On October 5-11, 2018, the summer school Sustainable Mobility: Made in Leipzig was held, and in this article we will brief you on the most interesting things we have heard and seen during the week.
This event is a wonderful opportunity to learn, about experience of other cities and countries in transport development or streets arrangement, from people who do this in practice or research these issues in universities. First summer school took place in 2016 in cooperation of Leipzig City Council and Technical University of Dresden.
This year, the event returned to the city where it was started. This time, it gathered about 140 people from 38 countries of the world and the biggest share of these was Ukrainian – 30 participants, out of which 15 were from Lviv.
Next biggest shares were of the Russian, Chilean, Czech and Albanian.
The very city met us with heat and lawns, completely burnt by sun – since early summer this place had seen no rain and the temperature maintained at 30 degrees Celcius. “Welcome to tropical Germany” – said the representative of Leipzig City Council, while greeting the participants. The city council addressed its residents with an appeal to occasionally water trees by their houses.
Soon Leipzig will have local elections and one of the city’s discussion concerns the issue of future transport strategy of the city. An important factor is the fact that the city’s population is every year growing by 10-12 thousand residents and transport system should be ready to change.
There are several main potential development scenarios elaborated. Then they are assessed in terms of weaknesses and strengths and ranked with respect to others. The following scenarios are considered realistic: priority to public transport, bicycle priority, stable scenario (reduction of trips by car by 25% and promotion of trips by bike and PT) and scenario of public funding – introduction of municipal tax for additional funding of public transport.
There are also scenarios “leave as it is” and “leave as it is but fix fares”. Two latter options are considered the ones that will in future cause collapse of the city’s transport system. Now proceeds from the tickets sale cover about 70% of the expenses of transport operator, and the rest is covered by payment from municipal budget (for the provided transport services) that was few years ago fixed at a level of 45 million Euro per year. This is the reason why the transport operator every year has to somewhat increase fare. Taking into account the continuous growth of population there are now discussions on the need to increase the limit of municipal funding.
The listed above is considered realistic, though there are also two scenarios that are considered completely unrealistic and are not elaborated in detail – reduction of expenses for public transport and development of car-oriented infrastructure.
Assessment of efficiency of every option. Nowadays the city trends towards the scenario of public transport priority what however does not hinder development of cycling infrastructure.
The other lecture, read by Stefan Besier, an engineering consultant of Transport Department of Leipzig, was devoted to issues and challenges of the public transport system of Leipzig and the considered options for their solution.
The basis of public transport of Leipzig is tram and almost all its routes converge on the ring street surrounding the city center. Consequently, some sections are now stretched to the limit. Currently, the system works in more or less stable way, but emergence of any new route can completely ruin this delicate balance.
On many node stops of the central ring, the tram stops have several lines for every direction and even this does not prevent from traffic jams – one tram is letting the passengers off while another one is already waiting for its turn. As a result, every tram while passing by the central ring, loses on average ninety seconds.
There are several options of solving these problems considered: tunnels of different length under the center, creation of tram and pedestrian street in the city center, provision for alternative bypass tram lines. Every option has its pros and contras. For instance, the tunnel will allow prompt passing, through the center, of longer tram cars, but its construction will take years and will need federal co-funding that might be not granted at all. Too long underground system will need expensive maintenance. Laying lines right across the city center looks attractive, but tram operator is afraid that trams will encounter an obstacle on its way – crowds of people, and the very city dwellers may be against such an idea.
Currently, the most realistic is the arrangement of alternative tracks and chordal routes bypassing the center. A reserve for increasing the capacity is an increase in tram length, which is relevant in the context of population growth.
The following day, the story of Stefan Bezier about the tram continued from the point of view of street design and infrastructure details. As it turned out, in this plan, German transporters are very actively studying and mimicking the experience of French neighbors, who in recent years have built many modern tram systems. The replies “But in France …” sounded many times from different people.
Multiple-lane arteries with a tram, moving along the city center on the track, are becoming a history as they are uncomfortable for people and make drivers exceed the safety speed limit. Instead, they try to increasingly vegetate the tracks and possibly locate them by the side, visually integrating them with the parks and public spaces what creates absolutely another quality and space comfort.
Why street vegetation is important? For instance, trees decrease the level of noise, clean the atmosphere, decrease the temperature of the street, retain the dust, absorb a part of water. The similar effect is also provided by green track that, moreover, holds the rainwater. In general, favorable street design is important as the more aesthetic the streets looks – the longer distance people would walk to the public transport stop.
Often it is laying of new tracks that leads to complete readjustment of the street with equipment of new public spaces and planting of many new trees.
Transport planning, according to Stefan Besier, must be based on interaction of two components – functional and aesthetic ones, and both of them are important for final qualitative result. We can make tram move without breakdowns and delays, but it is unlikely to attract the car driver, if it looks “awful” and is inconvenient in terms of access.
Similarly, important is outfitting of stops as they are very good visual representation of the transport company’s attitude to its passenger and the condition of stops, among other factors, defines whether he/she will be waiting for the tram or prefer other mode of transport.
The frequent argument against electric transport is the fact that its overhead wiring spoils the looks of the streets. Every country has developed their own approach to its arrangement and in this terms French and Swiss solutions are more delicate that those applied in Germany.
Huge impact on the look of the street has design of overhead wiring bearing. The counterweight for contact wires tension may be hidden inside the columns or made look more attractive.
To be continued in part 2