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Christof Spieler @christofspieler
, 10 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
I said earlier that the Stuttgart Stadtbahn deserved its own thread. It’s one of a generation of German light rail systems (others include Frankfurt, Cologne & the Ruhr) started in the 1960s and 1970s by upgrading streetcar lines. Those systems ultimately inspired US light rail.
In the city center, Stadbahns use subway tunnels. These replaced the surface streetcar tracks that had been the backbone of the local transit systems; generally the goal was to eliminate all surface tracks from Downtown.
Outside of the center, tracks are often on the surfaces, but in dedicated lanes. The goal was both to speed up transit and get transit out of the way of cars.
Aboveground or underground, stations have level boarding with high floor cars (low floor cars had not been invented yet.) Unfortunately, in Stuttgart’s case, this doesn’t mean everything is wheelchair accessible — stops were built with steps, some have been retrofitted, some not.
In Stuttgart, as in all Stadtbahns, this was a process. Over decades, they took an existing streetcar network with mixed traffic and a hodgepodge of stops and rebuilt, it bit by bit, within the fabric of a historic city.
At the same time, they also rebuilt the city around it with projects like the downtown pedestrian zone…
…and extended lines into new development areas.
An added complication: Stuttgart’s streetcars were narrow gauge, but they decided on standard gauge light rail. So they had to build triple track to allow both to operate in the transition…
…and low boarding platforms so the old cars could stop at the new stops during the transition. Amazingly, they pulled it it off.
The first Stadtbahn lines opened in 1985, with more segments opened regularly since; the last streetcar ran inn 2007.
Stuttgart now has 81 miles of light rail line with something like 500,000 passengers a day. It’s the only large German Stadtbahn network that was fully completed. It’s impressive in its scale, and it feels like an essential part of the city.
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