The characteristic desaturated brand blue color of the tram in Munich over the concrete gray and the evening soft gold stone hues offer a painterly view of the city.
Looking at nature we always discover that the rule of efficiency prevailed. Thousands of years of natural selection refined and set an enormous catalogue of ingenuity for us to discover. Yet we often find cases where we did not quite take example of that legacy, but went down an illogical path. One of these cases is the city traffic planning. Exceptionally we can learn form history that we didn’t choose the wrong way at the start, nor it was randomness in our turn for worse.
Let’s have a look at the USA in the last Century.
Trams were a common sight in the streets of the major cities in the USA and became an ubiquitous mean of transportation. Then came the WW2 and with it an unprecedented surge in the production of goods for Europe. Some industries three, five or even ten-folded their production outputs in a few years time. An enormous wealth flowed in the north American society in the shortest period of time. But after the war was over, and Europe started reconstructing itself, the USA faced a poignant problem: How to avoid an economic downturn driven by a slowdown in production?
One of the affected industries was the automotive industry. Soon new markets had to be prospected to keep at its best the production outputs of that industry. Here came chance to help with the possibility to exploit an earlier join effort from five major producers of automobiles, buses, oil or accessories in a scheme to take over the streetcar companies in major USA cities. They were to be phased out in favour of petrol buses, hence being more akin to the interests of those companies. The streetcar companies weren’t at their best moment after the years of depression, and could possibly not offer much resistance to the takeover.
Europe followed due on this trend…
…even if the streetcar infrastructure wasn’t always terminated. Thus, a sustainable and efficient means of transportation in cities was relegated to a minor role in the traffic planning of major European cities too. Its funding limited, and the PR efforts focused on turning automobiles into the promise of a better life alike the golden age of the USA, the tram infrastructure sluggishly survived the Century.
It is over this backdrop that I look with hope at the rail and streetcar companies especially in my city. Munich is forecasted to soon reach full-day automobile traffic collapse as the population grows ever faster in the last years. Here the urgent need to switch back to a sustainable city transportation system is more poignant than in other places. Yet we can expect that the automobile lobbyists do not waste any opportunity to try and keep the status-quo of an illogical and unnatural contraption.