Tuesday, December 29, 2009

French Lessons

Strasbourg Cathedral

The beautiful cathedral city of Strasbourg, France, has some lessons to teach the US about inner-city transit.  It's interesting to note that the debate in Strasbourg wasn't over whether to build more public transit (or eliminate it), but whether to build it above-ground or underground.  Ben Adler writes:

"This being France, where the entire political spectrum is to America’s left, the conservatives running for city council in 1989 actually favored building a subway. But the socialists, led by Catherine Trautmann and Roland Ries, wanted to build a new tram. Conservatives and local business owners objected, arguing that a tram would take precious lanes away from cars. But that was exactly the point: to transform streets from hectic, unpleasant gasoline alleys into vibrant, multi-use communal spaces. “The tram means that you change the city,” explains Jonathan Naas, transportation policy coordinator for Roland Ries, who is now mayor. By creating a buffer from the cars, he says, “You create places to walk, outdoor cafes to sit outside.”

Click here for a link to Ben Adler, "The French Revolution:  How Strasbourg Gave Up the Car (And Why Midsized American Cities Can Too)," Next American City (Winter 2009).

Will Cook, Charleston School of Law


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