Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Greening of Paris

Paris Tourist Office-
Photo: Marc Bertrand
Since his election as mayor of Paris in 2001,  Bertrand Delanoe has set out to make Paris a greener city. Although Paris can pride itself to have an extensive and efficient metro and bus network, the City of Light is  said to have some of the worst traffic jams in Europe and horrendous air quality. To alleviate congestion and diminish the level of air pollution the city of Paris has instituted a number of innovative programs. First in 2007,  the bike share rental program "Velib" was introduced . Parisians and visitors alike have access to more than 20,000 bikes located at 1800 velib parking stations around the city spaced 300 meters from each other. Parisians can buy a yearly or monthly subscription; short term usage options useful for visitors are also available for 1.70 euros for 1 day ticket or 8 euros for seven consecutive days. The first 30 minutes of each usage are free and trips longer than 30 minutes incur small additional usage charges. Since its inception, the velib has experienced much success and has been copied by other French cities as well as other European capitals.  A similar program is coming soon to New York city.
Autolib-Mairie de Paris

Spurred by Velib's success , the city of Paris introduced this past autumn a car sharing program, Autolib.  It consists of 3,000 blue bubble-shaped, battery- powered cars stationed at 1,000 self-service hire points across the city and its suburbs. A driver needs to first subscribe to the program by providing proof of identity (identification card or valid passport), valid driver's license, and a credit card to use as guarantee. The driver can pick one of three rental options-- a yearly subscription, a 7 day usage plan or a just a day discovery pass.  After these initial formalities, the driver is issued a badge and is able to pick a car in a predetermined location. After usage, the car is returned to a convenient Autolib location. Driver pay for the time used, in half-hours units.  One year premium subscription costs 144 euros, 7 day usage : 15 euros and 24 hour Discovery pass: 10 euros.   For Parisians who have given up owning a car in Paris due to awful traffic congestion, the lack of parking spaces and the high insurance costs, Autolib can be an economical and convenient mode of transportation around town.  Its proponents hope that a wide usage of the auto-sharing program will help reduce pollution and cut traffic.

Thirdly, an old public transport system -- the tramway line--has reappeared in Paris in 2006.  The T3 line runs along the boulevards that encircle Paris and which are named after Napoleon's Marshals (Marechaux) linking the 15th, 14th and 13th arrondissements. Extensions are planned linking Porte de Charenton (12th) and eventually Porte de la Chapelle (18th).  These modern street cars run noiselessly and are pollution free and actually carry 100,000 passengers a day.

Tramway-Paris Tourist Office
Photograph: Marc Bertrand

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