When traveling I like to use public transit as much as possible, and Leipzig's tram system does not disappoint.
I couldn't help but think of the semi-profane Saturday Night Live digital short "I'm on a Boat" with a group of overenthusiastic guys parading around in costumes rapping about how hot it is that they're on a yacht. I avoided both the rapping and the regatta wear, but I found myself almost unreasonably happy to be riding the tram. It's quick, it's clean, and it's predictable: monitors on the platform tell you exactly when the next tram will arrive.
First, to ride: you buy your ticket either on the platform -- or, prepare to be shocked, New Yorkers -- on the actual tram itself. (How many times have you wished for a MetroCard machine inside the turnstile?)
Once on the tram, you validate your ticket. There are no turnstiles or barriers to entry -- it basically works on the honor system. So why pay at all? Because Germany has roaming undercover ticket police who will board a tram and call out "Fahrkarten, Fahrausweise, bitte," at which point everyone is obligated to hold up their validated tickets. If you fail to show one, the fine is somewhere in the €30 to €50 range. According to a Berliner I spoke to, the Fahrkartenkontrolleur are not amused by your excuses.
Note too in the following picture --on the top center -- you'll see a pair of television monitors. These are on every tram car I rode on. The one on the right runs ads. The one on the left provides a rolling, visual station stop list.
The only unnerving thing about trams, at least if you're used to city subway systems, is that since their tracks are laid into the street, you must often cross them. OF COURSE THE TRACKS ARE NOT ELECTRIFIED. But a healthy respect for the third rail is part of my DNA and I couldn't bring myself to actually step ON a rail, choosing instead to advertise my out-of-townness by casually hopping over them.
And because they run on the street, they have their own traffic lights.
I'm sure the average German commuter is jaded. But as a transit tourist, the tram was a trip.
Top stories on TN:
Exploring Grand Central’s Secrets, With the Author of Hugo Cabret (Link)
California Budget Supports Bullet Train, Would Create New Transportation Agency (Link)
Houston Starts Small As It Tries Out First-Ever Bike Share (Link)
Transit advocates are expressing doubt over the capacity to run an express subway train from midtown Manhattan to a proposed new convention center in Queens. (WNYC)
Montpellier, France, is installing "what may be Europe’s sexiest tram system." (New York Times)
Nigerian unions have launched a nationwide strike over soaring fuel costs. (BBC)
Taking parking lots seriously as public spaces: "Lots don’t need to be dead zones." (New York Times)
One-way streets are in the crosshairs of some city planners. (National Post)
The Detroit Auto Show is happening this week. (Detroit Free Press; coverage)
Legislation being drawn up in Atlanta could play a key role in determining the fate of the state's $6.14 billion transportation referendum scheduled for this summer. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
To market more cars to Americans, Volkswagen is getting less German. (NPR)
Los Angeles Times pro-high-speed rail editorial: "The point is, you can take the long view or the short view toward the bullet train. The expert panels are taking a short view; we prefer the long."
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey wants to start construction of a new Central Terminal Building at La Guardia Airport in 2014. (Wall Street Journal)
Police are ticketing passengers for subway infractions like propping up feet on a seat, blocking the doors, or taking up more than one seat. (New York Times)
Transit advocates haven't given up hope yet for a bus lane over the new Tappan Zee Bridge. (Journal News)
"Let's do a bicycle ride!" Ron Paul wants to prove he's healthy enough to be president. (Politico)
Before the "L," Chicago ran on cable cars. (WBEZ)
Reminder: New York City's first-ever subway line work shutdown begins tonight. (TN)
(New York -- Jim O’Grady, WNYC) Hundreds of Roosevelt Island residents showed up this morning to do what they hadn’t been able to do for the past nine months: ride a tram above New York's East River into Manhattan. The tram had been shut down for three months longer than planned to undergo a $25 million renovation. All but the base of its three towers were replaced and sleek red gondolas with wraparound windows were put into service.
The tram now runs on parallel sets of cables that are powered separately, allowing its two gondolas to run independently of each other. Previously, the gondolas used a system that functioned as if they were on a clothesline so when one malfunctioned, the second stopped moving, too. And when one gondola was at the Manhattan station, the other had to be at Roosevelt Island, a mostly residential island in between Manhattan and Queens, NY.
Under the new system, both gondolas can be sent from one side or the other to handle rush hour. And a gondola can now be taken out of service at night if demand is light. Crucially, the tram can keep running with one gondola if the other needs to be grounded for maintenance.
The gondolas can now carry almost 200 people—up from 125—and travel on cables that are wider than before. That’s to help stabilize them as they glide 230 feet above the often windy East River.
Roosevelt Island resident Cynthia Baird showed up to check out the new tram but not to ride it. She said she and several of her neighbors had decided to wait before boarding the tram, though it’s much quicker than taking the subway's F train or Q102 bus. When asked why, she said: “In case it falls. I don’t want to be in it!”
Baird figures she’ll wait a day or two to let the kinks be worked out before returning to the tram and, along with many of the island’s 14,000 residents, her regularly scheduled commute.