by a sporting event. This should happen more often.

Safety-153rd out of 160
The crime rate of Brasília is very high but I didn't feel unsafe- was I lucky or careful?  I was more cautious than I would be in other cities. Walking at night, in the evening was weird as the streets around the hotel zones were largely empty of people. There were plenty of people in the nearby shopping mall, however,

Public Transportation - 117th
While the road network is amazing, for a city of 2.5 million, transport in Brasília is woefully inadequate. The buses are very extensive and seem frequent in the day. However,  information about transport is impossible too access, the system isn't cheap, ticketing is not yet integrated and infrastructure underdeveloped. Things will improve if/when the metro is extended and the light rail opens in 2014. Canberra's Public Transit system is actually worse with less of a bus network and no metro/light rail. Biking is better in Canberra with good cycle paths.

Atmosphere and Vibe - 12th
There is a vibe about Brasília that beats across the city. Going thru city parks, shopping and market crowds and  in the bars. I found more pride in Brasilia than I do in Canberra, Australia.

Living there - 44th
All the people I met who lived in  Brasília liked it,..in fact many loved living there. They were concerns at the soaring house prices which puts much of the city out of the reach of middle class Brazilians and no hope for the poor. Housing is a serious social problem which needs to be fixed.

All in all, Brasília is a Good city. But to my mind, a planned city in a great country looking toward a great future,  needs to be a great city.

Bewitching Brasília -birds eye view of the capital

Brasília,  has me transfixed. Have a look at this amazing panoramic slide show of Brasília scenes.

Then take a peek at an  amazing flight over the city - in a hang glider!

The author of this video declares that Brasília,  is like the movie Gattaca. He is right

10 000 plus

Over 10 000 people have now viewed this blog! Thanks everyone. 
The Top Ten Visited posts are:

  1. Three Airlines-one plane- comparing the A380    Sep 30, 2010, 7 comments My fave plane compared across 3 airlines!
  2. First Korean Air A380 peeks out in Toulouse  Feb 5, 2011- seems there are a lot of A380 geeks
  3. Virgin across the Pacific Mar 3, 2011 1 comment - My First V Australia flight from Aust to USA
  4. $198 to Europe or $981.80 to Europe Feb 11, 2011 I hate "dishonesty" in ticket pricing
  5. The Five Peeve Taxi Journey Sept 11, 2010 Taxis can be very annoying!
  6. Delhi Airport Express Feb 26, 2011 Not sure why there is so much interest in the new rail line to Delhi airport?
  7. First flights with Royal Jordanian, Mar 26, 2011 
  8. I did it! My 747th flight- in a 747! May 25, 2011
  9. Martin J's Top Cities of the World 2010 Jan 4, 2011
  10. Almost had $1200 stolen Oct 25, 2010, 9 comments

I would love more comments though so feel free to participate. If blogger makes it hard for you to make a comment let me know: mj_oz3000@yahoo.com.au and tell me what stopped you! Thank you

Thanks again for reading this far! Do stay travelling with me!

Korean Air has their A380

Korean Air took delivery of its first A380. The only 380 in the world to feature all business class upstairs, a duty free lounge and an in-flight luxury lounge for business and First customers with bar, sofas and TV.

 Their pilots are getting assessed. The Korean government aviation authority will approve the massive plane and then the sixth airline in the world will start flying between  Seoul-Incheon and Tokyo-Narita on June 17. Flights to USA and Europe will follow.

I hope to fly Korean's A380 in October. That will be my fourth airline A380 experience. I have flown Emirates, Qantas and Singapore. I compared my experiences on those airlines in this post. Yet to do Lufthansa and Air France's versions. Will aim for November for those services to catch up.

Check out the Korean A380 website for lots of pictures and graphics.

Boggling Brasília- Overview of a planned metropolis

In the TV Sitcom Big Bang theory, the main character, Sheldon, is asked by Rajesh to imagine himself in the one place he feels most at home:

He replies: Simcity -or more specifically the Simcity I designed Sheldonopolis.
Rajesh: OK you are in Sheldonopolis
Sheldon: Where exactly? Sheldon square, Sheldon Towers, Sheldon Stadium, home of the fighting Sheldons...."

I wonder what would happen if we indeed stepped into a Simcity creation? Here you go:

For me visiting Brasília, the capital of Brazil a city planned and built in the late 1950s, is akin to visiting a Simcity creation brought to life. Wide avenues, treescaped vistas, monumental buildings, extensive parklands and strict height restrictions, one could almost see the Red, Blue and Yellow coloured squares of the Simcity game board.

You know what? I like this real "Sim City"! Although I want to see more added to the City of Brasília (more on that later)

Today's blog post is largely about the design and construction of the city - and my reactions to it- good and bad. Check out other posts  on my Apppraisal of Brasília, and on being a tourist there. I also dedicate a post on the very famous Oscar Niemeyer key buildings. Today's will probably be a long post as I am using this to understand this city -theres a lot to say. If you are interested in city planning or very different tourist locales enjoy!

Design Competition for Brasília
To choose the design for the new capital, a competition was held in 1957. Interestingly, the city was already under construction. 26 competitors submitted 41 projects. There were four shortlisted entries:
1. The winning entry by Lucio Costa which aimed for a population of 500 000 (see more below)

2. A fairly bland governmental city by Milman, Rocha and Gonçalves- population 673 000

3. Rino Levi  proposed a city with 16 super towers (above) in six sectors. The 75 to 80 story towers would have accommodated 288,000 people out of a total city population of 500 000! Each tower would have been a kilometre or less from the downtown, so the intention was most people would walk "on a larger scale than in other cities  -increase the contact among the population"

The Maurico Plan
4. Marcelo and Roberto Mauricio suggested my personal favourite: -Seven to 14 circle-shaped "urban" units each with a 2km diameter was planned with 72 000 people. Each unity would be "a complete city" where people would live next to their working place, so they would mostly walk. Total city population: 630,000 to  1,260,000. Their failure: to actually include space for the National Capital buildings!

Costa's Brasilia - the one that was adopted

Basic Structure of the City
From the sky the plan looks like a bird-many have suggested it was designed like an aeroplane-something Costas refuted: "Nonsense...That is ridiculous. That's an acceptable analogy, but it would be total imbecility to make a city in the shape of an airplane."

The wings of the Bird run North-South (North is to the right). These were designed to be the residential districts of the city. The bulk of the residences were built along a radial arterial road with fast central lanes and side lanes for local traffic

The original crossing of the Axes in 1958
The East West axis (the head and body of the bird) is known as the Monumental Axis. East is where the "tail of then bird would be" Along this axis are the government buildings and the cultural, entertainment and sporting precincts.

Centre of the City
The city consists of two main axes crossing at right-angles.  At the intersection of the two axes the bus station was placed and around the the intersection were the banking, shopping, hotel and commercial districts and the entertainment center of the city, with  cinemas, restaurants, etc. This means everything in the hotel sector is a hotel and everything in the banking sector is a bank!

Center of the Axis Crossing facing north- the bus stn- the north south road is in the tunnel/underpass in centre of pic. The towers of the banking sector can be seen

Hotel Sector South- My hotel Melia Brasil 21 -which was a fantastic hotel

Monumental Axis- The East -West Axis
Plan of Brasilia showing the lake, the streets and key structures.The wings run North to South. The Monumental Axis, the Birds head, body and tail runs East to West (in this case right to left)

At the Western end of the East West Axis (left of the axis on the map) was planned to be the main railway station (which actually was an interstate bus station before it recently moved).  Running east along the Monumental axis are  sports grounds, Municipal (city) services and the TV tower. The large park on the Southwest of the Monumental Axis is City Park which is bigger than New York's Central Park:
City Park
At the other end, the Eastern end (Bird tail) is a vast square called Three Powers Square around which are arranged the three key power centres of Brazil: the Supreme Federal Court, (National Congress and President Palace (Palácio do Planalto).  More on the buildings Thursday next week.

Moving west from the Three Powers Square along the Monumental Axis are the offices of the Brazilian Government Ministries which look like two rows of dominoes- each with a private parking area.

For the next kilometre from the Ministries to the Central Bus station are the Cathedral,  museums, library, planetarium all in a park like setting

The Monumental Axis itself consists of a long mall. In the middle of the Mall are broad sweeping lawns intended to be used by pedestrians and parades. On each side of the mall are two carriage ways of six lanes each. Urban legend has it that this is the widest road in the world. Not so. It does according to Guinness Book of Records have  the widest median strip in the world.
The Cathedral In Brasilia. Six lanes of traffic, a very wide median strip and six more lanes of traffic separate it from me in this picture.

Costas was determined to avoid the mistakes made in other cities. The road system was designed to reduce intersections with flyovers and cloverleafs and pedestrian tunnels.  Private car ownership was seen as the way of the future so the road system was designed to make driving a pleasure.

Costas envisaged taxis and buses for public transport even specifying the colour of the taxis (grey with green stripe) and the uniforms of the drivers.

Main Residential Superblocks
Large residential blocks were set in double or single line along both sides of the residential North-South highway axis. Each block was surrounded by bands of greenery planted with trees.  These blocks were grouped into four to create "superblocks". All residential buildings within the blocks were six stories high raised on pillars (it is claimed so mothers could call down to their children).  While they were the same height level, the way the residential buildings were arranged on the blocks varied to create ground level variety

The local Church and secondary schools were placed in the middle of the superblocks. Shops and cinemas were included in the Superblock structure. All cars were parked at the front and residents would walk between schools, shops, church and residential buildings.

The superblocks were known by numbers, the residential buildings by letters in relation to the entrance to the superblock. An address would read, for example, N-S3-L, apt. 201. Costas believed that these superblocks would eliminate "undesirable class distinctions"

Entry map of a block of flats in a Super Block
 Other Housing
Isolated residential districts surrounded by trees and open countryside were sold for single family homes The lakefront was not to be developed for residences with the exception of the President's house, to preserve the lake's beauty

Brasilia Issues

A new town

  1. The construction of a brand new city 200km from the nearest rail head with new highways built to link it to all parts of Brazil, almost bankrupted Brazil hence why some projects were not finished for years and some never completed
  2. The army took control of Brazil in 1964, four years after the new capital had opened. Many infrastructure projects came to an end as the country slid into economic malaise.
  3. Costas wanted no squatters or unplanned developments. This meant for example, the builders who came to build Brasilia were not allowed to live in the city so stayed in construction camps which grew into satellite  towns such as  Gama, Ceilândia, Taguatinga, Núcleo Bandeirante, Sobradinho, and Planaltina. 
  4. All of the new towns, with the exception of Gama and Sobradinho were not planned.
  5. The city population today is about 2.5 million (3.6 million in the metropolitan area) instead of the 0.5 million maximum originally envisaged
  6. There is a debate as to whether Brasília consists of the whole metro area with the unplanned new towns or the original nucleus
  7. the original plan was modified eg the original central pedestrian precinct with a European style cafe and market culture was never built
  8. in a country with very low car ownership, building a car oriented city may not have been a good thing
  9. In 1987 UNESCO put Brasília's Pilot Plan on its official list of World Heritage sites. The disadvantage of this is it has turned the city into a museum. Nothing of the original plan can be altered

Criticisms of Brasília
Critics of the City are vicious:

I think some critics are too harsh. Everyone who lived here that I talked to was very proud of their city. It is a city though you need to adapt to.

My Reflections

Walking here is Counter Intuitive
People often claim that Brasilia was not planned as a pedestrian city. This is not so. Pedestrian pathways were carefully constructed so that cars and Pedestrians are separated. The aim to me seems to be that people would drive or be driven to a key locale. Once there they could leave their car and walk around. The disadvantage is that if you want to walk between locales, you are frustrated.

For example. My Hotel Melia Brasil 21 is what would be a maximum ten minute walk from the Galeria Metro station in any other city. The walk however is 20-25 minutes and thats now I knew where I am going.  The nature of the footpaths mean people need to know where they lead because some just seem to stop and others veer in the opposite dorcetion to your destination but veer back via some hidden passageway.

As a  result, as  a tourist trying to get from hotel to shopping and main monuments basically means taxis, hire cars or Exhaustion. More seriously, there are unofficial paths everywhere crossing across the vast grassed areas and deaths from people crossing the roads illegally.

I will post more on the difficulty of walking around Brasilia.

Public Transit underdeveloped in a car city
The focus on private cars and the economic malaise Brazil went through has reduced the ability to finance good public transit infrastructure.   Sightseeing and living therefore become costly.
There is a new Metro which I loved but its missing stations and sections but has already reduced car travel. It seemed hugely popular when I rode it. Extensions to the system are planned.

If anyone can work out the bus system, let me know

More Car Usage
The city design  actively  increases car usage. One friend's apartment is  1.2km from his office. in most cities that's an easy walk. Not for him.
He has a metro station near hid house and one "near" his office. Again the trip would take 45 minutes  to traverse to get from home to Metro and Metro to office. So consequently he drives.

Streetlife vanishes
Walking around my hotel I would pass almost furtively other walkers . They were largely other tourists or the poor who cannot afford cars.

Centre of a City-note the absence of people walking on the paths

Sul 102 Subway station- people?

One brave person crossing six lanes

I found the streetlife in the air conditioned shopping malls which were full of Brasilianos walking freely. Straight lines, shopfronts etc

The City Park was also full of people in an environment free of cars.

However to get from City Park to the nearest shopping centre by foot is trickier than it needs to be.

Living Life
Doing errands is not easy. Everything is in sectors. Staying in a hotel, going to a client's office and then to lunch with a friend and then buying a local cell phone is something that can be easily done in the same block in my home city Melbourne.

In Brasilia one would start at the Hotel sector, go to the Commercial sector then to the Shopping area and then back to the hotel.

Humanity dwarfed
This city makes me feel small as human. The big distances between sections of the city or between monuments combined with empty streets, vast squares and tall buildings all dwarf you.

Other cities have big buildings but they are "softened" by smaller buildings grouped around them eg shop fronts that are at a height accessible to humans.

In Brasilia.  the only place that seemed to allow people to capture a sense of their human size was inside the shopping malls.

While I understand the desire to emphasis the grandeur and help people have a sense of awe and wonder and excitement about their capital, their nation and its future. This was probably the intention at the start but is it time to allow people to interact and live with their city. Far from attractive people to their institutions the layout feels like it alienates humans.

So if Brasília my Simcity-what would I do?

1. Public Transport
  • Complete the new tram line from the airport and down the busy W3 Road
  • Build a light rail or Metro line down the Monumental  axis to the Lake and Lago Sul residential areas
  • extend the existing metro line up the north axis
  • Build more metro lines and light rail lines to link so that every "New Town" is linked
  • Put arrows on pavements and crossings to indicate walking routes
  • Build a network of bike paths with bike parks and bike rental station
  • Introduce a car sharing scheme like Zip car with cars available near every Residential Super Block
  • Get a bus map published

2. Structure
  • Reduce the empty space across the city with buildings eg build buildings on the existing open air car parks in the commercial area with underground three storey car parks. The ground floors of these buildings would be shops and restaurants to create more of a streetscape
  • Replace the car parks at the central bus station with a European style retail, cafe and market precinct
  • Fill in gaps in the hotel districts with mixed residential/retail spaces
  • Build underground retail outlets mall(s) under the Mall near the Ministry Buildings. This retail mall would be something similar to the Citylink Mall in Singapore or the Montreal underground city. Workers can eat meals, buy cell phones, books and clothes in lunch hours or after work. If an underground metro line and station was built in the Ministry area, the underground malls would link from the ministry buildings to the metro station(s)
  • Have affordable quality public housing eg develop the empty superblocks area in the north of the city into affordable housing opportunities

3. Culture, Activities and Lifestyle

The Football in 2014 and Olympics in 2016 will make Brazil a place to visit for people across the globe. Brasilia is not ready
  • Start promoting Brasília as an attractive destination in multiple languages
  • Build a high speed rail line from Brasília to Sao Paulo to link onto the new line line built to Rio for the Olympic
  • Introduce a series of activities and events to use the open spaces so there is always something happening in Brasilia downtown eg architecture festival, food festivals, film festivals-create a major event every month to build life and attract tourists
  • Have a Farmers Markets downtown
  • Encourage Musicians in the metro stations
  • Get the Guggenheim to build a new museum opposite the existing museum on the pedestrian mall and build a new wing of national museum to encourage people to move between cultural buildings. Linked to a new Museum Metro Station, one stop to Central would mean both locals and tourists could visit easily
I am tempted to create Brasilia in a SimCity game (as soon as I can find one for my Mac) and see if I can add my changes and compare what that does to the game!