I recently visited Zürich, Switzerland, and one of many nice things about the city is that transit is much more stable than cars. You always know when you’re going to get to where you want to go.
In fact, Zürich has decreased traffic by 10 percent since 1990. So it’s not surprising that the city is consistently ranked among the top places in the world for quality-of-life.
Inner-city traffic is broken down like this: 44 percent walk, 27 percent take public transit, 22 percent drive cars, and 7 percent bike, which is amazingly less car-centric than most American cities.
Here are some other tidbits I found interesting about Zürich’s transportation elements:
There are a number of aggressive and fun promotions, like the advertisement above, which makes driving into the city’s center seem pretty intimidating.
Zürich is the city of tramways. They want to make sure trams are in all their publicity photos about the city. The trams provide what feels like a great sense of connectedness because they move around like big worms and you can walk all the way through them. They are a neat part of city life. They are always there, everywhere, and people can easily hop on and off. Between $9 million and $25 million in tram-modification costs are allocated in the city budget each year.
The number of downtown parking places for visitors and customers is limited to the level of the year 1990. This means that any time a new public parking garage opens, the same number of street parking places must be eliminated. This often means surface gets redesigned and more space opens up for pedestrians.
City planners use parking as a tool to slow down traffic. There are some spots where three cars will be parked on one side of the street and then three cars will be parked on the other side of the street, and so and so. Cars have to slow down and weave through these areas.
Planning for parking garages is very precise. We saw one two-year-old high-rise that had 2,400 people working n the building, yet there were only 94 parking spots available. It was not a problem because it was near public transit and they was plenty of bike parking.
After 30 years of planning and political struggle, the important Limmatquai Boulevard along the Limmat River and the old town was closed for through-traffic. Only trams, bicycles, taxis and cars for delivery of goods are allowed to use this street. According to a 2008 study, 94 percent of the pedestrians prefer today‘s situation, as do 60 percent of the shop owners along the boulevard.
The traffic lights at the city limits are used to control the incoming flow so that only as many cars get in as can be handled. Traffic monitors know if too much traffic is coming into the city and signal times will lose synchronicity, making drivers too frustrated and more likely to switch to a tram or train.
“Mobility days” and “weeks” are held in coordination with schools, and children learn to analyze their routes between home and school. Possible solutions to insecure places – or “planning cracks” – are discussed with experts.
There is a fledgling bikeshare program, like DC’s Capital Bikeshare, but we walked for days and never saw one of the sharebikes. Not sure of the reason for that.
Check out this short Eltis/European Union video of how it has all come together for this beautiful city that is considered one of the financial capitals of the world.