Transit City, Paris, Reviewed

Last night, I had the immense pleasure of attenting the RATP’s presentation about the use of LRT rather than subways.  I’m not going to attempt to reproduce the information here, but am hopeful that the illustrations will show up on the TTC’s website fairly soon.

Toronto has needed this sort of presentation for a long time, and if only scheduling problems had allowed it other than on a Friday evening, there might even have been media coverage and more representation from senior staff and politicians outside of the City.

The Mayor of Paris decided that he wanted to reduce car use and green the city, and that transit was a key to regeneration of the inner suburbs.  ‘Tramways” (LRT in our terms) were the solution both for their lower cost (why build “five times the capacity at five to eight times the price”) and for their ability to stimulate the neighbourhoods through which they passed because of the pedestrian activity along the route.

Major street redesign was integral to their plans.  They knew perfectly well that the tramway would reduce road capacity, and the lower traffic volume combined with the lowered road speed converted semi-arterials into calmer, walkable neighbourhoods.

The bus service to be replaced had reached the maximum it could handle, and substantial additional riding came with the conversion to LRT.  They are now running peak headways of 4 minutes (15 trains/hour) of cars with a capacity of 300.  This is on a street with short blocks and much local demand.  Indeed, stop service time is a considerable part of the trip time even with all-door loading.  This makes the trip slightly slower, but avoids the need for passengers to access stations.

The construction projects were co-ordinated between all utilities and agencies, and a liaison committee met monthly with people and businesses in the affected areas.  A standard method of compensation for business interruption handled the vast majority of complaints in that department.  Construction co-ordination was vital to avoid the sort of cock-ups we have seen on St. Clair where each city agency rearranges its priorities without regard for the impact on overall project plans.

I could not help noticing the absence of centre poles to hold up the overhead even though the streets were a good six lanes wide.  Poles are considered visual polution in Paris and their use is minimized.  Where one pole can do the work of two or three, it does.  Transit City urban design team please take note.

This is not to say that the Paris Tramways and street geometries are a model for everything we do in Toronto, but it is so refreshing to have a city say “this is what we can do” rather than endless reasons for delay.

As and when the presentation is available online, I will update this post with descriptive comments.