Roos: Public transit is a worldwide issue

Brazilians are all too familiar with problems surrounding public transportation.


MoniqueRoosIn Philadelphia, students and members of the community complain about SEPTA because of its services and how some passengers don’t know how to behave in a public space.

Despite what Philadelphians may believe, their public transportation is an immense step up from some other countries, and Brazil is no exception.

In Brazil, there are many similarities to SEPTA. Even though SEPTA could have better and more modern vehicles and stations, it’s important to note that people should be more respectful to one another as well. If Philadelphia’s residents complain about the services, they should also do their best to make SEPTA a better social environment. Regardless, even on bad days for Philadelphia public transportation, it could be much worse.

I come from a small city called Campo Bom with a population of 60,074 – there are no subways or trains there, only buses with no air conditioning. As one of the hottest cities in southern Brazil, we can have 104-degree temperatures in summer, yet public transportation isn’t a place to cool down.

When I entered a bus here in Philly and felt the air conditioner on, I was shocked.

During rush hour in a SEPTA subway, you have to stand up because it’s so crowded. In Brazil, overcrowding of public transportation in the big cities comparable to Philadelphia is such a problem that it causes serious issues like robbery and a recent outbreak of sexual harassment. The proposed soluttion is to separate women and men in designated subway cars. The first solution that Brazil offers to solve the problem is to separate the women, rather than arrest criminals – and Americans ask me why I want to stay here so much.

It is common in SEPTA subway cars for people to listen to music loudly with no headphones, as if everyone should listen to their horrible music. This may be common in America, but in Brazil it is a chaotic routine. It is unacceptable, yet everyone accepts it.

Last year when people took to the streets in Brazil to protest, it was initially because of the increase in the public transportation fares. Now with the FIFA World Cup approaching, some huge investments are being made to improve the public transportation in the country. Porto Alegre even has an “Aeromóvel” now. People hope that it will remain after the World Cup, but there’s no way of knowing if that will be the case.

Also, since Brazil has been developing a stronger economy in recent years, many people that couldn’t afford a car or motorcycle before are now able to buy one. As a result, traffic has gotten much worse, even in small cities like mine. The roads cannot support the number of cars we have now, and the chaos from public transportation is also present for people driving their own cars. Spending hours in a traffic jam in São Paulo isn’t news anymore.

Maybe an hour of delay on the Schuylkill Expressway sounds like a traffic nightmare to Temple students driving home for a weekend. If they tried driving routinely in countries like Brazil, they’d be wishing for American highway traffic in spite of themselves.

America has significantly more roads for cars and, as a result, less traffic jams. Maybe the culture of driving is something that needs to change in general, as it spreads from developed nations like America to countries like Brazil, only to increase transportation issues.

The Facebook page “People of SEPTA” posts a number of unusual pictures and videos. Some of them are just people wearing different kinds of clothes, others are people dancing, but some are of people using drugs and vomiting inside the subways and buses – that’s a reflection of society more so than SEPTA.

As for public transportation responsibilities, in Philadelphia or Brazil, all we need is a dignified way to travel. That is not too much to ask.

Monique Roos can be reached at

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