One of the more colorful trams in Zurich.
Today’s San Jose Mercury News
ran an editorial by architect Thang Do that outlined what we need to do to make Silicon Valley a better place to live.
He warns that with all the construction underway, we better do something about our transportation system or we’re headed for permanent gridlock.
He mentions Zurich as a shining example of a city that understands public transportation. Here’s why:
The city has an integrated and comprehensive network of tram, rail, bus, and even riverboats to take you where you want to go in the city, throughout the country for that matter. One ticket gives access to all public transportation, with the exception of intra-city rail.
Imagine stepping out of the Zurich airport with all your luggage and walking fewer than 50 yards to a waiting tram whose platform is flush to the pavement. Just roll your baggage on.
A model of transportation efficiency. Hauptbahnhof station with bike racks.
Every tram has an LED screen that shows your location and the stops ahead, including connecting trams. Every stop has a shelter with an LED sign indicating the time of arrival for trams, along with machines for purchasing tickets.
Local trains accommodate bicycles and stations have large areas dedicated to bicycle parking. Many streets have bicycle lanes and because there are relatively few cars on the streets, traffic is not an issue.
VTA light rail does have one up on the Swiss trams: VTA provides racks for bikes.
Zurich and Switzerland have thought of everything when it comes to getting around on public transportation. There’s no need to own a car, which is a reality for most people living in the landlocked country. That’s a good thing because living in Zurich is as expensive, if not more so, than living in Silicon Valley.
We can learn from Zurich. The sad truth about Silicon Valley is that the Valley of the Heart’s Delight once had a wonderful light-rail network, which was dismantled piece by piece with the arrival of the automobile.
Light-rail line from the late 1800s exposed on The Alameda in 1984 at Santa Clara University bypass.
In hindsight, we blew it, but we mustn’t give up hope. We can build a transportation system equal to that of Zurich. All we have to do is, in the words of Patrick Stewart: “Make it so.”
Even the fanciest shopping area, Bahnhofstrasse, has light rail.
Intra-city and intra-regional trains whisk you all over the country with ease.
Tram interiors are roomy and accommodate luggage.
Ticket machines are everywhere and take all manner of payment.
You can even take riverboats in Zurich. They thought of everything.