Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.
First German “Velobahn” Opens in Ruhr Region
An idea that’s already taken root in the Netherlands and Denmark has spread to Germany’s industrial heartland.
According to an AFP report on Phys.org, officials in Germany’s Ruhr Valley opened at the end of 2015 the first 5 km (3.1 miles) of a planned 100-km (62-mile) bicycle superhighway connecting 10 cities and four universities in the struggling industrial region.
The new bike highway, which utilizes abandoned railroad rights-of-way, differs from existing bike paths in that it is wide enough to allow bikes to travel at faster speeds in both directions. The new bike highway also features overtaking lanes and grade-separated crossings of most other roads. It is also lit and plowed of snow in the winter.
Unlike highways, railroads and water transport facilities, however, the German federal government is not picking up any part of the tab for this bikeway. Instead, the European Union picked up half of its cost, the North Rhine-Westphalia state government 30 percent and the Ruhr regional transportation authority the remaining 20 percent.
The price tag for the full 100 km will be €180 million ($196 million U.S.) The North Rhine-Westphalia state government is searching for sources of funding and drafting legislation that would relieve its cities of any responsibility for its cost. The German Bicycle Club (AFDC) argues that the federal government should cover 10 percent of the cost of projects like this one since trips by bicycle now account for 10 percent of all travel in Germany.
Auckland Considers Light Rail to Serve Airport
Transportation officials in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, are weighing whether to use light or heavy rail to connect its city center with its airport, the New Zealand Herald reports.
Auckland airport officials want some form of higher-capacity rail transport to serve a planned facility expansion. (Photo by Lee Kindness)
Auckland Transport estimates that it would cost NZ $1.1 billion ($755.7 million U.S.) to extend a planned tram line along Dominion Road from its end to the airport, compared with NZ $2.3 billion ($1.58 billion U.S.) for a rapid transit line, but local officials affiliated with a transit advocacy group, the Campaign for Better Transport, question both the numbers and the travel time estimates.
Service between downtown Auckland and its airport is currently provided by a frequent bus route that makes the trip in an hour. Auckland Transport estimates that a light-rail line would take 44 minutes to get to the airport and a heavy rapid transit line 30 minutes. Auckland’s regional transportation plan already includes construction of a network of light-rail lines, including one on Dominion Road, to keep the city center from “becoming clogged with buses” sometime in the 2020s. The Dominion Road line would cost NZ $1 billion ($687 million U.S.) to build.
CBT and Auckland Council infrastructure chairman Mike Lee told the Herald that he considered the light vs. heavy rail business case comparison flawed because an electrified rail line already exists, necessitating only 10 km (6.2 miles) of new construction, while light rail “exists only in the imagination at this stage.”
An Auckland Transport spokeswoman said a decision on trams vs. trains would be made by the middle of 2016. Airport officials said they were “mode agnostic” but wanted some form of higher-capacity rail transport in place to serve a planned expansion in the 2020s.
A subway train in a metro station in Pyongyang, North Korea (in 2012) (Photo by Roman Bansen)
First Domestic Subway Car Makes Inaugural Trip in Pyongyang
Finally this week, a news item from a country from which news items rarely emanate: North Korea.
The independent news site NKnews.org reports that the state news outlet DPRK Today reported Saturday that the first subway car built in North Korea made a symbolic run on the Pyongyang metro that day.
The car, built at the Kim Jong Tae electric locomotive factory, is part of a program North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is promoting called “chakanglyok,” which roughly translates into “building strength by one’s self.”
According to the story, the car has many advanced features, including LCD screens that display the temperature and humidity inside the subway and the names of upcoming stations. NKnews quotes Rowan Beard of Young Pioneer Tours as saying the car is “very snazzy,” then adding, “it’s really bizarre seeing it. Looks so out of place with the chandeliers, mosaics … and even the train staff wear the same old Soviet-styled uniform.”
The Pyongyang metro opened in 1973 and was built with technical assistance from China and the former Soviet Union, according to the South Korean Ministry of Unification. It appears that the thrust of the “chakanglyok” program is to reduce North Korean dependence on foreign industry.
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Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.