A Grander Paris Through a Rapid Circumferential Metro

» French national government and Paris region officials agree to more than €30 billion in transit improvements by 2025.

From an international perspective, there are two really significant things about the newly approved plans for a radial rapid transit system around the French capital: First, its primary service area will be in the suburbs rather than in the center city; second, it will prioritize very fast transit times over local area connectivity.

These characteristics make last week’s agreement by regional and national officials to construct the Grand Paris Express network of rapid transit lines a truly significant pattern break in thinking about how to engage in the creation of better public transportation systems. Will this €22.7 billion ($31 billion) transit line, in connection with €12 billion in upgrades to the existing system, make Paris a model for local mobility? Or does it represent poor decision-making on the part of French authorities?

The agreement will require €9 billion in contributions from the state, €9 billion from the region and other local governments, €7 billion from new taxes mostly derived from tax-increment financing around station areas, and €7 billion from debt. It comes after years of political debate over how to better serve Paris’ near suburbs — and at the end of a series of public meetings on the question which will come to an end on Monday. Two proposals have been put forward: Regional authorities have been pushing what they call the Arc Express, a 37-mile route that would run a tight circle around the city and serve 50 stations or so; the national government, on the other hand, argued for its Métro Grand Paris, a 96-mile extension of the Metro Line 14 serving airports and far-off suburbs with only about 40 stations. To make matters even more complicated, a group of architects even submitted a counter-proposal.

The two government projects were fundamentally opposed in their basic conception of the role of transit — the first suggested that fine-grained station stops were essential, whereas the second argued for fewer stations and faster service — but each was concentrated on addressing the travel needs of people in the suburbs, who currently are required to enter into Paris to complete most trips by rail transit. The near-in suburbs, collectively referred to as the Petite Couronne and encompassing three départements (counties), have a population of about 4.4 million, compared to the 2.2 million who reside in Paris proper.

Whereas the final agreement, called the Grand Paris Express, has essentially combined the two routes into one system, the national government’s effort to decrease travel times rather than serve more neighborhoods has mostly won out. The project, which will be the first new metro line announced for Paris since 1989 and the first new system conceived since the 1960s, will significantly speed travel between destinations along its corridor.

Automated trains running 24 hours a day will be up and running along some segments of the line by 2020 and the whole project should be completed by 2025. Operations will be comprised of an extended Metro Line 14 south to Orly Airport and north to St. Denis as the backbone of the system; a spur to Charles de Gaulle Airport; two parallel circumferential routes to the east of the city; and one or two circumferential routes to the west. The southwestern line, proposed to serve the university town of Saclay, has been criticized for running through a rural area that is unlikely to attract much ridership, or that will sprawl out of control. Though President Sarkozy has emphasized his support for the line, the regional government — partly controlled by the Green Party — has thus far refused to agree to this part of the project, saying they will only fund improved buses for the area.

Combined with about €12 billion in other funds also now dedicated for upgrades for the radial RER regional rail system, several new tramway and tram-train lines, and a number of metro extensions, the Grand Paris Express represents a massive investment in suburban mobility. The funding mechanism, premised on the idea that development will expand around stations, suggests that both the national and regional governments are committed to building up the already dense suburbs into truly urban areas of their own right. If the Paris region is known for very high transit mode shares within and to the center city, the automobile still dominates 80% of trips between suburbs. This infrastructure investment seems likely to change that equation significantly.

Signing an agreement to fund €30 billion worth of infrastructure would be a big deal in any country, but Paris’ announcement is particularly significant because it required negotiation and accords between a left-wing regional government and right-wing national government. Since both will be contributing to the project’s costs, each had to agree to all of the proposed routes. At least for now, this eliminated the least reasonable part of the plan — the southwestern segment — and guaranteed a second alignment for the areas to the northwest of the city, which are some of the country’s densest and most impoverished.

That said, the Grand Paris Express project is certainly taking a major risk by emphasizing fast speeds over neighborhood access. By limiting stops to every kilometer at the minimum (with several sections featuring inter-station intervals of 5 km or more), most people along the alignment will not be within an easy walking distance of a station. Once they get onto a train, however, they will be within about an hour’s access of almost everywhere in the built-up metropolitan region; similar conditions currently cannot be found anywhere in the world’s megacities because of the radial arrangement of transit lines almost everywhere that slow suburb-to-suburb travel.

One way to handle this problem would have been to implement an express-local arrangement such as is present in New York City, but this evidently was not under consideration by French planners. The construction of dense urban villages around stations with the goal of concentrating most of the metropolitan area’s growth within them, though, could reduce that problem significantly, especially since tramway lines already under construction throughout the suburbs will aid in picking up local passengers and depositing them onto the express system.

* Map above has Metro, RER, and Tram lines dotted that are in planning and solid if existing or under construction. Grand Paris Express Lines that are dotted are being considered for alternate alignments.

55 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Depending on how much schedule discipline the line would have, it may be feasible to have a Japanese-style local-express system, with two tracks and passing segments.

    By the way, should I be reading anything into the fact that the stop spacing is planned to be denser in the western and southern suburbs than in the northern and eastern ones?

  • Mike O

    > Depending on how much schedule discipline the line would have, it may be feasible to have a Japanese-style local-express system, with two tracks and passing segments.

    I was thinking the same thing, but recognizing the system is automated, having the “passing” tracks in the major stations. Essentially, (and ideally) four trans would meet at a station. The two express ones would leave first, followed by the locals. By the time the local arrived at the next station, its corresponding express would be right on its heels. And the four tracks would allow another meet.

    From a practical standpoint, it’s unlikely that the five or six major stations would be evenly spaced around the circle. And different segments would have more or fewer local stations.

    The closest American example I am familiar with is BART’s orange line – Richmond to Fremont. Although it is designed as essentially a radial line for Oakland, it acts like a suburban ring line, with a steady flow of people all day long, many riding only three or four stations. The personality of each station varies. El Cerrito Del Norte is primarily a parking hub for suburban commuters driving down from Vallejo. And 400 passengers can exit in 20 seconds. Commuters are quick. While Berkeley has a salad of passengers – students, workers, tourists … – and it takes four minutes for fifty people to offboard!

  • laldm

    This is kind of incredible. Paris already has one of the best transit systems in the world and they are spending huge sums to expand it…

    • Metropolitan

      That all depends about what you call “Paris”… ;-)

      The old city proper of Paris, built in the first half of the 20th century, has probably among the top 3 best transportation system in the world. Unfortunately, we don’t build offices there anymore !

      All new office spaces are built in the suburbs, and it’s been nearly 30 years that it’s the case. The city of Paris in itself has as destiny to become a tourist theme park, where lives few people having as political agenda to remove the suburbanites out of the center.

      Unfortunately, we built many offices in the surrounding boroughs but we forgot that the transportation network was made to bring people in the damn’ center! As a result, it doesn’t work anymore! Taking transportation at rush hour in Paris is a real nightmare.

      Building suburb-to-suburb network is vital for the economical survival of Paris (nothing less). However, this is not enough. We should bring back offices in the center. A city which doesn’t move anymore is a dead city. I refuse to see central Paris as a dead city.

      The choice of the government to have a purely central network (the metro) and a new purely suburban network is the wrong one. The smart choice would have been to build a new center+suburb network. It wouldn’t have been more costly, it would have only required to think about the integration of the new in the old. Something which obviously is NOT the case here.

  • Mason Hicks

    Alon,
    Interesting idea, but I am not sure that I can see your scenario working in this format… Admittedly, I haven’t seen the Japanese system. Line 14 now is working ninety second headways at rush hour… I personally timed it a few weeks ago, while I was waiting to meet a fellow train geek that was visiting me from Atlanta.
    During that time, I witnessed one empty train pass thru with sixty seconds clear before and after; which would go towards making your case. However, shortly afterwards, I witnessed a passenger shove his briefcase between the closing doors in order to force them to re-open so he could board. This created a three-minute delay, and it took the next three or four cycles for the system to fully recover its headway interval… If you add the complexity of express trains interlaced between local serving trains; I doubt that the system could effectively deal with such anomalies.
    Of course this doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be investigated…

  • Rational Plan

    No it should not be investigated.

    You can not interweave local and express services like that and maintain a high frequency. If your solution is to build four platform stations, then you might as well build a four track system as well, as the major expense these days is the stations themselves.

    And if you would go to the expense of four track route, why not have two, two track routes and cover twice the area.

    • The Chuo Rapid Line interweaves local and express services on two tracks with passing segments, with a peak headway of about 130 seconds. A line with newer driverless metro technology should be able to do better.

      It’s probably impossible to do this on Line 14, because its central segment is already built, but it’s feasible on the circumferential line.

  • Tijl

    Sadly Translien connections are missing from the map. These would show even more interconnections with the planned stations.

    These trains are typically a little less frequent than the inner RER segments but they do run in express and local stopping patterns (though not for the full line, for example a train will not stop at most stations close to Paris, and in the suburbs stop at every station). There are also pretty radial, for example Becon – La Defense – Saint Cloud is completely parallel to an existing line) though there is no enclosed circle.

    Where RER can take you all the way into the city, Translien will be an important feeder onto this new circle, and at some spots it will also enable you fast transit from the circle into the big terminus stations inside Paris, all of which are transport hubs Metro and RER themselves.

  • Mike O

    > I witnessed a passenger shove his briefcase between the closing doors in order to force them to re-open so he could board. This created a three-minute delay,

    Sounds familiar. Generally, the last ten people to board a train cause 90 percent of the problems. One solution is to have vestibules on the platform, that lock down as the train approaches. The second is fare enforcement officers giving tickets (fines) for door blockers.

    That is interesting that Transilien lines aren’t included. During off peak, does Transilien run on a 15 minute schedule? I would expect trains every 5 or 10 minutes during the commute, but not at 11 AM or on Sundays, etc.

  • @laldm “Paris already has one of the best transit systems in the world and they are spending huge sums to expand it…” When was your last visit to Paris and it’s “best transit systmes in the world” ?
    Maybe it used to be one of the best in the world, soon it will be one of the worse. No investments for years, aging network and trains, overcrowded wagons, daily outages, no suburb to suburb connexions, all lines going through an inner Paris bottleneck, the last line created 25 years ago…
    Today Paris transportation turns into a 3rdworld nightmare. That’s the reason why an emergency recovery plan worth 35 billion euros has been decided by the Region and State after years of inaction, plus a new circular line in the suburb. One of the cause of this reason is the fact that there is no Greater-Paris and no governance of the Paris metropolitan area.

    • Jeff

      It’s a matter of perspective. From an American viewpoint, Paris has an enviable public transportation system. The only American city that comes close is New York.

      • It’s true if you only consider Paris transportation map ;-)

        • Jeff

          Well, I’ve ridden the Paris Metro and the RER (though not the trams or Transilien), and they’re as good or better than most American intercity rail systems, though admittedly the U.S. is hardly the “gold standard” of public transportation!! The Metro carriages are a bit outdated-looking, except for those on lines 1 and 14. The RER cars didn’t look that bad to me, a little dirty perhaps, but hardly “third-world”. Some stations could look better, but overall, the system functioned well.

          Ironically, the one thing that makes the Metro so usable from a tourist perspective limits its ability to be useful to the Greater Paris area. The stations are so close together in Central Paris that extending the Metro lines far into the suburbs would not be economically or logistically feasible.

          I think RER will ultimately be what allows reintegration of Paris with the Paris suburbs. With more RER lines and running trains at greater frequencies, RER will function as a “Second Metro” for Paris and the surround area of Ile-de-France.

          • Jason

            I think he was talking about the quality of service on the system (breakdowns, interruptions, etc.), not the coverage of the system or integration of the city of Paris proper with the banlieue. Also, the Metro serves few locations past the old city borders (this was by design, originally).

            How about the creation of a “Greater Paris”, much as Greater London was created in 1965 from the old County of London (which had been losing population–4.5 million in 1900 to 3.2 million in 1965–whereas the surrounding area was gaining population).

            Paris itself has lost nearly 30% of its population since 1930 (the peak of its population) whereas the surrounding area has gown by 250%. The city boundaries need to be redefined to reflect the new reality.

            I agree with Jeff: RER is probably the future of transport in “Greater Paris”, though of course the Metro will still be very important to the city center.

    • Ocean Railroader

      They should build some back up lines that bypass some of the lines that act as funnels in that in case the main core gets shut down to a number of reasons having several bypasses would be a good idea for a old system like this.

    • Tijl

      Line 14 was only opened in 1998, and the core segment not till 2003. That’s not 25 years ago.

      Then there’s extension of line E to Magenta and st Lazare, while not technically a new line it is a new underground segment in the middle of Paris. Work will start soon to extend it to La Defense, before the first spade for the new lines discussed in this news post will hit the ground most of it will probably be done already.

      Other then that, there’s the metro extensions, mostly into the nearby suburbs. And a whole bunch of tramways and some railways, ironically most of them connecting suburbs with suburbs or providing lateral connections at the edge of Paris.

      Most third world countries would be happy with *only* what was built in the last 25 years.

      One part of what this new project will do is refurbish the system, though the A and B lines are already being refurbished. The other part is to fill a need currently not yet served consistently, long distance suburb to suburb traffic.

      • @Tijl “Line 14 was only opened in 1998, and the core segment not till 2003. That’s not 25 years ago.” The point is that Line 14 was decided in 1989 ! and it took almost 10 years to build the central part of it.

        About my 3rdworld consideration, there is a difference between using the Paris transportation system as a tourist and using it as a worker… When you arrive at the station in the morning and find that there is no train due to another “panne de signalisation/signaling outage” or “rail cassé/broken track” or “suite de divers incidents/series of various incidents” and that you have NO traffic during a couple of hours or the whole morning, that a 1 million user line is to try to find rescue in a 700 000 user line already congested, where loudspeakers tell you that due to “affluence de voyageurs/too many users” the traffic is slowed down you start considering of 3rd world condition, very far from the high level standards claimed by proud France. And when on the evening of the same day you arrive on an overcrowded train platform in the station, with screens indicating that due to the incidents of the day the traffic is hectic or that there is no traffic at all, once more, you know it’s 3rdworld. And you should wonder why politicians claim that the new project is “historique”…

        • and to be clear ! of course I can make a difference between real 3rdworld conditions and Paris, as a traveller I could sadly witness it ! but you give such an idealistic view of the situation that it sounds to me like provocation, specially since I’ve been campaigning for years with my blog to fight the deterioration of Paris public transportations and the lack of implication/investment of state and region. That’s why in return, I use provocation. I am sorry if I upsetted you, it was not my plan :-)

        • The issue isn’t that Paris is objectively good; it’s that, to sad New Yorkers who have to deal with hourly off-peak regional trains with crap connections to the subway, the RER looks heavenly. Especially the few trains on the RER A that actually have air conditioning…

        • Tijl

          Firstly: your point was not that it takes long to build lines, your point was that no new lines were build in the past 25 years, which is just not true.

          Secondly: I don’t very often use the Paris transport system for tourism purposes. I use it because I have to go somewhere, and very often, I can’t be late either because I have a connection to a Thalys or something similar. My only blessing is that unlike a daily worker, sometimes I can travel off peak.

          As a suburban person, I get to use it all, Translien, trams, RER and the metro. Even a bus every now and then. I know all about RER A or line 1 at rush hour.

          I’m also however, not French. Try going crosstown in London when you’re in a hurry. Try putting up with the frequencies and reliability of train in the Randstad area in the Netherlands.

          Paris is one of the few cities that I consider to have a “second generation” transport system. If you want to compare Paris to let us say London, imagine trying to stuff all the people that take the RER A onto line 13. Then you know the reality there.

          Yes, the Paris system has some problems.

          Part of the metro system is very old, and part of the RER system also incorporated some very old tracks (RER C anyone?). Fixing these is costly and hard, also because people don’t like being told that for the next year they can’t use their metro line. So it has to be done with weekend shutdowns, or closing segments for a limited time, of course leading travels to wonder about the 3rd world nature of the system.

          Historically the focus was also too much on the inner city, or “Paris proper”. RER changed this in a major way by connecting the outer areas with the core, but this was a more or less new system. The last 25 years however, we’ve seen a focus not on new lines in the city center, but finally extending the existing lines into the suburbs. On top of that, almost all the new lines (tram or tramtrain) were in the suburbs themselves. Without these metro extensions and new tram lines constructing the system proposed here would not make sense because as it would be a radial without spokes.

        • That’s modern first world. Its an implication of adopting neoliberalism as a governing ideology.

          Most 3rd world countries would leap at the chance to have the French system, breakdowns and all.

  • The article makes it seem that the circle line goes through suburban regions – but it seems to me that the destinations are pretty developed. It looks far away from the city mostly cuz Paris proper is so small.
    For comparison, The circle line above has a simmilar diameter as the TriboroRX proposal for New York.

  • @ant6n, “Paris proper” is really small, both in term of size and population : 105 km2 and 2 million people compared to 12 012 km2 11 million for Paris Metropolitan Area
    But the real Paris city is not the small Paris city which boundaries dates back to 1860 !!! there are a lot of discussion and projects about the creation of a Greater Paris, but it’s driven the “French” political way, which consider that right/left opposition is more important than the general and common interest of 11 millions citizens !

    • Yes, that’s the point – it’s not really a suburban circle line, it just looks like it if you consider the boundary of Paris proper, which is only a small part of the metropolitan region.

  • kvnbklyn

    This doesn’t look to me like a system that’s mainly designed to connect a string of similarly important suburbs to one another, rather it’s clearly a way to connect northern and southern suburbs to the emerging second center of Paris, La Defense, without having to go through the historic center. It’s more a development of a second radial system focused on La Defense than a suburban ring line. The northern and southern lines just happen to meet to the east of the city and form a circle. However, I imagine most of the passenger flow will be to and from La Defense.

    • This is an interesting point that is worth further evaluation. The RATP, the Paris transit agency, conducted ridership studies on the Grand Paris project (national government system) and found that the morning peak hour ridership would in 2035 be the following:

      - 130,500 for section from Pleyel to Villejuif IGH
      - 77,500 for section from Villejuif IGH to La Défense
      - 49,500 for section from Villejuif IGH to Noisy Champs
      - 41,300 for section from Pleyel to CDG Airport
      - 33,800 for section from Pleyel to La Défense
      - 24,300 for section from La Défense to Versailles
      - 21,000 for section from Le Bourget to Noisy Champs
      - 14,600 for section from Villejuif IGH to Orly Airport
      - 13,700 for section from Versailles to Orly Airport

      Thus, while La Défense will indeed be a major hub of the system, it will be no means be the only utilized part of the network — the other sections of the project will attract major ridership as well. (I should note that these estimates do not apply directly to the new agreement which of course is somewhat different.)

      • kvnbklyn

        Well, I stand corrected. Although La Defense has the highest employment of the inner suburbs covered by this study (and is projected to grow the most), some of the others also have very high employment. I wonder though how many of the jobs are local retail jobs and thus wouldn’t attract employees commuting from across the region compared to how many jobs are higher paying (office, medical, factory, etc) and would thus attract farther-flung commuters who would benefit from a project such as the Grand Metro.

    • Minato

      Don’t overestimate La Défense.
      La Défense and surrounding area only represent 300,000 of the 1.9 million employements in the inner suburbs.

    • Tijl

      I don’t think anyone is going to build a several billion dollar automated train as a circle for esthetic’s sake. If they wanted to connect the south and the north a connection to La Defense they could have done only that.

      As much jobs as there are at La Defense, it doesn’t displace the importance of the old city centre, extending line 14 will be a huge development.

      None of these solve the problem that the poorer eastern parts are underserved by fast transport either.

      • Mike Jones

        Don’t be so sure. I call it “planning by map”. Gaps and “obvious” extensions can drive planners crazy. Just as orbital expressways have been built around many large cities, rail planners have always striven for the orbital rail. In London the North London Line (now London Overground) has always suggested a southern counterpart. This is now underconstuction- not to say that’s bad, but the concept came first.

  • Mason Hicks

    from kvnbrkln: “…I wonder though how many of the jobs are local retail jobs and thus wouldn’t attract employees commuting from across the region…”
    Being an American, living just inside the Paris Banlieue, I am often quite surprised to find just how far people here do commute for those local retail jobs. Many of them are commuting across town. I haven’t figured out this dynamic, other than as they tell me; you have to work were you can.c..
    I’m lucky, I’m starting my first job tomorrow, my first job in France; with a design firm, owned by SNCF. I will have a 10 minute bicycle commute.

  • An interesting report published in November 2010 by the Cour des Comptes (Court of Audit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Court_of_Audit_of_France) a judicial body of the French Governement about the degradation public transportation in Paris Metropolitan area
    (in French)
    http://www.ccomptes.fr/fr/CC/documents/Communiques/Communique_rapport_transports_ferroviaires_regionaux_Ile_de_France_17112010.pdf

  • Unfriendly atmosphere, here, not sure to come back… :-(

    • Jason

      It didn’t seem that people were being unfriendly to me. Please come back. You seem to have a lot of knowledge to offer.

    • I didn’t intend to be unfriendly. I think by the standards of what most people here are familiar with Paris is top-notch (we have a lot more Americans than Japanese here), but I recognize you actually know the problems on the ground better.

  • Thinking more about it, this makes a lot of sense. The circle line would make all these ‘suburban’ activity centers more connected and more attractive, and thus take pressure of the main center. This should really help in the construction of a more polycentrual city.

  • Andrew

    @Metropolitan: It hardly makes sense to put new developments in Paris proper anymore. The city of Paris is very small and virtually every building there is historical so it can’t be torn down (and the city’s large tourism industry depends on the large stock of heritage buildings). Also Paris suburbs are very dense so they are nothing like US suburbs, one does not see the car-dependent “business park” type development that is widespread in the US. In the case of Paris it makes sense to develop areas outside the city limits, just like it makes sense to build office buildings in Canary Wharf in London and Jersey City in NYC. There is nothing wrong with building new developments outside the historic core so long as they are high density and served by good public transit.

    • Minato

      Infact the tourism is quite small in Paris economy, in my opinion it create more problem (segregation, housing shortage, transportation issues…etc) than wealth.
      In Paris metropolitan area over 95% of the population don’t work for the tourism related industries), these industries produce about 3% of the local GDP economy.
      Add to this that a big part of tourists are business visitors (more interested by conference or exibition centers and office space than monument and old building).

      A Central Paris where everything would be based on tourism would exclude the large MAJORITY of the population.
      It make sense to put new developments in Paris proper like in any other city.
      Paris is a CITY, not a museum for tourists.

      • Montag

        Re: Minato

        I’ve seen that movie before – it’s called Playtime, by Jacques Tati.

        Paris’ true value isn’t “a museum of tourists”, as you put it, rather it’s real value is as a living example of the superior quality of life and excellence that can be achieved through traditional urbanism. Despite the best efforts of nearly 100 years of modernist architectural and planning practice, it remains unsurpassed.

        London has already been ruined due to excesses of Modern architecture and global capitalism. Do we have to lose Paris too?

  • Mike O

    Yonah – great website, and thanks for adding Transilien to the map. I can see why your site is so highly rated.

    Mason – you lucky dog! Keep us posted on your career! Start a blog.

    parisbanlieue – amantium irae amoris integratiost – the quarrels of lovers are the renewal of love. Everybody here has a passion for transit. Nobody is attacking anyone, we are just arguing the concepts and ideas. Also, unlike many elsewhere, we all have a great respect for Paris, and France. Some things just don’t come across in text as well as we would like. Don’t go away – I’ll buy you a beer (or a cabernet – your choice) in SF, DC, NYC, London, Paris, Caen or Amsterdam (also your choice).

  • Hugues, from Paris

    There’s something really strange, and a little bit stupid : no connexion between lines M14 & M2 at Rome ! There’s a station Pont Cardinet (very usefull because of the new buildings & the distance to find a station from there) but I don’t understand why they don’t ALSO create a connexion between M2 & M14 at Rome…

    How do they think line M13 will be less overloaded, if the people can’t take line M14 to get M2 ???

    PS : sorry for my english, I haven’t spoken it for years.

  • DBX

    Worth considering what it would take to get similar developments here. The problem is that most North American cities simply don’t have the suburban population density that Paris does. Neuilly-sur-Seine, for example, is almost as dense as Paris itself — and that’s not far short of Manhattan. The only places where you get consistently high suburban population density are in cities with obvious natural barriers to expansion (LA, Salt Lake, Miami), or formal growth boundaries (Portland) or a combination thereof (the Bay Area). And note — except Miami, they’re all western cities that are building rather than their more stagnant east coast or Midwest counterparts.

    The model for the US for now probably needs to be better connectivity, higher frequency and higher speed on existing routes. One potential example of this — and Jonah, you should give this — is in Chicago on the CTA Red and Purple lines, where one option now seriously being considered is to remove the four-track elevated structure entirely between Loyola University and Wrigley Field and build a subway. Turns out that the new grade separation at the south end of this stretch where it meets the Brown line and the straighter alignment would enable more passenger capacity than the Red and Purple combined running at comparable speeds on a stopping pattern to what the Purple now does express — and it would cost no more than properly rebuilding the elevated structure. In other words, it would be express-standard service for all, not just a select few at favored stops, and running at a higher frequency than anyone now gets. The problem is that there would be fewer stations on the subway than there now are on the elevated, and 100 people losing their local stop (e.g. Jarvis) will shout more loudly than 10,000 who will benefit from faster travel on more frequent trains, even though in most cases they would only have to walk about a block farther.

    • DBX

      That is to say, Yonah you should give this some coverage! My typing is horrible today.

    • Adirondacker12800

      A lot depends on how you define suburb. Look at a list of densely populated places in the US and many of them are “suburb” Some of them are filled with single family houses. Most of them are in metro New York but there are a few in other places scattered all over the US.

    • A lurker and I actually investigated this over the last few days. Paris’s perceived density – measured in communes outside the city and quartiers inside – is somewhat lower than New York’s (not perfectly apples to apples with census tracts, but the numbers are quite robust to changing the level of granularity of the divisions). It’s higher than that of any other US city, though. While some inner suburbs of Paris are quite dense, the same is true of the outer boroughs in New York.

  • scoobidoo

    True, Paris is dense.

    Paris city proper = 105 km² for 2 200 000 inhabitants

    Paris + inner suburb = around 750km² for around 6.6 billions inabitants

    Paris + suburb (Paris urban area) = around 2 700km² for 10 400 000 inhabitants.

    Paris metropolitan area = around 12 000km² for around 12 000 000 inhabitants

  • Drewski

    Paris’ regional transit network has registered continuous gains nearly every year, for the last 30-plus years. Some years the gains have focused inside the city, some years deep in the suburbs. The point is, the French have not only done a good job of putting money behind plans, but none of these investments has later proved to be a white elephant. As big as Auber RER is, for example, its unused capacity will become far more relevant on the day that RER E absorbs services currently on RER A.

    Then there’s the scale of investment. In the last few years especially, it’s clear that transit investments aren’t just moving ahead in Paris or the Ile-de-France. Mulhouse’s light rail system will connect with the three-country regional rail network being developed in the Basel area. There are ongoing additions to the TGV network, and at least one TER (Nord?) was looking at developing a fixed-headway schedule format (as seen in Germany and Switzerland, among other countries).

    France’s aggressive standard is in line with the rest of Europe. Porto’s light rail system is still actively expanding, Portugal’s fiscal status notwithstanding. Spain is still working on national rail, regional rail, and urban rail. Sweden has several significant mainline projects, as well as mainline tunnels to improve service in Göteborg, Stockholm and Malmö. Even where populations are generally static, as in Germany, there are still plans given the money to move ahead.

    Imagine if Los Angeles County had something like $35 billion in committed transit funding over the next 20 years. Every rail project currently planned could be built, and that’s without discussing the impact of the high-speed line. Moreover, the consistent experience in L.A. has been not unlike Paris–everything built has been used, and every completed project has helped generate support for new ones.

    Instead of building mobility, we’ve spent the better part of three-quarters of a trillion dollars on wars with no identifiable point. And in truth, we could still afford massive transit investments, if we chose to make the commitment. We think we don’t need it, yet our ability to move goods and people is falling behind the standards already found in less-affluent countries.

    • I have one comment, and one nitpick. The nitpick is that some TER networks already use clockface scheduling – for example, the one in PACA, which I brought up as an example in my Regional Rail Coda.

      The real comment is that Paris can invest more than American regions because it has a history of delivering projects on-budget and getting high ridership figures out of them. The Subway to the Sea is projected to cost twice as much per route-kilometer as more technically complex tunnels in Paris, including M14, and get much lower ridership. In such an environment, it’s easier to find political support in Paris than in Los Angeles for very large spending measures: people see the results.

      M14 cost about $7,000 per weekday rider, and the existing tram lines cost $3,500-6,000 per rider. Paris is far from the cheapest city to build subways in, but the high ridership more than makes up for it, resulting in lower costs per rider than in cost-control leader Madrid. In contrast, LA’s cheapest line, the Blue Line, cost $10,000 per rider, and the other projects cost several times as much.

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