December 12, 2011
When it is time to discuss of what makes a “Grand Boulevard”, it is interesting to get the view of the impressionists, contemporaries of the Parisian Haussmann period, which is traditionally attached to the notion of Boulevard.
I have always loved the immense streets of Paris, shimmering in the sun, the crowds of all colours, those beautiful linear and aerial perspectives, those eccentric fashions, etc. But how to do it? To install oneself in the middle of the street is impossible in Paris.
Pissarro, was lucky enough to have a room with view on the Boulevard Montmartre, allowing him to epitomize the qualities of the “Grand boulevard”:
This 35 meters wide boulevard opened in 1763, pre-date the Hausmann’s work in Paris, but carries most of the features usually attributed to the typical Haussmannian boulevard. It pertains to the orthodox Parisian definition of the Grand Boulevards :
- The boulevards are linear and offer an open perspective (like the one opened by Haussmann), changing direction only at major intersections
- Notice the intense level of traffic and how the lamppost are sitting in the carriage way, to not use the pedestrian realm
- …and how wide is the pedestrian space
Usually sidewalks use around half of a typical Parisian boulevard width, This has not varied since the French second empire (1852-1870). Below is a compared cross section of Boulevard Montmartre in Paris and Broadway Street (at Cambie) in Vancouver .
Quality of the Urban furnitures is important and got noticed (many of them has been designed by Gabriel Jean Antoine Davioud):
…But one of the main feature of the Parisian boulevards, is the buzz/energy surrounding them: the gentle crowd, the trees, the play of light, is why people will like to mingle here (last picture in the post also gives a strong incentive to do so!)
The above and ample sidewalks provide a fertile ground for the development of coffee patio, in adition of the Boulevard theatres.
The formal avenue de l’Opéra opened in time for the Universal exposition of 1878, is an exception. It is bereft of trees (and the sidewalk could have been reduced accordingly) on the insistence of the Opera’s architect, Charles Garnier, this to preserve the perspective onto its masterpiece . The move has been appreciated enough to keep this avenue bereft of trees up to today . Another architect request- to have the street free of urban furniture- has been lost in time…
In the Pissarro and others impressionists paintings, ornamental and architectural details of the buildings lining the boulevards are basically absent.
Haussmann designed the Avenue of the Opéra, but it has been built after his 1870’s “resignation”, (associated to the fall of the Napoleon III regime), this between 1876 and 1878. When Haussmann was providing architectural template to the properties developers, the new regime, pressed by the deadline of the 1878’s exposition, had been far less stringent in their building request:
- They have divided the area in 55 lots, sold in 1876, to almost as many different landowners, required to build in a 2 years time frame to the maximum height authorized by the by-laws, and that all principal horizontal lines in each block should coincide, which ensured that all the windows would be at the same level. Balconies were obligatory . Other pre-existing regulation ensured the aesthetic unity of the avenue.
That is what Pissarro expresses in his canvas, where the militaristic rigor of the buildings is gently counter balanced by the chimneys disorder on their roofs, and colorful shopkeeper awnings at their feet.
The traffic on the Grand Boulevards (boulevard des Italiens, des Capucines et Montmartre) is qualified of “intensive” by the Paris Prefecture in 1904, while the one on the 30 meters wide Boulevard Haussmann, (depicted by Raffaelli below), is qualified of “active” by the same source . This, in addition to the facts that it is in the immediate vicinity of the most used -by far- railway station of the time- Gare Saint Lazare–, and nearby department stores, are the reasons why we see a street much more dominated by pedestrian activities.
Most of the carriages seen in this picture and others are fiacres, (carriage for hire which has been replaced by taxis), and “omnibuses” (which has been replaced by buses). Private carriage was a rarity so street parking was not a problem. In those days (1891), it was counted 45,085 vehicles of all sorts in Paris but number was growing much faster than the population and was reaching 65,543 in 1906 (automobile accouting for a mere 4,077) …The Prefecture of Paris was numbering fiacres at 15,775 (today, there is roughly the same number of taxi!) and 2,572 tramways and “omnibus” , the equivalent of bus, already carrying in the vicinity of 220 millions passenger circa 1865 …The 3 horses omnibuses seen in the Pissarro painting are the largest of the days (2.45m by 8 meter long including horses: they are considered “monsters” by the witnesses of the days . Capacity number are, of course, irrelevant.
The other Boulevards
The impressionists like Degas, Monet, Gauguin, Renoir…, dedicated numerous painting to the Grands Boulevards in the immediate vicinity of gare Saint Lazare (all the canvas presented so far has been drawn in a 10-15mn walk from gare Saint Lazare, which itself has also been the attention of Monet among other). This railway station was also the termini of train from the Vexin français -area around Pontoise– where most of the French impressionists have elected residence at one moment of their life, and this fact can explain why this little area of Paris got far most attention than others…
Nowadays, the probably most photographied avenue is the Champs Elysees. in the XIX, it is pretty much out of reach to most of the people. Even the fiacres are rare, and traffic seems dominated by the much more exclusive landau transportation mode. Notice how the horses manures are speedily removed in the Jean Béraud‘s canvas below:
The Parisian lower class can be found around the Boulevards exterieurs (around 40 to 45 meters wide). Boulevard Clichy is one of them. Edgar Degas lived and died there but this boulevard didn’t inspired him, at the difference of Paul Signac, Vincent van Gogh and Pierre Bonnard, which we choose, for its naturalist qualities, to illustrate this boulevard:
The Boulevard exterieurs, marked the limit of Paris before its amalgamation with neighbor suburbs in 1860 at the initative of Haussmann, and have been opened in 1864. They eventually were synonym of life condition that the Haussmann contemporaries were trying to escape (Signac, Vuillard will paint the Boulevard exterieurs under snow, which, by its rarity, in some sort represent an escape of the usual condition).
The large boulevard median was not to separate traffic directions, The 2 ways seen in the painting was existing on both side of the Wall of the Farmers general which has been destroyed in 1860: A canvas of Pissarro better illustrates that fact (the street on side of the median will be converted to one way traffic much later)
The circulation on the Boulevards exterieurs was considered as active in 1904. As the canvas represents, the type of circulation is much more different than the one seen on the Grand Boulevards, and if there is nowadays no more cabs in Paris than it was fiacres more than a century ago, those are now more evenly spread on the whole Paris area, making them looking rarer.
Life outside the Boulevards
We couldn’t close this chapter, without mentioning what was the life condition outside the Boulevards in the Haussmann century. Charles marville‘s photographies illustrate what Paris was looking before Haussmann:
 Mon cher Pissarro – Lettres de Ludovic Piette à Camille Pissarro, Ludovic Piette, Paris 1985
 Broadway Street, Vancouver: cross section from beyond the B line, City of Vancouver 1999. Notice it is not the worst configuration found but the existing one…the proposed introduction of a LRT makes things worse with proposed sidewalk as narrow as 2.70m in the 1999 study. Currently Boulevard Montmartre, Paris, has been one way since 1951 but is considered to be reversed back two ways, and it is this configuration which is presented here. You will notice the bus getting out of its lane to avoid a cyclist – that is per design: Bus+bike lanes is the modus operandi in France, wholly supported by the Green councilors of Paris, at the very much difference of Adriane Carr in Vancouver (her position on the topic being summarized here)
 Etudes sur les transformations de Paris et autres écrits sur l’urbanisme, Eugène Hénard, 1903-1909. as reedited by éd. L’Équerre, 1982.
 The longest carriage is 20 meters, it is used for beam transportation by carpenter: it s then considered as an exceptional convoy
 There are several Boulevard denominations in Paris, the grand boulevards being the ones built in replacement of Louis XIII city’s wall, according to the 1676 Pierre Bullet’s plan under the Louis XIV reign)
 The perspective has also been obtained by the leveling of an hill, the buttes des Moulins, which will have provided a convenient pretext to a slum cleansing operation in the whole Opera area.
 The autumn of Central Paris: the defeat of town planning 1850-1970, Anthony Sutcliffe, MacGill-Queens’university press, 1971
 It didn’t, and remarkably enough, Louis Dausset, on budget Committee was stating as soon as 1909
- “When we built the Metropolitan and encouraged the development of trams, we gave our citizens and visitors a taste for moving around…So underground transport does nothing to reduce surface movement in Paris; on the contrary, it multiply it” ( citing C.M. report no 128, 1909).
Among Haussmann’s achievement was also the reorganization of the Public transit services, with the creation of the Compagnie Generale d’Omnibus created at the occasion of the universal exposition of 1855, this on a model not much different of the one used by Seoul, Korea.
 To give some substance on the level of Traffic, around 10,750 horses drawing vehicle/day has been counted on the Boulevard des Italiens in 1840 ( citing L’œuvre du baron Haussmann, Louis Reau, 1954)
 the Compagnie de l’Ouest very quickly developed suburban services from gare Saint Lazare. In 1869, It was by far the busiest railway station of Paris, handling 13,254,000 a year-more than 80% of them being commuters. The other 6 Paris termini together handled no more than 21,417,000 ( citing La gare du Nord, René Clozier, (a priori a PhD thesis of 1940))
 In his book, “L’assassinat de Paris” (1977), Louis Chevalier mentions that trees has been removed of Avenue de l’Opéra in 1955. Archive photography doesn’t confirm that. What is more probably is that the sidewalk has been reduced in 1955.
May 29, 2010
[edited on May 30th 2010]
This post is written in the context of the decision to move from the current honor system to the barrier controlled access rail transit system in Vancouver. The capital cost involved by the move is estimated at $100 millions . the cost of fare evasion on the Vancouver rail system is estimated at $3.5 millions per year .
At the beginning the Paris subway had human fare control at its gates. In a move to save on fare control operating cost, the Parisian transit agency, had started to implement turnstile, pretty much in the style seen on the Toronto TTC or the Vancouver seabus…
But Quickly, it appeared that the lack of human control once in the subway system was a pretty good incentive to dodge the turnstiles.
The full display of fare evasion as well as turnstile dodging technique associated with perceived impunity of such behavior, has encouraged wide spreading of similar conducts in the Paris subway, then adopted by people of all conditions as illustrated below
That has lead the French transit agency, the ratp to adopt more elaborate faregate, now featuring full door.
- either the door stay open long enough, and several people (following close enough) can pass the gate with a single fare.
- or the door close very quickly, and you can’t cross the gate with any luggage, or stroller.
In despite of tremendous investment in fare gating, fare evasion is estimated at 10% in the Parisian subway what is in fact comparable to the access free subway in Berlin  and way much more than the 5% measured in Vancouver  or 6% on the access free subway of Los Angeles in 2007 
in any case, the turnstiles are an impediment slowing down the flow of transit riders, and the good thing introduced by smart-cards, is that it allow to mitigate this point.
One will note that if fare evasion was the justification for a fare gating, subsidy could be then not necessary. In reality fare evasion on Vancouver transit system is as low as 2.5% system wide (5% on the Skytrain, what amount to $3.5 millions revenue lost a year, which could be only partially recovered by turnstiles) , that is nowhere near to able to justify an $100 million investment . In comparison of other systems , there is a generally good level of compliance in Vancouver, observation that the casual observer could have confirmed during the Olympic games, by watching the sometime hour long line-up at the fare vending machine .
It has been a strange and unsubstantiated claim done by the British Columbia government that the fare gates could increase the security on the skytrain .
The opposite could be more true: In fact, the diversion of resource going to the maintenance and amortization of the fare gates, instead of human staffing are of nature to make the system less safe.
The creativity of the fare gate dodgers and other smugglers being boundless, it appears that nothing is able to replace human staffing as the picture below illustrates and could also apply to Canada 
Nevertheless, the unsubstantiated BC government claim will suffice to justify to allocate $70 millions of subsidy by senior government toward a fare gating system on the Vancouver rail network 
The smart card
Another strange association has been done in BC between the turnstile and the smart card. Both can be put in place separably, as it is done on numerous transit network.
The distance based pricing
That seems the only reason a network transit the size of the Vancouver one, could wish to adopt turnstiles control. Controlling entry and exit of the network effectively allows the transit operator to charge by the distance, as done in some rail network, more noticeably on the Hong Kong MTR 
Still, in this case, one will find curious the government interference in a matter which should be a priori leads by economic consideration.
Even so: the logic would like that the smart card come first, since it can work currently in the 3 zones model, which is common to numerous network, like the Paris one, and turnstiles in a second phase. Curiously, according to the VancouverSun , it is the reverse we gonna see, and suffer all the inconvenience of the faregate, including compromised ease of access to the transit system for people with special needs; from the traveler with luggage, to the wheelchairs, without the advantage of the smartcard.
 Olympic commuters sticking with public transit, Vancouver Sun, May 25, 2010
 Free rides approach end of the line on SkyTrain, CBC, November 09, 2007.
 Canada, BC and TransLink Invest in Transit Security Improvements, press release from Canda government, April 09, 2009
 Fare evasion Internal Audit, by PriceWaterHouseCoopers, Translink, September 2007
 Notice that such distance based pricing model can a priori apply only to the rail network, and not the bus one. Nevertheless, the smart card can allow implementation of a bus route based pricing like on the model of Hong Kong
 Montreal police quell subway brawl, Globe and Mail, December 27, 2009.
 Toronto TTC has a fare evasion of as low as 0.7% on its subway , but one should note that all the turnstiles lines are constantly monitored by human staff, via strategic location of ticket office at the stations, as well as additional staffing at rush hours. Non staffed entrance, are equipped of full rotating door, unable to accommodate people with special need (wheelchair, stroller,…). In conclusion, it could be hard to conclude that the low fare evasion number is achieved by turnstiles alone. This observation can be confirmed by the number from the New York subway able to reduce from 3.5% to 0.5% the level of fare evasion through policy measures .
May 21, 2010
Avenue [ˈævɪˌnjuː] from the old french arrival, has eventually got a different meaning in english, as well as in current french, due to the current usage we give to it nowadays.
Here after is a very simplified history of it:
At the eventual difference of other roads or streets, avenues were usually work of urban planning, and primarly designed as radial promenade at the edge of the city with function to great in a ceremonial way the arriving visitor
Though that not matching to the original vision, the primary promenade function is still well respected.
The advent of the automobile and other social change will involve deep cultural shift:
- Urban people will eventually prefer spend their free time elsewhere than lingering on the street becoming less pleasant due to the surrounding roaring motors and gas smell (we don’t speak to much pollution those day).
- the free space is then occupied by the new mobility device
Another relative cultural shift appears in the 80s, eventually learning of the american experience: it appears very apparent that the adaptation of the European city to the car has no future: and a better use of the scarcely city’s available real estate need to be devised. the LRT, trams in Europe, will be part of the solution, and the large French avenues, will be ideal Right of Way candidate. The vision of the future century is then eventually represented by this artist rendering:
One will note, it is pretty seldom to see modern tree lined trams, eventually for the following reasons:
- the tree roots system could compromise the integrity of the trackbed
- the tree branches could interfere with the overhead wires
- the falling tree leaves could grease the rails, compromising the acceleration/braking capabilities of the train
In the Strasbourg F-line case, those aspects are mitigated by the integration of the bike path along the tram ROW. the integration of the bike path is an addition to the late LRT project.
Obviously, the vision is a significant progress on the current situation, in the sense it returns to a pleasantly greenish aspect of the avenue.
The park and ride model
Where we should not give more credit to the french than they deserve is here:
- In most of the case the space allocated to the automobile traffic is not compromised, and the Strasbourg example shown above is basically no exception to the rule: while that the parking space is removed at the benefit of the trams, there is no reduction in automobile traffic lanes benefiting then of a freer flow, since not impeded by car looking for or negotiating parking spot
- there is no increase of space for pedestrians, and the leisure and social interaction aspect, like lingering on the street, is not part of the picture either
The removal of parking space could be considered as a progress, but usually, a french tram projects barely means reduction of parking space either, but rather relocation of it according to the well known park and ride model.
One can clearly suspects that the motivation to introduce trams in the french cities has not been to challenge the general car centric culture, but was more guided by more pragmatic space constraint requiring a P&R model in order to preserve good vehicular movement on the city arteries and accessibility of the city to an ever greater number of people, including by car.
In that aspect, it has been a more successful model than the US one, eventually due to the greater scarity of
- downtown parking stall
- road access
- the preserved heritage specificity of the European cities could have contributed to maintain the attractiveness of their downtown in despite of access impediment
- the short length of the European trams line, typically not venturing much farther than 5km from he town center, allow for short trip time, in despite of relatively low average speed , the later allowing good integration in the urban fabric
All those factor, in addition of social one going beyond the scope of this post, could have saved the middle size European city to know the fate of their American sister cities, in term of Downtown life.
But, if one considers the public transit market share in 14 french urban areas with LRT; 11% (for weekday trip) ; it is hard to speak of a successful strategy, to be emulated.
At the end of the day, the avenue original vision, which cheer size was to provide “park” space for people, devoided to be “park” space for transportation device, has not been restored. Indeed it is now used to “segregate” space according to transportation modes (in a vision where “lingering” is also a “commercialized” activity at the benefit of the sidewalk coffees).
It is a progress on the dictatorship of the automobile reign, and it is possible that the LRT has been an ingenuous tool to legitimate the displacement of the cars toward the outer edge of the city, but is the result the most efficient allocation of the city surface space? or in other term, is it the best we can do?
 Average speed of european trams is usually below 20km/h, 18.5km/h in the above mentioned case of Bordeaux
 Picture and number from le tram de Bordeaux”
 Bridgeport park has 600 stall for Canada line rider according to Translink
 Transportation mode share of 14 metropolitan area with tram in France, from “Les deplacements a Nantes metropole Etude N 80, decembre 2009, Insee Pays de Loire, France citing “enquêtes nationales transports et communication 1993-1994, transports et déplacements 2007-2008″, Insee, SOeS and Inrets.
March 17, 2010
Rail viaducts have being a fixture in numerous cities since the introduction of the railway. They can be considered as an urban blight and objectively often disrupt the urban fabric, but here we present some examples showing that it can be different. Surprisingly enough, it seems that it is a reconsideration of the purpose of disused viaduct in the city  which has lead to rethink of its urban integration. Typically this consist to bring, under the viaduct, urban activities contributing to the street life: That means not considering the Viaduct as part of the street itself, but as a building lining up the public space.
Viaduct in “median”
A viaduct in Vienna, once a barrier in the middle of an artery, now is a building lining streets on its both sides. Note how the shops lining the street capitalize on the once a median separation (credit photo: Architekten Tillner)
Buenos Aires, Argentina
A Viaduct lining up a park
In Buenos Aires, the viaduct function, is enhanced by street life contributing activities. Again here the barrier nature of the viaduct is fully assumed, separating a park of its urban environment, and eventually reinforced, with this viaduct arch reconsidered as a “passage”, clearly indicating the “human scale” nature of the expected traffic and enforcing the “oasis” feeling of the park (credit photo Polycentric Linear City)
Only around 50% of the londonian Tube is underground. this and the numerous railway network left the British capitale heavily sliced by Viaduct “cut”. Lately tremendous effort has been taken to address the issue, as witnessed by the project “Light at the End of the Tunnel” in the context of the “crossriver partner ship program”
Beside the much acclaimed viaduct des arts (a former railway viaduct), Paris is also well furnished in metro viaduct. They offer to us an opportunities to showcase some idea eventually not working that “well” when you treat the space under viaduct as public space.
The Viaduct of Bercy in Paris, while offering an appealing look doesn’t work that well as a bike path host: the cyclist has basically no visibility, and the “enclosed” nature of the viaduct prevent natural washing of the pavement (credit photo: zagreus)
The space below Paris viaduct is rarely appropriated by the public, one reason could be due to the fact that the steel girder structure is pretty noisy on train passage. The fact that the space is in the median line of boulevard is not helping to draw public naturally. bike path could make a better use, but viaduct piles are as many hazard limiting the visibility of the cyclist (one will note that the Richmond viaduct turn out to be more appropriate to such an use) (credit photo, Duncjam and moonmeister)
One will find some other example on the web , but the one exhibited here tend to demonstrate that the integration of a viaduct in the urban fabric is something perfectly doable, backing the effort done on the Richmond viaduct.
 from the viaduct des arts in Paris to the HighLine in New York, there are numerous of disused viaduct going thru a renaissance life, with usually the patform being transformed in a green public space ( a list of some projects)
March 12, 2010
the agency overseeing the “guided transportation systems” in France publishes some numbers worth to be repeated . Though that the sample sizes prevent to draw definitive conclusions: we can still exhibit some trends: not surprisingly multi year studies tend to show that subways  are order of magnitude safer than LRTs . This said, it is interesting to probe the source of tram accidents, what is provided by the graphs below.
It appears, that the bulk of accidents happen at intersections where they involve third parties. If car are responsible of most of the conflict, it is mainly, pedestrians and cyclists whose pay a disproportionate human toll considering the transportation modal sharing . Furthermore, a study of the Belgium institute on road safety shows that while tram/pedestrian conflicts represent 2.1% of the overall pedestrian conflicts in Brussels, they result in more than 6.7% of vehicle/pedestrian conflicts with severe injuries  while that pedestrians represent more than 50% of the overall fatalities on the french trams network . However, a non negligible number of accidents happen outside platforms and crossings: most of them involve emergency braking of the trams, which are responsible of most of the passenger casualties. The french agency has further detailed the pattern of crossing accident, and provides statistic per crossing:
Comparison with the US
It can be interesting to compare the french statistic to the American one, as reported by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Though that the accident ratio between subway and LRT witnessed in France is also founded in USA, there is a striking difference in the number of casualties per million of trip.
One explanation to it could be the suicide ratio:
- statistics are not including casualties due to suicide, but suicide characterization can be different according to the country. Thought that casualties due to suicide are not well documented, anecdotal evidences seem to show that the French authorities are more willing than the North American ones to classify an accident as a suicide: Some officious counting report around 70 suicides per year on the Parisian RATP metro alone , when this number is of around 30 in New York City , and 15 in Toronto . For purpose of a study on the suicides in the Montreal subway, the researchers have requalified fatalities, considered as accident by the coroner, as suicide .
That said, the American LRTs still seem more prone to accident than their french counterpart. We can attempt some explanations to it. .
- LRT accidents are significantly due to third parties, and eventually the measure of accident/trip is unfavorable to the less patronized US LRT vehicle. This explanation can be countered by the fact that busy LRT lines involve busy pedestrians traffic around their route, hence increasing also the chance of accident.
- Average speed of french LRTs, usually in the 15 to 20km/h range is significantly slower than their american counter part
- Design of European LRT could be more permissibe too
- Front design of low floor european LRT seems less prone to drag pedestrian under the railcar
- All low floor design reduce the chance of fall inside the car in case of emergency braking
- More frequent LRT could increase the public awareness of their presence
- Due to the above factor, French LRT seem also less attractive than their US counterpart to suicide candidate
Compared to even recent American design, the European tram design features all low floor train,with “housed” coupler into an all “soft angle” front design, and offers an unobstructed view fro the driver…all these eventually help to prevent or reduce accident consequences (credit photo, Northfolk LRT: LRTA, Brussel tram in Vancouver: Stephen Rees)
Nantes, a real life example
To provide some more reality to the statistic, we provide the example of the Nantes Trams network :
it has opened in 85, has 3 lines, totalizing 42km, and carrying an average of 266000 riders /day.
- One accident every 2 days
- One accident in 4 involves injuries
Interestingly enough, according to the Nantes transit agency, their BRT records a rate of accident twice less than their trams, though their buses go faster . It is eventually due to a better designed right of way for the bus than for the trams .
 see Accidentologie des tramways, Service Technique des Remontées Mécaniques et des Transports Guidés DES TRAMWAYS, 2006 and
Accidentologie des metros, Service Technique des Remontées Mécaniques et des Transports Guidés DES TRAMWAYS, 2006
 French subways include also the “VAL” family of subway
 French LRTs include also the guided bus systems
 The rate per million of passengers is not necessarily the most relevant, but it is the only one readily available from the french statistics, which are averaged on the number of available years after 2003 to provide a more relevant sample size. For USA, to increase the sample size, the accident statistics are the average of year 1994 to 2006, as provided by the BTS 2009 report
 Transportation mode share of 14 metropolitan area with tram in France, from “Les deplacements a Nantes metropole Etude N 80, decembre 2009, Insee Pays de Loire, France citing “enquêtes nationales transports et communication 1993-1994, transports et déplacements 2007-2008”, Insee, SOeS and Inrets.