Tuesday, December 12, 2006


As a city planner I feel privileged to live in Zürich. The city is clean, people are friendly and everything seems to work well - especially the public transport system. One of my favorite authors, Alain De Botton, comes from Zürich and in a short story called, The discreet charm of the Zürich bourgeoisie, writes:
"In Switzerland’s largest city, the urge to own a car and avoid sharing a bus or train with strangers loses some of the urgency it may have in Los Angeles or London, thanks to Zurich’s superlative tram network – clean, safe, warm and edifying in its punctuality and technical prowess. There is little reason to travel alone when, for only a few francs, an efficient, stately tramway will transport one across the city at a level of comfort an emperor would have envied."
When my wife and I returned to San Francisco in 2004 one of the things we missed most about Zürich and Switzerland was how easy it was to travel by public transport everywhere ... we could travel effortlessly from our home in the center of Zürich to the top of a mountain in the Alps quickly and inexpensively. In contrast, living in San Francisco without a car is difficult at best. What's really sad is that San Francisco is a place where public transport should be great: the city is dense enough to support good public transport and most people care greatly about the environment. It's a real shame.

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