BUENOS AIRES TAKES ON A NEW AIR.

Author:Newbery, Charles
Position:URBAN TRANSFORMATION
 
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At Muvin, a bike shop in the wealthy Palermo district of Buenos Aires, sales have boomed ever since it opened five years ago. The Argentine capital had started building bike lanes, surpassing 110 miles by now, and increasing numbers of people opted for cycling as a cheap, healthy, and quick way to get around.

"It's become fashionable," says Agustin Avalos, 24, a salesman at the shop who says he can cut through traffic to his film school in half the time it would take by bus.

For portenos, as the residents of the port city are known, getting around is a hassle. Traffic swells on weekdays when people from the suburbs swarm in for work, doubling the 3.1 million population to 6 million people.

To reduce congestion, the city government is encouraging people to leave their cars at home. Also, sidewalks have been widened, more streets pedestrianized, and bikes can be borrowed for free. And the subway is being expanded, as well as the Metrobus a transportation system of dedicated bus lanes.

A huge infrastructure project is also underway that will transform the circulation of trucks and cargo in downtown Buenos Aires from next year. The city is investing $650 million to speed up the movement of goods and passengers in and out of the port and bus terminal by running them largely unnoticed through a 4.3-milelong underground highway right through downtown and the wealthy Puerto Madero district. This project will ease traffic and create new parks.

Another important project is an underground downtown hub that will interconnect four commuter train terminals.

URBANIZING SLUMS

The transport revamp is perhaps the most visible sign of Buenos Aires' transformation. But the city is also becoming greener and more sustainable. Recycling bins dot the sidewalks; supermarkets no longer offer free plastic bags, some parks and plazas once run down are being fixed up, and huge water works have ended chronic flooding in some areas. Also, the poorer southern suburbs, long overlooked, has been spruced up and will host the Summer Youth Olympic Games in October this year.

Another radical change is the launch of urbanization of the slums to upgrade...

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