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The establishment of light rails does not necessarily equal urban development, decreased CO₂levels and reduced car traffic in the cities. A new PhD project from COWI shows that the success of a light rail project highly depends on how you use light rail as a strategic tool in a larger perspective.
A small carbon footprint and a boost of urban development are arguments often associated with the development of light rails. However, these benefits do not just emerge ripe for picking. In the end, it is necessary to activate the potential of the light rail, says Mette Olesen, the author of the PhD project entitled "Light rail in a mobility perspective – experience, effects, and rationality".
Through case studies of four European cities – Strasbourg, Angers, Freiburg and Bergen – the project shows many examples of how to activate light rail's potentials and how not to.
According to Olesen's project, it is necessary to introduce supporting initiatives. As an example, Freiburg, Germany, made light rail part of a larger strategy aiming for a "city of short distances". The light rail is therefore accompanied by a large pedestrian zone in the central part of the city, new large roads that redirect traffic around the city, and a park-and-ride concept that makes it easy and useful to use the light rail.
In Bergen, Norway's first light rail city, the goal was to decrease car traffic. However, the project has yet to succeed. According to Olesen, the project can only reach its goals by introducing traffic restrictions similar to those found in Freiburg.
"The development you want the light rail to create must be supported by principles and initiatives that support a larger goal. It's all about creating cohesion and synergy," Olesen concludes.
By Puk Holm Hansenand Karen ØksnebjergPublished 18.08.2014
Peter Hostrup RasmussenVice President, Railways and MetroTel: +45 5640 email@example.com
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More information concerning the benefits of light rails can be found onCOWI's Facebook page
The Ph.D. project can be found here:Making light rail mobilities
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Odense Light Rail, Denmark
Stavanger Urban Rail, Norway