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Creating a Livable Community

In the late 1980's, Strasbourg, France, set out to reverse the city's course. Its downtown was dying and was overrun with automobiles, and the city had a deteriorating environment.

Under new political leadership in 1989, the city undertook initiatives designed to develop what was called a "sustainable city." In the relatively short period of six years, the city built a light rail system, closed off the central downtown area to traffic, improved and expanded public spaces, and upgraded pedestrian, bicycle, and transit investments.

The initiatives appear to be moving the city in the desired direction, and the growing success has captured the support an enthusiasm of the citizens. The downtown area has a high level of activity and the business community appears happy with the results. Development of the light rail system and its immediate ridership success has heightened the public's acceptance of the new directions set out in the city's strategy.

The transportation mode split seen in the 1980's was 73 percent for automobiles, 11 percent for transit, and 16 percent for bicycles and other two-wheeled vehicles. Although the transit share of travel would be considered high by U.S. standards, it was low by European standards an was not considered acceptable.

In 1989, a new mayor, Katherine Trautmann, was elected on a platform that focused on environmental and quality of life issues....

The city increased bus service by 30 percent and, over five years, built an eight-mile light rail line. The futuristic-looking light rail line, the centerpiece of the city's new transportation strategy, has 24 stops and includes a one-mile tunnel under the main train station and a portion of downtown. The alignment of the $272 million line serves well-established neighborhoods and major trip generators....

One characteristic feature of the light rail line is its sleek vehicles, designed with oversized windows, a lively interior color scheme, and low floors. Station plans are not elaborate, but fit in well with surrounding land uses. In keeping with the city's drive for a more livable environment, a good portion of the line's right of way uses track in grassy areas....

While initial projections showed 50,000 passengers a day using the system after 15 months of operation, after six months the light rail line is carrying 57,000 passengers a day....

The citizens of Strasbourg recently reaffirmed their support of the plan by re-electing Mayor Trautmann....

This is an excerpt of an article in the July 1995 edition of Passenger Transport


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Last updated: 7 April 1999