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Rosengartentunnel, what was it all about?

filed on: 06.03.2020 (6th Mar 2020)

Rosengarten tram unterer rsg
It is almost a month ago that the Rosengarten tunnel was rejected by voters in a cantonal referendum. As is often the case after such clear no votes, the topic goes quiet for a while. In Swiss politics, pragmatism sets the rules. Winners are typically magnanimous and losers don't whinge. But the discussion is bound to be come sooner or later. The underlying problem has not been solved.

The proponents of the combined road tunnel and surface tram solution were maybe trying to please everybody while satisfying nobody. When the faction who wanted a tram but no road tunnel joined forces with the faction who wanted a road tunnel but no tram, any hope of a combined solution were dashed.

Here is an interesting article showing the twelve buildings that would have had to be torn down: tsri.ch/zh/rosengartentunnel-abreissen-gentrifizierung-rosengartenstrasse/. Some of these buildings would have had to make way for the tunnel portals, but others were needed for the tram, including those required to build a tram junction at Albisriederplatz, and the corner building at Bucheggstr/Wehntalerstr which presumably would have eased the alignment of the tram curve (I think the other houses on the list were all in the way of road measures). Obviously none of these buildings are of any great urbanist value, and their preservation is hardly an argument against a project such as this. But the list highlights the scale of the project. Certainly, with some creative thinking, alternatives could have been found that could have brought down costs and percieved impact.

Personally, I feel the need for a tram here is more political than real. There are other bus routes suffering from far greater overcrowding. Whereas the Affoltern line (route 32) is now showing realistic signs of getting trams, this is not presently on the horizon for Hohlstrasse (route 31). Whereas these routes are graced by double-articulated trolleybuses, and often filled to the seams nevertheless, the Rosengarten route sees only single-articulated trolleybuses (route 72) and diesel buses (route 83). If demand were to increase here, this could be first met by larger trolleybuses and by providing dedicated bus lanes — which would mean a restriction in road capacity which would have to addressed in some way — thus taking us back to the core of the problem. However, dedicated bus lanes could have tram rails added at some point in the future if the need is there. The competing need for road space need not be directly between trams and cars.

The need to create a tangential tram link between the growing new areas in the north and in the west of Zürich while avoiding the central area has to be addressed, and is right in terms of the strategic development of the tram network. The question is whether Rosengartenstrasse is the best place for this. For example it has been said the gradient would impose severe speed restrictions for trams running downhill, and thus be slower than today's trolleybus, especially if the trolleybus could be put on a dedicated lane instead.

Maybe part of the motivation behind insisting on a tram here is about the ideological satisafcation of seeing a major and much hated thoroughfare replaced by a tram line? This maybe also explains the proposed tram continuing its itinerary on the upper level of Hardbrücke even though there are already tracks on the lower level. Ideologically pleasing and symbolic solutions are not always the best or most practical. Maybe there is even a hint of a first-world-problem syndrome here.

How about instead building a tram line from Schaffhasuerplatz via Rotbuchstr and Kornhausbrücke to Limmatplatz, and then using Langstrasse to join Badenerstrasse? That would leave the question of Rosengartenstrasse to be solved another day.

This news item is from the 2020 newslog.


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