Le Tramway, Outil Au Service D?une Mobilité et D?un Développement Urbains Durables ?
P Frenay, Agora, BE
These are some critical comments concerning the revival of the tram in Europe, particularly in France, compared with other contexts with particular reference to some German-speaking towns.
With the best will in the world, is the tram a useful aid for sustained urban development? Some comments taken from a comparison between some average French towns and German-speaking towns.
A "tram effect" has been experienced in Europe for 20 or so years, whether we look at new networks (particularly in France) or progressively improved networks (in some average German-speaking towns that were examined).
French projects have generated a wide range of comments, especially by virtue of the powerful marketing strategies organised by the involved professional and political centres. Although they do possess undeniable benefits, in my view they have proven to be very much open to criticism with regard to various sustained-development criteria.
With regard to mobility, the course of events has often been very tortuous, and comparisons with bus travel have been forced, such that travel times are often subjectively downgraded, even when such a view is not objectively viable. There is absolutely no questioning the rising supremacy of private car transport, even in town centres; in fact it has been made easier... On the contrary, non-powered modes of transport are, in this way, experiencing competition above all... Intermodality is a prominent component of these projects , together with all of the other modes of transport which effectively tend to promote the associated individual modes (bicycle, car), with very little benefit for public modes of transport (train, bus, taxi). Projects are also moving, in all cases, very clearly towards a situation of the greatest possible separation between various users of public thoroughfares. Finally, they contribute to very high structural costs.
With regard to urban development, they do not really encourage density and a hybrid capacity in towns, but rather veer towards a very staggered and fragmented urban structure. And they also indicate the value of recent urban developments which in many cases have been difficult to sustain, on the grounds of improved distribution between modes of transport; on the contrary, they are practically never associated with urban development projects. Although they appear to be very ambitious with regard to landscaping, it seems to me that this is essentially in order to attenuate a weakness of the consistency in the urban fabric which is basically never made good. And this can particularly be illustrated by the "stations" -- a revealing word to use for a rather artificial construction when seen against the lack of urban development in all too many French towns (outside of their centre, at any rate).
And finally, they run the risk of making yet further contribution to dualisation of populations between more or less relaxed urban fringes made up of numerous families with children and the old town centre which increasingly takes in inhabitants who are more vulnerable (from social, economic or age-related criteria).
The cases of German-speaking towns under examination, on the other hand, seem to us to practise more appropriate options, both in favour of "sustained mobility" and a form of urban development which is much more closely bound up with available urban transport options.
Association for European Transport