Luke DeCock

Bom dia: Rio’s new subway line (and its mixed legacy) — DeCock

Rio de Janeiro’s new Linha 4 subway line connects Copacabana and Ipanema to the Olympic Park.
Rio de Janeiro’s new Linha 4 subway line connects Copacabana and Ipanema to the Olympic Park. ldecock@newsobserver.com

Leading up to the Olympics, my biggest concern, however misguided as it turned out, wasn't the crime or Zika or the water but the fact that the promised subway line from Copacabana to near Olympic Park might not be finished when it ran out of money.

So why was that a big deal?

There are two general media areas at these Olympics, each with pluses and minuses. There's Barra, the area around the Olympic Park, which is extremely modern and convenient but you might as well be staying outside a mall in Houston. There's Copacabana, which is the genuine Rio experience – and that part of it has been great – but a long way from the Olympic Park in Rio traffic.

The Copacabana zone had been justified by the plan to build a subway line to connect Copacabana with a transportation hub about 20 minutes from the Olympic Park where you could connect to an express bus to the park. When it wasn’t close to opening as scheduled on July 1, those of us staying in Copacabana suddenly started to worry. It was a mad rush to the finish – when I landed here on August 1, it wasn't open yet – and because no one could count on it being open, everyone ended up on buses in Rio traffic anyway.

But the subway line – Linha 4 – did (barely) open in time for the Olympics on a limited basis, and is open to anyone with credentials or tickets. With traffic shut down in Copacabana this morning because of the triathlon course, it was the only way to the park in a timely manner so I gave it a shot. And quite honestly, I probably should have been taking it all along. The one hurdle other journalists have noticed is some long lines to board the buses after you get off the trains, but it wasn't a problem today, on a train filled with a few international journalists but mostly Olympic volunteers and fans.

People in Rio were joking whether it was better to ride the new line early before it broke or later after they worked out the kinks. By all reports, it has run smoothly. It's too late now, but the subway probably would have been a better option on most days, and it certainly has been the best option for fans.

Unfortunately, like most of these Olympic projects, it has a mixed legacy for Rio. It connects one affluent area to another and bypasses poorer areas of the city with a desperate need for mass transit that remain unserved.

Luke DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, 919-829-8947, @LukeDeCock

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