One of my Zurich interview subjects, Nelson Carrasco, says the city is experimenting with rail treatments that will make bicycling on streets with rails much safer. Essentially, it seems they will be testing a material that is strong enough to support a bicycle but will yield to the weight when a tram runs over it.
Posts from the "Zürich" Category
Flashback to Europe, sixty years ago. Just emerging from the ruin of total war, the continent was in the midst of a nearly unprecedented reconstruction. Over the next decade, industry finally was able to turn toward consumer products, from stockings to refrigerators and, of course, the automobile. Italians owned only 342,000 cars in 1950, but ten years later that number had increased to two million, according to historian Tony Judt. In France, the number of cars tripled over the decade.
With mass car-ownership fundamentally new for Europe, parking policy was practically non-existent. The first parking meter — an American invention — only made it to Europe in 1958, arriving in front of the American embassy in London. In most places, cars could park not only for free but wherever they wanted: on the sidewalk, in a public square.
When they realized that simply giving drivers free rein to park anywhere was untenable, Europeans attempted to build enough parking to meet the population’s galloping demand. Public space, from sidewalks to canals, was turned into parking space. Zoning forced all new development to use money and space for parking. All these concessions, however, only made European cities friendlier to cars and further drove up demand.
Today, however, all that is in the past. As outlined in the new report from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, “Europe’s Parking U-Turn: From Accommodation to Regulation,” the continent is now leading the world when it comes to innovative, intelligent and sustainable parking policy [PDF].
Across Europe, cities have come to understand that oversupply or subsidy of parking leads to too much driving. The effect is considerable. In Vienna, for example, when the city began to charge for on-street parking, the number of vehicle kilometers traveled plummeted from 10 million annually to 3 million. In Munich, the introduction of a new parking management system has resulted in 1,700 fewer automobiles owned in the city center each year since 2000.
Ready for some transit system envy? This week's StreetsWiki entry comes from Livable Streets member Andrew Nash, who fills us in on how surface transit became the mode of choice in Zürich, Switzerland:
Photo: Nicholas Kibre/WikipediaThe first thing one notices about Zürich is that trams are ubiquitous downtown. The city considered changing its tram network several times (either placing the trams underground or replacing the trams with a metro system), but voters rejected spending money on these ideas. However, in 1977, Zürich voters did approve an initiative to make the existing surface transit system work better by providing transit priority for trams and buses.
Transit priority means that public transit vehicles are given priority over other forms of transportation through such measures as traffic signal control, transit-only lanes, and traffic regulations. Watch carefully as a traffic signal changes from red to green just when a tram arrives at the intersection. Transit priority was not a new idea, but Zürich has succeeded in implementing it to a greater degree than almost any other city in the world. Zürich's public transit priority program is described in Implementing Zurich's Transit Priority Program.
Combined with Zürich's regional rail network, the extensive implementation of transit priority techniques enables the city to provide subway-like service without a subway, Nash explains. If the Zürich article interests you, check out Nash's entry on optimizing traffic signals for surface transit -- he's looking to add information about other cities that have implemented such systems.