Monday, May 17, 2010

The Olympic Line Streetcar?

So, one of the mini-quests on my Europe holiday was to get a few pictures of the Olympics Line streetcars in Brussels. I wasn't really surprised, but never-the-less amazed at how important streetcars (trams in Eurospeak) are to the transportation system. In North America, we see the streetcar as something between a bus and light rail, but that thinking may be wrong.

In Brussels, streetcars form part of the backbone of their transportation system. Yes they have 4 metro lines and 50 bus lines, but they also have 19 streetcar lines! Did I mention there is under 2 million people in the region?

Bus stuck in traffic

It really is amazing how flexible streetcars are . They operate in the metro system and on separated right-of-ways (going faster than the traffic). They also operate with mixed traffic. I think we should scrap SkyTrain and even what we think of as light rail. In this tight economic time, we should be embracing the streetcar for it efficiency, speed, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness. Portland's streetcar cost about 100 time less than SkyTrain.

Streetcar in private right-of-way

Streetcar operating in Metro Tunnel

Also interesting to note is that they actually have leather seats and hand-rails on the streetcars. (And I thought they just souped-up the cars for the Olympics.)

PS: They had no fare gates that I saw in Brussels.

No comments: