Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tram North Semi-launched

Yesterday night, on my way home from the train station, I saw "Scuola Guida" (Practice Session) written on the Tram route sign at 11 p.m. I thought it odd to see that message. The tram drivers have to practice just like the rest of us! Obviously they do it under the cover of darkness when traffic drops drastically, especially in Padua.

The tram is gaining territory as it has semi-opened the route north of the station since May 24th. The announcement can be seen on the site:

This method of public transportation has been controversial ever since the idea started 7 years ago by a former administration. The tram is technologically advanced, featuring a single rail which allows the tram to move along a curved path. This was necessary because it bends through Prato della Valle on its 10.3 km route pictured above.

The problems are numerous with the project: too long in its completion (7 years +); dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians (catching wheels and heels in the wide track grooves on major streets); too expensive (required the construction of a new overpass over the train station to accomodate the tram); too limited in its service (offers only a single north-south line through town).

I must admit that it is a nice-looking transport system compared to buses and it makes the city seem more modern, somehow, as well as more similar to Milan, perhaps, as a tram-toting town. Yet we citizens wonder whether the extra expense was well spent. The project went over budget and made certain companies rich in the process of the construction of the routes and overpass. I, for one, never use the tram because it is off my personal commuter route since I live on the eastern part of town. If anything, I have to be careful that the tram doesn't run into me daily as I pedal to and from one of my major clients, Istituto Dante Alighieri, along the tram's path.

The recent opening is partial because the service is offered only for a full day on Sundays and night-service during weekdays and Saturdays. So we are still waiting for full service, since 2002. How many months will we need to wait for this project to be complete? Or should I say years?

This recent push for the partial opening coincides with the June elections. The current administration wanted it to be as finished as possible before the city went to vote even though these particular politicians were not responsible for beginning the project.

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