London’s Oyster-card Boris-bus, it ain’t.
The job of the Brazilian bus-conductor, and the little chair and turnstile, has been well-known to foreigners ever since Knockout-Ned’s appearance in cult Brazilian crime film City of God (See “The story of Knockout Ned”).
Being a Brazilian bus-conductor is a low-paid, uncomfortable job. Buses in Brazil are loud, noisy, hot and smelly. Conductors sit all day facing into the bus, in traffic, rain or shine, without air-conditioning.
The job is slowly being phased out by tag-cards, but enough Brazilians still pay cash to make a bus-conductor necessary. The bus costs anything from R$2.65 to R$3.30 in the city, and it’s gone up about 60 centavas in 12 months. Last year’s riots began as reaction to a bus-price hike, which many poor use to get to work (a car being too costly up-front, but working out cheaper in the long run than taking the bus).
The system fits the Brazilian frame of mind about money; no-one can be trusted. Brazilians have a huge infatuation about appointing employees handling money, as if counting money required such constant attention and focus you could do nothing else, and certainly not drive a bus. So the job is split; one employee takes the money, the other provides the service.