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Zurich, the World's Best Transit City

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#1
Zurich, the World's Best Transit City


12 December 2011

By Norman W. Garrick

Read More: http://www.planetizen.com/node/53044


.....

The thing that sets Zurich apart is not just the frequency of the individual bus lines, but the density and interconnectedness of the overall network of buses, trams, commuter rail, funicular railroads and ferries on Lake Zurich. So each morning I have to decide what is the best way to get to the ETH from Urdorf. With my American mind-set I had the idea that to get from one edge place to the other I would have to go through the center of town. I quickly learned that in Zurich it does not work from like that – trips between any two places are much more direct.

- So one lesson that I am learning in Zurich is that an important element in getting 60% of the people in a very wealthy city to use transit is by making an extremely flexible system that is convenient for travel to almost any point in the city, the surrounding communities and even into the nearby Alps. The coordinated and integrated system here makes the American transit obsession with the one-seat ride seem downright silly and totally impractical for serving any but the idealized radial city that probably exist only in the mind of the planner.

- So who pays the freight for this incredible system? Well, surprisingly almost 50% of the cost is from the fare box – this is much higher than most transit systems in the United States. What is clear is that the benefits to the city are immense. The city is remarkably free of cars and all that goes with it – the noise, the pollution, the traffic accidents, the big roads and parking lots. In fact, since Zurich started a program of constantly upgrading their transit system in the late 1970s they have been able to reduce parking in the city center, curtail the building of highways and have actually converted an increasing amount of street space to transit use and public space for people.

- The real story of Zurich is not just about the current state of transit in the city but also a 40-year history of constant upgrades to transit and a lessening of the impact of cars on the city over that time and the concomitant flowering of the city as one of the most livable in the world. It is a story that should be better known in the USA, if only to contradict the idea that in order to thrive cities need to turn themselves into machines for moving traffic. In Zurich they have slowly and steadily worked over the last 40 years to do the exact opposite, while making the city more livable in the process.

.....




A tram in Zurich. Photo: austinevan.






The Zurich Funicular. Photo: Rob Ketcherside.






A bus-only lane in Zurich. Photo: Eurist e.V.

 
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#3
The idea that public transit doesn't have to go through downtown in order to travel from any random area to another rests on the assumption that density is relatively high across areas.

Zurich can do this because with a population of 372k, the city covers only 88 sq km. On the other hand, Canadian suburban cmunicipalities like Brampton, Mississauga, Halifax, with similar or greater population, have a a much larger and therefore more sparse land

Brampton 266 sq km
Mississauga: 288 sq km
Halifax: 262 sq km

I will put it here: you either give up your low density single family house suburban lifestyle or you put up with poor public transit. You just can't have both. Cities like Brampton will never have a good public transit system.
 

Memph

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#4
The idea that public transit doesn't have to go through downtown in order to travel from any random area to another rests on the assumption that density is relatively high across areas.

Zurich can do this because with a population of 372k, the city covers only 88 sq km. On the other hand, Canadian suburban cmunicipalities like Brampton, Mississauga, Halifax, with similar or greater population, have a a much larger and therefore more sparse land

Brampton 266 sq km
Mississauga: 288 sq km
Halifax: 262 sq km

I will put it here: you either give up your low density single family house suburban lifestyle or you put up with poor public transit. You just can't have both. Cities like Brampton will never have a good public transit system.
Density (people/km2)

Zurich: 4,049
Mississauga: 2,559
Brampton: 1,912

Zurich seems higher... but we're only looking at Zurich's city proper, which has less than 20% of the metropolitan area, looking at the greater Zurich area, most of the suburbs/commuter towns have densities of 1,000-3,000.

Toronto's city proper has a density of 3,972, comparable to Zurich but makes up about 40% of the population of the metropolitan area.

While the densities of the Zurich metro and GTA are in fact quite similar, Zurich's city proper has 74% of people walking/biking/taking transit, and the numbers remain high at 60% for the suburbs.

This isn't to say that we shouldn't be striving for higher population densities, but there are clearly other reasons why Toronto's transit ridership isn't that high, including low density suburban employment and few crosstown and suburb to suburb rapid transit lines.
 
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#5
This isn't to say that we shouldn't be striving for higher population densities, but there are clearly other reasons why Toronto's transit ridership isn't that high, including low density suburban employment and few crosstown and suburb to suburb rapid transit lines.
I agree. And I know more or less what the other reasons are: gas price.
Increase Toronto gas price to Zurich level, and people will be forced to just more public transit. For example, right now, it is about C$1.9-2 in Zurich, versus $1.1-1.2 per liter in Toronto, about 75% difference.
Probably Toronto's gas price should be 75% higher to force a lifestyle change.
 

11th

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#7
Zurich seems higher... but we're only looking at Zurich's city proper, which has less than 20% of the metropolitan area, looking at the greater Zurich area, most of the suburbs/commuter towns have densities of 1,000-3,000.

Toronto's city proper has a density of 3,972, comparable to Zurich but makes up about 40% of the population of the metropolitan area.
Interesting to point out, for Toronto, the downtown wards combined have roughly 343k population over an area of around 60km/2, which equates to 5,716 people/km2.
 

Register123

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#8
Can we increase ridership, with the TTC in its current state? I thought it was at capacity, particularly during rush.
 

nfitz

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#9
Can we increase ridership, with the TTC in its current state? I thought it was at capacity, particularly during rush.
Sure they can. The new subway trains immediately increase capacity on the Bloor-Danforth line, and even provide for some capacity increase on the Yonge-University line. The Spadina subway extension also will increase capacity when it opens. As will the resignalling project on the Yonge-University line. The increase in loading standards on buses also increases capacity (as the existing under utilized buses are still available to be assigned elsewhere). The new streetcars will also allow for a significant capacity increase on those routes.
 

TrickyRicky

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#10
Switzerland has amazing infrastructure from the Bahnhof to the top of every mountain. While there are certainly lessons for us in seeing what works there (I was born in Zurich) the fact is the GTA is 7125 km^2. By contrast the entire nation of Switzerland is only 41300 km^2 and already had amazing public infrastructure 100 years ago. It's not just about population density or money, things that both the GTA and Switzerland posess in abundance, it is about the concentration of investment. In Switzerland they have been concentrating investment for hundreds of years into a small geographic area that all levels of government from the Cities to the Cantons to the Federal Government share responsibility for.
 
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Electrify

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#11
Looking at a map on its website, one thing worth pointing out to is that they have scale down perfectly. Like Toronto, their local light rail and bus networks share similar stop spacing patterns. However, despite the higher densities, their stops are about 300-400m apart as opposed to the 200-300m apart in Toronto. On their central city system map, bus lines are shown with almost as much prominence as tram lines, and show all stops as well. Meanwhile, they use their S-Bahn for regional travel, which stops somewhere between a subway and a GO train.

To put things into a Toronto context, imagine if Toronto's city limits were basically the downtown area. Bus and streetcar stops would be about the same as the subway currently is through this stretch. Meanwhile, a Yonge St. "S-Bahn" Would probably stop only at Union, Queen, College, Bloor, and Summerhill (to connect to rail service along the CPR line) before returning to the current standard stopping pattern.

Also, credit to them for having bi-articulated trolley buses:

[video=youtube;yspsFpcIHgU]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yspsFpcIHgU[/video]

Why can't we have nice things like that? :(
 
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jwill

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#13
The interesting thing is that they've squeezed out subways by making trams and buses work very well for short and medium distance trips, and using mainline railway (with limited tunnels through the city centre) for long distance trips. Comparing the whole region to the GTA is ridiculous, since Zurich is made up of a collection of small settlements linked by narrow valleys, unlike Toronto's pattern of an ever-expanding blob. But I think the real lesson is that the infrastructure we already have (streetcars and mainline railways) could be doing a lot more if we followed some of the policy decisions Zurich has made.
 

brainfreezed

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#14
Some interesting points about the swiss, that do just about everything right in terms of urban and intercity travel...

- Almost all trams in Switzerland have been standardized to metre guage
- The country is 60% mountainous and still has the densest rail network in the world
- You can get a yearly travel pass that allows you to travel anytime on every Swiss federal railways train, transit systems, intercity buses and most private and tourist trains. It's a little pricy, but you can instead buy a yearly half-fare card that cuts every fare in half.
- The Swiss go out of their way to make things easy, you can use your smartphone to buy tickets online and display a QR code on the screen as a travel pass for inspectors
- Many trams, trains and buses have screens inside showing upcoming stops, what routes connect there and when the next bus/tram leaves that stop. These are also all announced.
- All timetables for every transport operator in the country are only changed on the second sunday of December, national timetable change day, so all route changes and new routes start then and are coordinated with all other services.
- Enter any two points on the swiss rail website, and it will give you a travel itinerary using all available forms of public transport (including cable cars and boats)
- The website provides realtime disruption information. At the moment there are four rail disruptions in Switzerland: Storm damage, two snowfall disruptions and a fallen tree. They are all expected to be cleared by 11 pm on the 21st and have alternate services provided. Try getting that detail from TTC, metrolinx or whoever.

The Swiss are obsessive about their public transport. While we have very different geographies, population densities and culture to compare, there are many things we can learn from them.
 

Amy Rose

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#15
Also, credit to them for having bi-articulated trolley buses:

[video=youtube;yspsFpcIHgU]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yspsFpcIHgU[/video]
Good luck with trying to get bi artics in Toronto, since the MTO already had a fuss with GO's dd orders, and I doubt there would be a NA company that offers bi-artics.