Baffling Brasilia-Trying to Cross Brasilia by foot

This is the last of my posts on Brasilia, Brazil. My first was an overview of mindbogglingly fascinating planned city and would be worth reading before or in conjunction with today's post. The others are listed in yesterday's post.

Many people I spoke to stated that Brasilia was built for the car not the pedestrian. This is not strictly true. The designer's intention was that people and cars would be separated giving people safe spaces to walk in and cars few restrictions eg few pedestrian crossings. The idea is that between the city's sectors, people would drive (or be driven). Once in a sector, they would walk along distinct walking routes.

The Realties are very different. Brasilia has very high car ownership and usage. In a country with low car ownership and usage comparatively. The lessons from this? Our cities need to reflect that humans need and want to walk and allow them direct safe routes. Probably too late for Brasilia but not too late for other places. Lessons below.

Make it easy for people to walk Between Sectors 

Walking between sectors is almost impossible. I think this first video fascinatingly illustrates this. The Hotel Diplomat and the Econohotel are about 600 metres apart. One is located in the Northern Hotel Sector and one in the Southern Hotel Sector. To safely and legally walk between them requires a 2.3 kilometre walk.

Give People logical and short Walking Routes
The Walking routes that have been laid out for people in Brasilia are not the shortest. This video  shows an example of this outside a shopping mall. To cross the road to the mall legally means a diversion of at least 400 metres in total.

This aerial shot of Brasilia from the Blog Discovering Urbanism shows the massive network of unofficial paths that criss cross the open space so people can get to places faster.

Street Life Helps make a City
It was uncanny at times to walk around this city and not see another pedestrian. There are very few cities in the world that have no one in the downtown walking. These three shots show some interesting contrasts. The first shot is of the street. The second is of an aerial walkway connecting two shopping areas over the Bus station. The third is the shopping centre interior. Where are the people? The shopping centre can be accessed by car, subway and bus but not by foot. I tried it and its not easy.

Show People Where to Walk
I have already mentioned in a previous blog that many of the the walking routes are not clearly identified. They need directional signposting, maps and other clues that you are heading in the right direction.

Create Safe Pedestrian Crossings to Protect Pedestrians

The pedestrian accident rate in Brasilia is five times higher than the US average. One of the reasons is the way Pedestrians have to negotiate roads. There are four types of Pedestrian crossings in Brasilia:
  1. Underground passages: long, dark, deserted- as a result rarely used day or night
  2. Underground passages linked to subway stations- newly updated, still long, better lit and more used but still often empty of people
  3. A few legal crossings mostly accompanied by a very unpleasant audible walk signal as demonstrated in the first  video below.
  4. Illegal crossings. This second video below illustrates the enormity of the task in downtown Brasilia. Many Brasilianos take their lives into their hands and bolt across six lanes of fast moving traffic to get to somewhere easily.  I can see why the death rate is so high

Awe inspiring Brasília - the Buildings of a Capital

Aboard the tourist bus
I have two more blogs to conclude my description of my experiences of Brasilia, the planned capital city of Brazil. The previous four are:
Tomorrow's Blog will tackle the fundamental problem of Brasília- successfully being a pedestrian!

I took a very informative Tourist bus for a two hour tour of Oscar Niemeyer's awe inspring architecture. Niemeyer's was responsible for most of the public buildings in Brasília. You would recognise his UN Headquarters in New York City. He is still designing buildings at the age of 103!

In Brasília, his buildings are mostly arranged along the the East West axis of the city known as the Monumental Axis (see blog post).

First building on the Monumental Axis moving away from the centre of Brasília is the space agey  looking National Museum. Great building and looks fascinating. My criticism is that it looks very alone in the huge square that surrounds it. In my first blog about Brasília, I dare to suggest the museum needs another building plus I would love to see a Guggenheim built opposite it.

The exhibits in the Museum are very good but modest. The museum can be thoroughly visited in a less than an hour. 

I fell in love with the Brasilia Cathedral  which is next along the axis. Its amazing! Consisting of sixteen curved 90-ton concrete pillars and stained glass panels, it is a stunning modernist building opened in 1970, ten years after the city's opening. Niemeyer was deservedly awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize,  considered the most prestigious architecture award for the Cathedral in1988. His intention for the cathedral was for it not be gloomy and he succeeded. The light filled building soars to heaven. 

I was surprised at how clearly under utilised the cathedral is for the main church in the capital city of a predominantly Catholic country. There are very few pews in it, for example.

The day I was there, they were preparing for a wedding. There were decorated pews and a mirrored walkway reflecting the sky.

Brazil's National Congress Building almost at the end of the Monumental Axis looks very similar to the UN Building in New York City.

The semi-sphere on the left is the seat of the Senate. Currently, the Senate comprises 81 seats with three Senators from each of Brazil's 26 states and the Federal District. Senators serve eight-year terms.

The semi-sphere on the right is the seat of the Chamber of the Deputies. There are 513 deputies representing their disticrts.

Between them are two vertical office towers for the Congress.

In front of the complex there is a large lawn -used predominantly for demonstrations and a reflecting pool.

Behind the congress is the Praça dos Três Poderes (Three Powers Square). Three Powers Square is where the Monumental Axis finishes. This is Ground Zero for Brasilia. The buildings representing and housing the three powers that "rule" Brazil were the reason why the entire city was planned and built.. The other two Powers are represented by the President's Palace (Palácio do Planalto) and the Supremo Tribunal Federal.

Looking toward Supreme Court
I didn't like the Square. It felt too sterile, too barren and too large. To me, it makes the three buildings which are all great buildings feel distant and forbidding. I also would have thought having these buildings closer down toward the lake would have been a more pleasant backdrop. This would have meant orienting the city further east.

There were many people there on the day I visited but the square felt empty.
Democracy Monument, 3 Powers Square

One building in Brasilia that is near the lake is the President's Residence: Place of the Dawn which is built on a Peninsula jutting into this artificial lake.

What made the President's Palace fun this visit were the school kids trying to make the Presidential Guardsman react. Like their London counterparts, the guardsmen who protect the President stand unsmiling and almost unblinking.

The Palace was finished in 1958 before the City was opened. It has since been thoroughly renovated.

The Palace of Justice is made more attractive with the addition of flowing waterfalls along the front. It stands opposite the Foreign Affairs Ministry which has a lovely reflective pool out the front.
We went past the National Library which again looks good but looks lost in a barren concrete landscape and the Cultural Centre which looked lifeless. In a nation with such an exuberant culture, it could have looked much more alive.

Niemeyer also designed the first building at the University of Brasília and the first hotel both of which I didn't have time to see.
His latest project (at the age of 103) is Digital Television Tower which should be opened sometime this year. It looks amazing!

767-the excitement!!

Ok, I am excited. My 767th flight of my life is booked on Air New Zealand from Perth to Auckland August 30th on a Boeing 767 of course! Never flown that sector before.
This from what I can tell will be my 108th 767 flight.

So far this year I have flown my:
 737th flight on a Southwest 737
747th flight on a Qantas 747
757th flight on a United 757

I wonder who will get to be my 777th flight's carrier? V Australia is my preference but that is not looking possible. Watch this space!

And as for 787th flight...all fingers crossed that ANA or Air India will be flying their 787 by then!

Trip Report: Brand New Virgin Australia 737-800

"Bondi Beach" at Sydney Airport
On May 9th, 2011 I turned up at my gate at Sydney's Kingsford Smith to find the plane that was being for the 1hr 36min DJ 818 servic to Melbourne was one of Virgin Australia's brand new 737s: VH-YFC
called: "Bondi Beach".

The plane had landed in Australia four days before, the day that Virgin Blue became Virgin Australia.

I was seated up front in Seat 1A which is  one of Virgin Australia's brand new business class seats (Virgin Blue started as a one class airline). There are eight such seats on the plane -two on each side.

A very stylish plexiglass screen separates Business class from the Main cabin. It looks similar to the Virgin America layout which I love*. In Main cabin: are 168 Virgin Australia "next generation economy seats".  These seats are made by aircraft interior company B/E Aerospace. The lighting is really well done and makes the plane feel bigger.

The flight was very comfortable - I slept for most of it (even thought it was short). Meals, drinks and water are complimentary upfront on Virgin and the new menus are good. You still pay in economy for meals (unlike Qantas which still gives free domestic and international meals. Some Velocity Gold members have reported being given "freebies" in Economy. Anyone able to confirm or deny this?

"Bondi Beach" at Melbourne Airport
It was a very fun flight with a group of very excited cabin staff flying their first flight on this new plane.  I am not a huge fan of the 737 but this one feels amazing. As two of the staff said "we feel like a proper airline now"

They are right. These new planes are a key part of a strategy to capture more business traffic. I have become a huge fan of V Australia and if Virgin Australia emulate their international offshoot, then I will become their fan too! I am looking forward to my August flight to Perth on their brand new coast to coast A330 service (although puzzled why they have begun mixing aircraft types- Ansetts' big mistake)

Ironic that Qantas continues to go down market as Virgin goes up. One wonders if they should have swapped CEOs? Thats another story.

One final question: Why did Virgin Blue/Pacific Blue choose "Virgin Australia" as their new name and not "Virgin Pacific"? Virgin Pacific would complement Virgin Atlantic and it makes more sense to have a flights operating between Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand with "Pacific" on the tail and not just "Australia". Any comments on this?

*Virgin America and JetBlue are my two favourite US airlines

July No Fly

I am attempting to not fly for a month!
This has meant several long distance train trips:

  • Melbourne- Adelaide (twice) 
  • Adelaide-Melbourne  
  • and coming up Adelaide-Sydney!

This has been my office:

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Road Warrior Help and Advice sought!

I travel with a whole stack of electrical cords, plugs and outlets.

I have stored them all together in a little box. They got all tangled up and the box is thicker than I want for my hand luggage.

 I then stored them in 3 little bags which fit into my small pockets of my laptop bag- I then forget what is in which bag!

How do you store your cords, plugs and adaptors?

I need something which protects, is light, 2.5cm thick (can be 60cm wide), not too expensive, is easy to access stuff from my laptop bag whilst at an airport or on a plane. What do you use?

Any advice gratefully received.

My List:

  • 2 Apple American adaptors (one for Iphone and one for computer)
  • 2 Apple Australian adaptors (one for Iphone and one for computer)
  • 2 retractable Cords  to connect computer to iphone (in case I lose one)
  • cord and transformer for computer
  • plug for iphone (sometimes useful not to plug into computer)
  • cord to connect data projector to Apple
  • cord to connect internet cable to computer
  • USB dongle/stick
  • sim cards for Australia, NZ, Uk, and USA
  • ear phones
  • back up drive and cord

Tiger Update

Tiger Australia is still grounded....looks like until August. Crikey says why

More 787

Great review from the Sydney Morning Herald about the 787 - what do you think?

Air India to start 787 service to Melbourne in October! NO!

Media Reports are full of the news that:  "Melbourne will be the first Australian city to receive scheduled 787 service when Air India deploys the aircraft on its new Delhi-Melbourne route in October." (

Seeing that's my home city, I took an interest.

Context first: This news came amidst celebrations accompanying the touchdown of a 787 at Indira Gandhi International airport in New Delhi. Air India has 27 of the planes on order and got $45million in compensation for their delayed delivery (three years now). Air India is the number two customer for the 787 after Japan's ANA.

In an article in the Calcutta Telegraph an unnamed Air India official said  "Direct flights to Australia are the top priority for us. The route will be profitable for Air India and is a key ingredient of the turnaround plan,"  
The chance of an Air India Boeing 787 flying from Melbourne to Delhi in October is as likely as a flying elephant or magic carpet doing the same route that month! Or as we say in Australia: "pigs might fly"

Welcome for 787 New Delhi's IGI airport last Wednesday.
  1.  If the announcement had been made by the CEO of Air India, I may take more notice. An anonymous  official's comment in the excitement of a new plane landing on Indian soil carries little weight with me
  2. Boeing is giving no one- ANA, Air India, the press,  any definite delivery timetables for the 787s. They have been saying September, 2011 since June.  September is six weeks away. There are reportedly ten in Seattle waiting for delivery to ANA first, followed by Air India.
  3. ANA, the 787 launch customer are not making any firm dates for their first route launch dates. Believe me, I am watching closely. If ANA launches September 1, then there is a small chance of Air India flying their 787s in October
  4. Four days ago, Boeing slowed down delivery of 787 parts from its suppliers to catch up indicating they are not planning on getting many planes out this year
  5. to start a MEL-DEl service will require familiarisation and approval from Indian and Australian air safety authorities.
  6. Air India has a track record of delays in other new initiatives eg Air India was meant to be a member of Star Alliance in March 2009, March, 2011 and  July, 2011
  7. the MEL-DEL route has been a saga with Air India pulling out years ago due to low profitability and then planning a launch on this route twice using A330 then 777 equipment. They last cancelled flight plans December, 2010
  8. Air India is b.r.o.k.e. They have got a lifeline from the government and are seeking more. Do they really have the economic resources to fund a loss making flight?  They will want to market this flight heavily to fill planes from the start. That needs a lead time longer than six weeks.

If I am wrong on this, join me at Melbourne airport between October 1 and 31. I will be the guy with a magic carpet, a flying elephant and an Air India 787 ticket.

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The World Visits my Blog

This month, my Blog turns one! Although to be fair no one looked at my Blog in the first month! Since then,  almost 12 500 people have peeked at a post.  In June, 2011,  I had the highest number of visitors. In May, I had my second highest number of visitors to this Blog.

Favourite Posts?

A lot of readers share my passion for the A380 with almost one in ten enjoying Three Airlines-one plane- comparing the A380. People seem to enjoy my reviews about plan flightses. eg my Reviews of V Australia Australia to LA  and Royal Jordanian (Bangkok to Amman) and my scathing report about United to the USA are all big hits. Also enjoyed was my rants about taxis and how to improve them.

Reader Nationality
One third of my readers are from the USA, 30% from Australia, 8% from the UK, 4% are French, 4% Canadian and 3% Indian. 1% are Kiwi, Singaporean and Malaysian.

Thank you for travelling with me!

Thank you Qantas!

 Today I received a card and a model 747 from John Watt of Qantas Customer  Services to commemorate my 747th flight on a 747. (See earlier blog post)

Unexpected and appreciated. Thank you.

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the 787 in "operation: in Japan

I am excited! The 787 has started a series of simulation flights around japan to test the airliner in service. Here are some great pics from Seattle's Post Inquirer newspaper.

A Boeing 787 (middle) taxis Behind a Boeing 767 after arriving from Seattle at Tokyo's Haneda International Airport on Sunday, July 3, 2011 -Seattle PI 

787 is welcomed to Japan

I want to fly on it soon!

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China Southern A380 News

The 7th airline in the world to get their 380 will be China Southern.

One of their planes rolled out of the paint shop this week.  It will go back into the hangers for more work, apparently, before delivery later in the year.

The Airline's layout has been released. They will have 506 seats across all classes (Air France has 516 or 538, Lufthansa 526,  Emirates 489/517, Singapore 471, Qantas 450 and Korean 407):

  • First Class, 1-2-1 layout, is located on the lower deck.
  • Business Class, situated on the upper deck, is 1-2-1
  • 428 Economy seats  configured as 3-4-3 on the main lower deck with ten rows on the upper deck at the rear arranged 2-4-2. This is similar to Singapore Airlines A380 arrangement. 

China Southern is expected to start the plane on the Beijing – Paris run.

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The Unsafe Tiger

I have been critical about the "budget" carrier Tiger Airways Australia which can be likened to a bus with wings as noted in my previous blog about them.

Seems the bus is not safe.

On Saturday July 2, 2011 Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) grounded Tiger after the airline's planes twice breached lowest safe altitudes.

This grounding came after they had given the carrier a warning in March saying Tiger needed to "improve the proficiency of Tiger Airways Australia’s pilots, improvements to pilot training and checking processes, changes to fatigue management, improvements to maintenance control and ongoing airworthiness systems and ensuring appropriately qualified people fill management and operational positions."

Tiger is rejecting any concerns they are unsafe (would nt you?) with CEO Tony Davis expressing regret over the decision (pictured right)

The grounding is a disaster for the airline which has not made money since setting up shop in Australia. The last grounding we had was of Ansett's 767 fleet and that was one of then final straws for them.  Unlike Ansett, I won't mourn Tiger but yet again we are going back to the two airline situation we have always had in Australia. The names have changed but the structure is similar. Qantas and Virgin instead of Qantas and Ansett or before that Trans Australia Airlines (TAA)  and Ansett-ANA or before that Ansett and Australia National Airways.

The difference is Qantas now has two segments of the market with its budget Jetstar subsidiary and the more corporate focussed mainline Qantas.

Some questions:
1. Will Tiger survive?
2. Virgin Australia continues to lose money-how long will they sustain that for?
3, Will Qantas hang onto its premium passengers or lose some to Virgin concerned at the Jetsar -isation of the mainline carrier?

As for me, I am taking the train to Adelaide next week.

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Korean A380 in service

The long anticipated first flight of Korean Air's A380 took place last week. The sixth airline in the world to fly the plane after Singapore, Qantas, Emirates, Air France and Lufthansa, the first flights were from Seoul (ICN) to Tokyo and Hong Kong

Korean have ordered ten A380s. Five will be delivered this year and the next five not until 2014.   They have configured the plane to have the least number of seats of all the airlines flying it (414) with the top deck being all business class with 94 seats. The lower deck has 12 First Class and 308 economy seats.

Korean Air's next routes will be:

  • Seoul- Bangkok (July)
  • Seoul- New York (August)
  • Seoul-Paris (September)
  • Seoul- Los Angeles (October) which is when I plan to fly with them!

Auckland is getting better

I first came to Auckland as an adult in November, 1991 - almost 20 years ago. It was the middle of the 1990s recession and Auckland felt grim. Wellington, Auckland's rival city  640 km  (398 miles) was also grim but I connected to Wellington with its art and fashion scene, good public transport and walkable sights. Auckland and I never connected.

I have always been someone who has favoured one city over another (hence why I do my city rankings):

  • San Francisco over Los Angeles
  • Melbourne before Sydney
  • Paris and not London
  • Liverpool over Manchester
  • Glasgow before Edinburgh
  • Toronto before Vancouver
  • Koln (Cologne) beats Bonn

Skycity Tower over Auckland skyline
Despite coming to Auckland over 30 times, Wellington continues to dazzle. I have to concede, however, that Auckland is starting to sway me.

With the bulk of Asian immigration impacting Auckland, the range of Asian food and groceries is outstanding. Auckland coffeeshops are taking on their sister city and the arts/theatre scene is becoming more captivating. There is even some fashion scene emerging! Of course Auckland Harbour joins Wellington and Sydney as world leading.

Give me a choice of where I would live, I would still  choose Wellington but I will give Auckland a little more time and attention.

World cup fans will be impressed in September (although why the city could not finish a rail line to the airport is beyond me).

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