View Full Version : Paris welcomes trams back to town

December 19th, 2006, 01:14 PM
Saturday, 16 December 2006
Paris welcomes trams back to town
Paris has inaugurated a modern electric tram line along a section of the city's inner ring road, the first time trams have run in the city since 1937.

Mayor Bertrand Delanoe rode the first tram on the new T3 line, built to offer Parisians environmentally-friendly public transport.

The line is set to carry 100,000 people a day along a crowded section on the Left Bank of the Seine.

The opening was boycotted by right-wing opposition parties.

They have opposed the 300m euro ($400m; £200m) development, calling it a waste of money.

But Mr Delanoe defended the tram project, the largest public transport project for Paris since the city's ring road was built in the 1970s.

"We need to respond to pollution with action, it's a necessity of public health and civilisation," he said.

"Half of the planet's population lives in towns today, so we need to make behaviour evolve."

World approval

Tram lines already run in some suburban areas outside Paris' city limits.

But the new tram is the first within the metropolitan area since Paris's extensive tram network was finally closed just before World War II.

Those trams, which began as horse-drawn carriages, ran from the mid-19th Century and predated the city's underground Metro system.

The new line runs through 17 stops in the city's 13th, 14th and 15th arrondissements, to link the Garigliano bridge on the city's western edge with the Porte d'Ivry to the south-east.

There are plans to expand the network to other areas of the city.

Journeys on the new line will be free during the tram's inaugural weekend, with fares after that costing the same as the bus line the tram has replaced.

The mayors of Beirut, London, Montreal, Barcelona, Bamako, Stockholm and Antananarivo were in Paris for the opening ceremony.

Story from BBC NEWS:


December 19th, 2006, 01:26 PM
December 14, 2006

Streetcars Make a Comeback in Paris
By Stefan Simons in Paris

The last Paris tram ground to a halt 60 years ago. Now a new tram line is being introduced with lots of fanfare. France hopes this return to the past will ring in a new era of urban mobility. The tram is quiet, fast and comfortable -- a perfect remedy for traffic jams.

First all you hear is a high-pitched bell -- "Dong-dong" -- then a multi-car motor coach approaches almost silently on rails mounted within a neat strip of trimmed lawn. Whenever the tram reaches a crossing, the traffic light automatically changes to green, prompting mildly irritated looks from pedestrians and drivers.

"It's excellent," says 39-year-old Olivier Rampnoux, who steers the high-tech train from inside his conductor's compartment. He was a bus driver before being re-trained for the tram -- and after 14 years behind the wheel, he very much enjoys his new workplace. "No ticket sales, no questions from anxious passengers, no stress," he says in praise of the closed-off cockpit. The only thing that took some getting used to was the longer braking distance of the tram, which travels mostly on its own exclusive grassy route. "It comes down to less stress, but more foresight," Rampnoux says with a grin. "It's different from a bus -- you can't swerve out of the way."

The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Champs Élysées were never the only attractions the French capital had to offer. The Paris subway, the métro, always featured among the city's (perhaps less-spectacular) attractions. But now that legendary train has competition: This weekend, to much fanfare, Paris will celebrate the opening of its first latter-day tram line, the "T3," which will let visitors travel to the very edge of the capital -- on surface streets, and in style.

Light-rail rennaissance

Some 60 years after Paris' last traditional tram made its final journey, rusty and squeaking, the new tram signals a change of direction in French public transportation policy -- not just in Paris -- and it may even represent a shift in urban-planning ideas around the world.

There are, of course, already tram lines in Paris' suburbs -- the T1 and T2 routes -- but not in the city itself. Now the plan is to supplement the star-shaped métro network and the meandering bus routes with a circular tram line -- starting with the T3, which will cut through the city's southwest, from Pont Gariglino to Porte d'Ivry, 7.9 kilometers (4.9 miles) long.

Arriving every four minutes, the tram will move along the so-called Maréchaux, boulevards named after famous generals that gird Paris like a belt -- or strangle it, as residents suffering from excessive car traffic, pollution and noise complain.

The tram is meant to offer relief. The elegant green and white cars will carry almost twice as many commuters every day as local buses -- some 100,000 people. The strips of grass and the reduction in car traffic should improve the quality of life for residents.

The new system, expected to cost some €311 million ($411 million), is financed by the city, the regional government, the French national government, and by its operating company, the RATP. It's more than just another kind of public transportation. For Socialist Mayor Bertrand Delanoe and his Green Party coalition partner, the T3 is a profession of faith, a symbol of their commitment to ecological values.

Broad walkways and bicycle routes, parks with thousands of specially planted trees, and city-commissioned art works all belong to the package. They help turn the new tram line into a showcase for urban progress. "Here we've converted a main artery of automobile traffic to a place of life and a promenade," one of the mayor's assistants explains. And designer in chief Yo Kaminagai, who developed the overall concept for the T3, sees the new vehicle as a "a symbol of the future -- just like the subway was a century ago."

"Tram fever"

Paris isn't the first French city to rediscover the merits of an electric street-rail system. Strasbourg, Nantes and Bourdeaux have had modern tram systems for some time, and the cities of Valenciennes, Mulhouse and Saint-Étienne all joined them this year. Next year, Nice, Marseille, Grenoble and Le Mans will introduce more tram lines. It's "a record," according to the French weeklyJournal de Dimanche, which describes the country as suffering from "tram fever."

The beginnings of this new trend in metropolitan traffic policy can be traced to the oil crisis in the early 1980s. At the time, trams had been written off as obsolete -- despite the fact that French cities had used trams or their forerunners as early as 1853. But the vehicles crawling through Paris then were little more than horse-drawn carts moving on metal tracks. Authentic horsepower was later replaced by the steam engine. After the 1881 World's Fair in Berlin, technology provided by the German company Siemens began to be used more widely. At the dawn of the 20th century, the electric tram became a symbol of progress -- a means of transportation at once economic, speedy and efficient.

Most trams were dismantled in the 1930s. But the real end of the first tram era came after World War II. Non-collective forms of transportation took off during the period of post-war reconstruction, when cities were rebuilt to suit car traffic. Arterial roads connected the suburbs; bus and subway systems replaced the time-worn surface rails. During this era the romantic quays along the Seine became express highways. President Georges Pompidou, who created an urban monument to himself with these policies, was still full of faith in the future in 1971, when he declared that "the city must adapt to the car."

Ecologically correct

The return to collective forms of urban transportation started with rising energy costs and with the car-traffic crisis in inner cities. Eight French cities participated in a government project aimed at bringing new, modern transportation technology to the city centers. After Nantes, it's mainly Strasbourg that has begun to expand its tram network as part of a larger urban vision. The windowed, streamlined coaches, which not only hold plenty of passengers but are also quiet and comfortable, have become a showcase for up-to-date and ecologically correct transportation policies.

The tram has gained ground ever since. Montpellier, Nice and Nantes have bet on the clean traffic solution, while Caen and Nancy will go with the cheaper option of trolley buses. The Bordeaux city council even decided to upgrade the town's picturesque center with a tram line that receives part of its electricity from a third rail on the ground -- thereby avoiding the need for ugly overhead contact wires. There was one embarrassing blooper though: When the Bordeaux tram was inaugurated in the presence of President Jacques Chirac, the high-tech vehicle ground to a halt after abruptly losing power.

Despite these early difficulties, the tram is now a thoroughly popular means of transportation. "The tram is a grand tool for urban renewal projects," says Michel Duchêne, the vice mayor of Bordeaux. A tram line requires a smaller initial investment than a subway line. That and its average speed of 20 kilometers an hour (12 mph) make it an attractive alternative -- albeit it one motorists tend to see as a liability.

That's certainly the case in Paris. Car traffic along the peripheral roads on the southern edge of town was blocked for a long time by construction of the tram tracks. And since those tracks are set in their own strip of lush grass, drivers have had to sacrifice a traffic lane. Traffic lights have also been set to give the tram a constant right of way. "We're the ones who've had to put up with the consequences of these measures," rails one embittered cab driver. "First there were traffic jams for months, and now the boulevards have turned into crawlways."

Public transportation gets the green light

That's quite clearly part of the plan. If the city council has its way, part of the 35 million car trips undertaken in greater Paris every day will be replaced by trips on public transportation. It's mainly commuters who are responsible for the daily traffic jams in the relatively small capital city. With an area of 105 square kilometers (40.5 square miles), Paris is considerably smaller than Berlin (889 square kilometers or 343 square miles), for example. More than half the French capital's residents no longer own a car; only about 28 percent of those living around Paris own one. Not buying a car seems an obvious choice for the capital's 2,1 million downtown inhabitants, given that the average speed of cars travelling through the downtown streets is 15.9 kilometers an hour (9.9 mph).

So the 25-year strategy behind the urban planning concept known as "Greater Paris" envisions several concentric circles of public transportation within and around the French capital. That would allow those 20 percent of residents who travel from one suburb to another to travel along the city's periphery rather than through its center -- as they are forced to do today.

Local traffic, bicycles and pedestrians have the right of way -- that's the motto. Some in the city council are already thinking of a downtown toll for cars, in order to further cut down traffic. "Everyone who participates in the traffic network will still keep their place in the public arena," Ghislaine Geffroy emphasizes. She's the member of the city council responsible for planning the new tram system. "There's room for everyone," she says, "including motorists."

Store and restaurant owners along the route already expect better sales thanks to their neighborhood's aesthetic upgrade. Truck and cab drivers, on the other hand, have found a clever nickname for the T3 -- they call Paris' new tram a "constantly closing sliding door."


December 19th, 2006, 05:29 PM
Athens has a tram like this that goes from the center to the beach suburb of Glyfada. It's great, and it also features a strip of grass between the tracks, this reminded me of that.

December 19th, 2006, 09:07 PM
I like trams overall but I REALLY REALLY HATE those damn power lines all over the city. If you look at Toronto for example, those damn lines are in every single good photo taken from the street.

They make cities look sort of archaic and underdeveloped.

December 19th, 2006, 09:23 PM
^ When New York and Washington had trams, power came from underground via a continuous slot midway between the tracks. Hence no visible power lines.

December 20th, 2006, 04:40 AM
^ When New York and Washington had trams, power came from underground via a continuous slot midway between the tracks. Hence no visible power lines.That is in fact how most old tram networks across Europe got their power. Paris will eventually have a tram network that acts as a circle around the City of Paris, yet it should be pointed out that this is the first tram to actually run into the City of Paris, the previous three lines (first opened in 1992) run around Paris, but in the immensely dense urban area.

London re-introduced them in 2000, but hopes to build a 350 route km network spanning across the entire capital over the next few years.

December 20th, 2006, 05:51 AM
Florence is also getting a tram system:


Milan has an extensive system (note the overhead cables... they are quite a part of the Milan cityscape):



The genteel interiors:



New trams:


beautifully shaped bricks, metal tracks... stunning:


Stops just a few steps from the Opera house... which is pretty charming:


( I know this thread is about the new Paris tram, but I thought tram fans might enjoy this.)


December 20th, 2006, 07:32 AM
Those beautiful Milan trams are Peter Witt trams, conceived and designed by an American. From Wikipedia:

Peter Witt was a Cleveland Street Railway commissioner and designed a model of streetcar, known by his name, used in many United States cities and a few Canadian cities, such as Toronto.

This design was distinguished from other streetcars of the era by its use of the center door as an exit only, with a conductor stationed inside just before the door. Passengers could board through the front doors without waiting to pay, thereby reducing dwell time at stops. They could pay immediately and sit in the rear of the car, or wait in front and pay just before they exited.

* * *

They long ago vanished in North America, but you can ride them on San Francisco's "F" historic streetcar line to the Castro. San Francisco's cars came from Milan.
As you know, Milan now operates mostly with much more modern streetcars.

December 20th, 2006, 09:20 AM
A streetcar on Benzedrine:


December 22nd, 2006, 06:05 AM



January 6th, 2007, 08:38 PM
Is there free transfer between the tram and the numerous subway lines it intersects at stations?

January 6th, 2007, 08:57 PM
Very gorgeous. I can see that in NYC replacing the slower, dirtier buses we have now.

July 27th, 2007, 01:36 AM
July 26, 2007
Editorial Observer
I Love Paris on a Bus, a Bike, a Train and in Anything but a Car


Now that Michael Moore has broken a taboo by holding up France as a model for national health care, maybe it’s safe to point out other things France seems to do right. Like how Paris is trying to manage traffic and auto pollution.

What Paris has done right is to make it awful to get around by car and awfully easy to get around by public transportation or by bike. Any tourist in a rent-a-car who’s circumnavigated the Arc de Triomphe most likely will never drive in Paris again. But there are plenty of Parisians who do it all the time — far too many, in fact. So Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, a Socialist, vowed in coming to office in 2001 to reduce car traffic by 40 percent by 2020.

He’s serious about it. I live near the Boulevard St. Michel, and two years ago the city laid down a granite divider between the bus-only lane and the cars, squeezing private cars from three lanes to two. Taxis and bicycles may use the bus lane.

At the same time, every bus stop was newly equipped with a screen that told you how long the wait was for the bus. During rush hour, when the cars stand still along Boul’ Mich, there’s nothing better than zooming past them in a bus.

Bus routes reach the most obscure corners of Paris. There’s also the Metro — and especially the great Line No. 1, which runs on tires under the Champs-Élysées and beyond. Then there’s a nifty new tramway that runs along the southern rim of the city and several suburban train lines that can be used for rapid transport within the city.

In short, public transportation will take you where you want to go, and you can use it all you want on an electronic card that can be paid by the week or by the month (about $70 these days). Taxis, of course, can also be summoned anywhere by phone.

The lesson for big-city mayors: If you’re going to squeeze the cars, first primp the public ride.

Mayor Delanoë’s latest front in the anti-car war is the bicycle. Last week, more than 10,000 stolid, gray-painted bicycles (no Tour de France speedsters) became available for rent at 750 self-service locations across Paris. The cost is modest, less than $1.50 for a one-day pass, about $7.50 for a week and about $43.50 for a year — and the bikes can be dropped off at any docking station. The number of bikes is supposed to double by the end of the year. Already in their first week, the bikes are all over central Paris, many carrying commuters — and, yes, some New Yorkers. (An outdoor advertising company paid for everything in return for exclusive use of city-owned billboards.)

Lesson for all big cities: This is an idea whose time has come.

Now, a word about cars. In American cities, it’s “big.”

Parisians overwhelmingly buy small cars. And it’s not because people are petite, but because fuel is drop-dead expensive. Gasoline costs more than twice as much in Paris as in New York.

But the price of diesel fuel is deliberately set far lower. That’s because diesel-powered cars produce about 30 percent less greenhouse gas pollution than equivalent gasoline-powered engines. So car-buyers in Paris get small, diesel cars not because the French are virtuous (a separate topic), but because it makes economic good sense.

Many of these small cars have ample room for full-size people and have no trouble maintaining (or seriously exceeding) the 130 kilometers-per-hour (about 80 m.p.h.) limit on the national highways and are as clean and almost as quiet as gasoline engines.

The lesson for the next U.S. president: raise the taxes on fuel. A lot.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

July 27th, 2007, 04:13 PM
one of the things I like about NY is the LACK of a light rail messing traffic up even more.

but I agree...Paris by car...fuhget about it.Especially with all those crazy Parisians riding their scooters weaving through lanes like they're on a suicide mission.

I drove a small Diesel rental last time I was in France. If you think cars are small, wait till you see the parking spaces :)

July 27th, 2007, 06:56 PM
I've always been a fan of trams, and i'm glad to see they are making a comback in Paris - i'll look forward to using the system in the future when i visit paris. Most European cities have a tram system, on this side of the channel too they have also been making a comeback. Looking at old maps most English cities were criss crossed with tram lines, all of which disappeared after the war. Now they are re-appearing again. The most successful being Manchester, with several more lines panned:


http://img.search.com/thumb/3/3a/Metrolink_tram.jpg/300px-Metrolink_tram.jpg A manchester tram

Sheffield in Yorkshire:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/media/images/38162000/jpg/_38162482_tramgeneric300.jpg a sheffield tram

Croydon in south London


http://www.london-se1.co.uk/news/imageuploads/1164048992_62.49.27.213.jpg croydon tram.

There are others too, but its good to see their return. Its a bit of a 'geekish' interest of mine. Are there plans for a tram system in New York? Anyway as this is about Paris i don't want to hijack the discussion.

July 27th, 2007, 08:42 PM

This is my neighborhood, you can still see the Tram tracks in certain places on McDonald ave I believe.

Brooklyn, New York...birthplace of the Tram-way.