Tram versus bus

Recently, WSP environmental consaltancy wrote a report where Bus Rapid Transit Systems (BRT) were compared to trams. Essentially, it was concluded that BRT already today has the same environmental load as trams per passenger kilometre. And, future hybrid and electrical buses will have lower impact than trams. Major contributors to the environmental impact of trams are: i) energy use in operation due to high weight and ii) use of large ammounts of iron for rails.
Being a naive Swede I felt quite enthusiastic about the future. I felt it must be quite positive for politicians and authorities now to be able to offer much more public transports for the same cost. It seems reasonable that for the same cost per kilometer cities can offer three times more public transports by using buses and still safegurad the environment.
But, no the study was first met by massive critisism, not only by the tram lobby but also by authorities and politicians.
How come, the progress is not welcome?
I have analysed the arguments.
The first wave critisized the study for not taking all benefits of trams into account, environment, noise, transport capacity. When it turned out that the study actually over estimated the benefits of the tram and that buses actually have higher capacity than trams a second wave adressed the rails them self as “positive elements for city planning”.
Now close your eyes for a while and imagine your ideal travel to work.
Other travellers doing this exercise state the following factors as important for them:
-short travel time, door-to-door service, no or few changes of transport means,
-comfortable, safe and secure, for some privacy is important others enjoy the interaction with others
-environmentally sane, affordable, low noise level.
Very rarely travellers state the mean of transport as important for this type of travel.
It seems that for many politicians cost efficeincy is a rather negative property.
It seems that city planers like solid elements running through the city to give structure and permanent stable travel centra and and transport coridors.
It seems that our imagination is not sufficient to use the same elements as for trams (separate lanes, straight comfortable roads, priority in traffic, few stops and rapid boarding and off-board ticketing) for utlising and promoting the most environmentally friendly transports, bus systems.

About volvobuses

Adjunct Professor of Catalysis at Chalmers University of Technology. Lives in Gothenburg, Sweden, with my wife and three daughters born in 1991, 1994 and 1997. Is a passionate runner.
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4 Responses to Tram versus bus

  1. Fredrik says:

    Well, noise is not really a benefit for trams compared to buses. At least not from what I have herd from Gothenburgs environmental office. The tracks have to be greased up at least once a week and when the substance gets to thin the metal wheels scream and wail. Apparently they get so many reports about that so they can’t even do anything about it anymore. Buses are also noisy but it is not that high pitched wail in the center of the city.

    That said, I think the reluctance to a BRT system here comes at least in part from the fact that we always have had trams and they are a part of the “Gothenburg experience”. A new bus system would take some time to implement, but it would be a bit more flexible then rail bound transportation.


  2. greenie says:

    There is definitely room to imagine. Thank you for your blog and keep up the work for sustainable development by driving quality of life

    There are many more needed and it is possible to set targets, see the progress and share experiences

    There by change comes as we go from words to action

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