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February 2014 South & Central America Trend Bulletin:
Why Latin American consumers are rushing to innovative urban transport solutions.


Made aware of endless choice by democratized access to information, experimentation-prone consumers in Latin America’s big cities want to expand their horizons: geographical and otherwise. Now, they’re moving beyond the car as the default choice when it comes to personal mobility, and embracing a range of innovative METRO MOBILITY transport solutions: public, shared, crowd-powered, sustainable and more.


Rising numbers of consumers are seeking alternatives to the once-mighty car.

A host of forces are pushing Latin American consumers towards a new range of diverse, innovative and (often) collective metropolitan transport solutions:


Rising prosperity has given access to cars to vast numbers of consumers in Latin America.

From 1997 to 2012, São Paulo gained 1.4 million new cars (against 1.3 million more people).
(Companhia de Engenharia de Tráfego de São Paulo, November 2013)
From January to September 2013, Mexican consumers bought 755,315 passenger cars and light trucks, the highest volume since 2008.
(Mexican Automobile Industry Association, September 2013)

But in many Latin American cities, car ownership has advanced far beyond limits that the metropolitan road systems can accommodate. The result? Endless, time-sapping, frustrating congestion.

Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo are the Top 2 most congested cities in the Americas.
(TomTom Traffic Index, 2013)

For many, the dream of car ownership has turned into a transport nightmare. And the more people that achieve this ‘dream’, the worse the reality becomes.

The number of consumers in São Paulo willing to leave their cars at home increased from 65% in 2012 to 79% in 2013.
(Rede Nossa São Paulo, September 2013)


For decades the car reigned as the ultimate symbol, and practical facilitator, of personal freedom. No wonder the car was perhaps the key consumer status symbol.

But that’s now changing:

  • There’s the epic status shift away from product ownership and towards premium experiences as a means of accruing status.

  • Then there’s the rise of the other ‘mobile’. Today, for millions of consumers, the smartphone has replaced the car as the facilitator of ultimate personal freedom. Status acquisition has also shifted to the digital space, where consumers can create, share, curate and connect. With smartphone sales in the region increasing 56% in Q2 2013 compared to Q2 2012 (Gartner, August 2013), this shift is only set to intensify.

  • Finally, there’s the shifting relationship between two ideas: freedom and independence. The independence and autonomy offered by car ownership was a key part of the car’s facilitation of personal freedom. But now that the online space allows consumers to come together to find efficient, convenient, shared travel solutions, the traditional link between freedom and independence has been severed. Indeed, connected consumers know they are more likely to find true geographical freedom when they act not independently, but collectively. Cue a host of shared transport solutions, from bike sharing to smarter public transport.

Stripped of its symbolic import and its status signification, the car becomes just another transport option: one (increasingly slow) option among a rising number.


Protests in São Paulo last June – sparked by rising public transport fares – brought discussion about transportation to the forefront of consciousness for many across Latin America.

Now, more consumers than ever are aware of the expectation gap when it comes to their daily experience of travel around the city. Governments realize they ignore the voices of their citizens at their peril.

In early December 2013, young Mexicans in Mexico City protested against a 66% rise in subway fares from MXN 3 (USD 0.25) to MXN 5 (USD 0.40). Inspired by similar protests in Brazil, the protests were organized via social networks. Protestors created the online movement #PosMeSalto, meaning 'I will jump', referring to the intention to refuse to pay the new fare and instead jump the turnstiles.


A new transport ecosystem springs into life.

While a host of forces push consumers away from the car as the go-to transport option, a new ecosystem of alternatives – faster, more efficient, more sustainable, more pleasant – is growing up to serve the consumer need for mobility.

Newly pragmatic consumers – for whom the car is only one among many transport options – are more willing than ever to embrace that ecosystem.

What’s more, aware of infrastructure inefficiency, many Latin American Governments are expanding investment in public transportation and bike sharing.

One example?

From December 2012 to August 2013, ECOBICI, the bike sharing program supported by the Mexican Government in Mexico City, had an increase of 61% in the number of users.
(Environment Secretary from Mexico City, September 2013)

But the new transport ecosystem isn’t just being driven by government. Private enterprise, new sharing models, and digital platforms that empower consumers to find solutions of their own are also playing key roles.

Want more examples? Just keep reading!


Mozilla & Telecom Vivo
Partnership offers residents free wifi at bus stops

Mozilla & Telecom

Announced in December 2013, software company Mozilla and Telecom Vivo in Brazil have joined forces to provide free wifi at bus stops in São Paulo. The scheme will be tested in selected neighborhoods before rolling out citywide. It's a part of the launch of Mozilla's Firefox operating system - exclusive to Vivo in Brazil.

Easy Taxi & Santander
Bank customers receive discounted cab rides


Starting in November 2013, banking group Santander offered a discount for its São Paulo customers using the cab app Easy Taxi. Account holders were offered a 50% discount on all journeys booked through the app between the hours of 8pm and 6am.

ECOBICI joins La Tarjeta Multimodal
Bike hire scheme added to city’s public transport pass


From January 2014, commuters in Mexico City can use one pass to access the city’s ECOBICI bike hire system as well as the subway and bus networks. The pass card costs MXN 10 (USD 0.77). Users must register with official documentation at an ECOBICI customer service center, stand or online before they can use the bike service.

Vitacon, Joycar & Ciclomidia
Apartment block offers residents car and cycle sharing services


Starting from July 2013, Brazilian property developer Vitacon is offering residents car and cycle hire schemes at a number of its São Paulo apartment buildings. The company has partnered with car sharing firm Joycar and bike sharing enterprise Ciclomidia to deliver the services, which are located in the building’s garage.

Bandeirada Cultural
Facebook-connected app enables strangers to share a cab

Bandeirada Cultural

Launched in September 2013, Bandeirada Cultural is a cab-sharing scheme designed specifically for cultural events in São Paulo. Users sign up to the service through their Facebook account. The app uses GPS to connect them to others in the area attending the same event. It was created by Brazilian transport-sharing platform Meia Bandeirada in partnership with cultural listings website Catraca Livre.

‘Peaceful’ cycle promotes road safety and harmony


Debuted in September 2013 in Colombia, the PAZicleta is a bicycle designed to help promote peace through cycling. Painted white with a distinctive red back wheel. With their purchase each buyer receives classes on cycling safety and encouraging peaceful behaviour. Every cyclist then becomes a ‘PAZiclist’ and helps teach and promote the bike’s peaceful principles to others. The PAZicleta is priced at COP 550,000 (USD 285).

Mercedes-Benz & Gemini Tours
Event-based ride-sharing initiative launches

Van Comigo

Launched in October 2013 in São Paulo, Van Comigo is a transport-sharing service for shows, sporting events and parties from Mercedes-Benz and Brazilian tour agency Gemini Tours. Users select the event they wish to attend and make a reservation; their journey is confirmed once the vehicle is full. Pricing depends on the distance and number of passengers, with an average trip costing around BRL 30 (USD 13).

Aro 27
Café-bicycle workshop opens in Brazil

Aro 27

Opened in June 2013, Aro 27 is a coffee shop and bicycle workshop in São Paulo. While the café serves food such as soups and pasta dishes, the store sells bicycles, equipment and accessories, with a focus on urban use. Aro 27 also offers a ‘Park'n'Shower’ service from USD 9, which lets cyclists securely store their bikes whilst taking a shower.

Bike da Firma
Incentive scheme encourages employees to cycle

Bike da Firma

January 2014 saw Brazilian creative lab Señores launch Bike da Firma, an incentive-based scheme to get employees cycling. Companies can hire tracker-fitted bikes from Señores, and then for every 100km cycled by an employee they receive a reward. Señores charges a monthly fee for the service, which as well as the bikes provides companies with a website and iPhone app to manage the scheme.

Mobile app rewards cyclists for completing challenges


KPO is a mobile app that challenges and rewards cyclists for completing journeys and improving their performance. When personal goals are met, KPO unlocks virtual Bikecoins that can be used in the app’s online store to purchase cycling equipment. Cyclists can also use KPO to compete against other riders in real time, and store and share regular routes. KPO is due to launch in Chile in July 2014.

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