The movement that brought an end of tram service in Vancouver and the rest of North America was active in Europe in the middle of the last century. Parties were thrown in towns all over France to commemorate the ‘End of Tram’. In Bordeaux, in 1958 the mayor of the day, Jacques Chaban-Delmas, had the last trip in a tram draped in the tricolor. In Strasbourg, a bonfire was lit to burn down the last wooden cars before the rails were covered over with asphalt. It was in the middle of the twentieth century when progress was found asserting its toll.
Still, the atmosphere began to alter almost immediately. By the 1960s Germany started experimenting with the U2 Stadtbahn also known as ‘city trains’. Stadtbahn is a light rail system (LRT) operating on-grade similar to the Portland MAX. The city trains had their route on the street within city limits along with vehicular traffic and the pedestrians. Also, outside the city, the trains ran on railway ROWs providing service directly to the suburbs. Commuters drove their BMWs to the suburban stations in the morning, parking their cars on the gravel, and riding Stadtbahn into Stuttgart back in 1982. Very similar things were happening in Copenhagen where the Danes were riding in subways with a space to carry bicycles. Many Stadtbahn lines had taken over the earlier steam hauled and older electric services operating on grade. Stadtbahn was Europe’s first step towards a Modern Tram revolution.
The vehicles brought to the forefront in the 1960s were the articulated Duwag – U2 Statdbahn. They gained comparative levels of service to subways, carrying equal numbers of passengers per hour per direction.
The comparative plus points of Stadtbahn made it the ruling choice for a concept we hear echoing in North America today- using transit to get rid of automobile congestion. Stadtbahn set the standard for North America. Between 1978 and 1981 systems modeled on the Stadtbahn were designed in Edmonton (1978), Calgary (1981) and San Diego (1981).
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