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Zurich, Basel, Winterthur, Lucerne, Geneva—the frontline when it comes to attempts to get cars off the street and people onto buses, trams and trains.
In the German-speaking cities, traffic and environment group umverkehR wants to see the use of public transport and bicycles grow by 10 percent over the next decade, with car traffic declining by the same amount.
Campaign organiser, Thomas Stahel says the traffic problem in Switzerland is greatest in the cities: “There are regular jams. Public transport there is able to carry large numbers of people and we also have some catching up to do when it comes to cycling.”
In March, umverkehR scored its first success in the city of St Gallen.
There, cars account for 40 percent of all traffic and the city’s traffic is growing by half a per cent a year. Almost 60 percent of voters came out in favour of meeting the growth in traffic through public transport, pedestrians and cyclists.
Stahel says he was positively surprised by the result. “St Gallen is rather conservative when it comes to traffic policy, so it is a big success for us.”
The situation differs from city to city.
In Zurich, the new Uetliberg tunnel has reduced traffic flows in the center. And in Geneva , umverkehR is limiting its initiative to pedestrians and cyclists because it says the city has already made huge strides with its public transport.
But what exactly will a city have to do if—as in St Gallen—the initiatives are approved?
Elisabeth Beéry, building and planning director, in St Gallen, says we have to make public transport more attractive. “For example bus lanes so that buses can drive faster through the cities, redesigning the square in front of the station to make it easier to change and increasing the frequency of the Appenzeller trains to 15 minutes. These are some of the projects we’re implementing to meet the goal.”
Local authorities in the four other cities in German-speaking Switzerland have put forward counter proposals.
If umverkehR is satisfied that they go far enough, the group will withdraw its initiatives. The next vote is not expected till September in Lucerne.
—Vincent Landon, Zurich, World Radio Switzerland