Impressions of a sustainable mobility concept in Strasbourg
More and more, Europeans are realizing the advantages of bus transport systems that are effective and attractive in terms of urban development. The pioneer is France, where the government is providing large amounts of financial support for the expansion of BRT systems. So what does one of these BRT systems look like in practice? Robert Möhring, a BRT team intern, went to Strasbourg to find out.
BRT is also known in Europe as BHLS. The two terms are actually related. BRT stands for "Bus Rapid Transit" and BHLS for "Buses with High Level of Service." Cities build structurally demarcated routes exclusively for modern buses, which have priority over other traffic at crossroads. Outside Europe, the term BRT is normally used. In many places, BRT is the first properly organized means of public transport with a high passenger handling capacity. In Europe, however, this is referred to as BHLS. The overall design is tailored to the context of European cities and focuses less on maximizing capacity. Adding value to the urban environment is the main priority.
During the construction phase, the BRT team visited Strasbourg several times and also spoke with operator CTS and planning authority CUS about the background of the project. The decision to build a BHLS system in place of a tram system was made deliberately – due to limited financial resources and better development of the planning area. This aspect is probably relevant for many German municipalities, as well.
10:00 a.m. The sun is shining – perfect weather for exploring the corridor. Where a field once stood is now the site of the northern Park & Ride parking lot and the final stop of "Ligne G." It's the quickest way to transfer from your car to the bus. It's remarkable how much more attractive and friendlier the road looks with the corridor as opposed to a normal, four-lane road. You could say that "Ligne G," with its harmonious, modern design and intelligent details – such as the colorful interior and bodywork – is very appealing. Details and materials used for the bus stops have been skillfully arranged; everything seems sophisticated and of a high quality.
At 10:30, I meet a group of students (part of the approximately 10,000 daily passengers). They had traveled on the brightly colored buses to the "Chambre de Metiers" stop in the "Espace Européen de l’Enterprise" industrial park just for fun.
11:30, next stop: Arago. Here, the new BHLS corridor passes through the "cité" – an area with social housing blocks typical of the 60s and 70s. I get the impression that the corridor is already adding noticeable value to the area and improving the quality of life for residents.
Now a walk toward "Rieth." This is an interesting crossroads where you can still clearly see the tracks left behind by the original route planning for the tram. The area is surrounded by an ultra-modern building that was erected almost simultaneously with the construction of the BHLS corridor. From a planning perspective, this is a good example of successfully integrated city and transport planning.
12:30 p.m.: The most complex crossroads along the route is located at CTS headquarters. At the beginning of 2012, there was still a tunnel here passing under the main road. No traces of this remain today. I am amazed at the extent to which these infrastructures have been altered to make way for the BHLS corridor.
1:30: Arrival at the central train station, the "Gare de Strasbourg." My first trip in a BHLS system with a Citaro G CNG has come to an end.
On the return journey to Stuttgart, I decide that we need sophisticated BHLS corridors just like this in Berlin and in other German cities, too.