44 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Freiburg”

  1. I’ve been told that great transit can’t exist unless a city has skinny houses, apodments, density, tall buildings, and a ban on culdesacs and single family home neighborhoods, but I’m having trouble finding evidence that Freiburg has any of these things.

    1. I’ve been told that what makes a city truly livable is lots of single-family housing, lots of parking for private automobilies, as few shadows as possible, protected views of the Space Needle, and an NBA franchise. I see no evidence Freiburg has any of that.

      1. Well if they had protected views of the Needle, I think we can all agree that would be overkill…


      2. I don’t know, but I’ve been told.
        A big legged woman ain’t got no soul.

        However, Frieberg does have a solar powered hydrogen station.

        Running cars on sun and water – Fraunhofer ISE inaugurates solar hydrogen filling station

        The hydrogen filling station in Freiburg is one of the few stations that exhibits the entire value chain – starting from electricity generated from renewable energy, through electrolysis and ultimately to refueling the vehicle with hydrogen. Since its founding, Fraunhofer ISE has been working on electrolysis technology, hydrogen for use in fuel cells and on hydrogen as electrical energy storage for renewably generated power. The hydrogen filling station serves as a reference project for the researchers in their quest to develop emission-free mobility for the future. Equally interesting are electrolysers which operate as flexible loads. They serve to stabilize intermittencies in the grid due to the fluctuating feed-in from renewable energy systems.


      3. With exactly what happening on the streets of the city with all those automobiles. And views of the Space Needle protected by exactly what?

        Like my brother’s wife’s late and much respected father used to say when every he heard somebody demand something ridiculous: “Yeah, and people in Hell want icewater!”

        Anybody got a line on a good German language teacher. Would make statement sound more authoritative when I say it.


    2. I used to live in Freiburg. It isn’t a large city (~230,000 residents with a major university), but it’s a very walkable city with an excellent transportation system (even if its name doesn’t translate particularly well into English). I’m sure you noticed that most of central Freiburg (the areas with cobblestone streets) was full of pedestrians and very few cars.

      1. Based on the images on Google, I’d have to say it also has little vertical density — of the skyscraper condo sort. Seems more like 5 story, wall to wall apartment houses, combined with small SFHs and a lot of shared common areas.

        Population Density 1,400/km2 (3,700/sq mi)


      2. Nearly 3/4 of Freiburg proper is mountains and other protected wilderness, John.

      3. Sounds great..a satellite city with a population of 218,043.

        Some nice transit and density — but not to the extreme of highrise apodments.
        Some nice housing — but not the extreme of McMansions and highways.
        Some nice urbanity…and some nice nature.

        This is a balanced style of life.

    3. Just this one random video (which isn’t even about land use policy) shows multi-story buildings skinnier than the “skinny houses” of Seattle (and certainly on smaller lots!). There are almost certainly many small housing units, given the age of the buildings. There are very few residential cul-de-sacs and there aren’t single-use areas or parking lots on the scale typically seen on the west coast of the US. There isn’t much auto infrastructure taking up ground-level space in major pedestrian areas. That’s what it takes to build walkability and density without much height.

      If this, to the last stone, was proposed in the vast majority of Seattle, the battle lines would be familiar.

      1. A residential area in Freiburg.

        Same-scaled map, in Ermahgerd, we’re so urban! Lower Queen Anne.

        Don’t forget that Freiburg is basically Bellingham: a large-ish college town with slightly over 200,000 people in its entire metro area. And yet there they are, functioning in both medieval and post-war cityscapes that eat any major Seattle “density node” for breakfast. That’s why there are pedestrians everywhere. That’s why public transit, in any form, is the no-brainer easiest way for anyone and everyone to get around. Freiburg didn’t reinvent any wheels; it just chose to grow itself as small city that still scales as a city.

        But one should not make the classic mistake that these videos encourage, of ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the transit charms of a city barely three miles end-to-end, and then thinking it could be replicated verbatim in a metropolis. There’s a reason you don’t see Hamburg trying to do transport heavy-lifting with street-crawling, signal-dependent, single-lane, zig-zagging historitrams.

      2. Freiburg is definitely a bigger city than Bellingham; its population is roughly equivalent to Tacoma (without the suburbs). What makes Freiburg different from an American city is that the transportation infrastructure isn’t designed around the automobile. When I lived there, I rarely used public transportation, I could easily walk to the city center and the university. A trip to the football grounds required a tram trip; but other than that, I would walk or sometimes borrow a bike. Even going to the nearest big city, Basel, was easiest with the intercity train. The trains ran almost hourly around the clock and the trip was faster and usually cheaper than driving.

        German commercial laws also work in favor of small businesses by putting competitive limits on large businesses. The big box stores that have driven many small American businesses into bankruptcy are more limited in Germany and there are other mechanisms that preserve local, neighborhood businesses like restrictions on how late businesses can be open.

        There still are plenty of American businesses in Freiburg, however. The shot of the tram coming through the double-arched portal into the central city is carefully cropped to not show the McDonald’s franchise located right next to one of Freiburg’s iconic images.

      3. I wholeheartedly agree that it is different than a American city, which is precisely why…

        equivalent to Tacoma (without the suburbs)

        …is an improper apples-to-apples comparison.

        The sprawling Tacoma division of the Seattle-Tacoma Metropolitan Statistical Area (officially coterminous with Pierce County, but practically speaking includes swaths of Federal Way and Auburn) contains a population of 800,000-900,000. These are the people whose economic and cultural lives exist primary in Tacoma’s orbit, and whose primary daily mobility needs encompass the same galaxy of nodes.

        By comparison, Freiburg has only a single suburban satellite (Denzlingen, population 13,306) beyond its municipal boundaries — which themselves stretch far beyond the urbanized area. The regional hinterlands are virtually unpopulated. Freiburg’s orbit is therefore coterminous with itself: 200,000 and change, roughly on par with the entirety population that orbits and engages with the city of Bellingham.

        This is not to discount the impact of having those 200,000 so massively condensed by comparison: your anecdotal experience that the trams were often utterly superfluous (hey! just like the SLUT!) speaks to that intensely functional urban scale.

        But you can’t squeeze 800,000 people (…or 2 million …or 5 million) into the kind of form where transit can be exist only for charm and football. People in larger cities can’t take all day to make simple trips across them. That’s why London, the world’s first very large city, invented large-urban-scaled transit in the first place. That’s why even Tacoma needs better urban design policies and better transit than dinky streetcars can ever catalyze. Pretending that Freiburg is a relevant model to even a moderately large city will get you into trouble.

      4. Well, I’ll agree that Freiburg does feel a lot more like Whatcom County than Tacoma (just the city). And just because I didn’t use the trams much doesn’t mean that they are running around empty–they are very well used. But that’s because they are properly designed to serve as the main artery of the region’s transportation system and be the most efficient means of moving people around.

      5. More than dinky little “symbolic transit” shit carving a “U” shape from nowhere to nowhere at great expense while reaching the most infinitesimal fraction of the population or of useful destinations?

        How about a right-scaled, frequent bus network designed to carry people efficiently in straight lines and between major destinations and not aimed only at the last-resort sector?

        As in, the exact opposite of current Tacoma transit priorities.

      6. d.p., Tacoma is just jealous of Seattle’s plan to have a U-shaped streetcar line from just below Capitol Hill to the top of Capitol Hill via Little Saigon.

  2. Does Seimens have a lock on streetcar/trams world-wide? I see them in the states and in many European cities such as Amsterdam.

    1. Hardly. Through acquisitions Bombardier of Montreal is probably the largest maker with factories worldwide. Stadler and Alstom have built a number as well.

      1. Oh, for the sake of completeness, I should include the major Japanese makers. You already know of Kinki-Sharyo / Nippon-Sharyo / Sumitomo, as they have been building Chicago’s commuter cars for years and wound up winning the bid for the Link equipment.

        They have also demonstrated an overhead / battery powered tram, one step down in size from their light rail equipment:

        Kawasaki is best known in the USA for its New York City subway cars, but they are now marketing a tram / light rail car they call the SWIMO:

  3. I’m surprised the Germans couldn’t/didn’t engineer level boarding for wheelchairs. The height differential at 1:34 also looks like a tripping hazard.

  4. Look at how close those trams operate together (3:14). Metro/Sound Transit’s spacing policy has long frustrated me. They trust me to not hit pedestrians or cars coming from any direction possible at 3rd & Pike or the U District, but get within 100′ of a Link Train? No… That’s not safe.

    Once Link no longer has to stop at Westlake for security checks, the DSTT would function so much smoother if buses dropping off were allowed to snuggle up to the train. Sigh… A guy can dream, right?

    1. How would you place the bus bays to optimize tunnel throughput from 2016 to 2019? Only having the deboarding buses pull to the front of the platform seems like it would have its own algorithmic and space usage issues.

      1. There is currently room for at least one bus, possibly two, behind a two car Link train. When they go to 3 car trains, you’d need to pull the train forward to the front of the platform to keep some space back there. I’d change as little as possible, other than to let us know that if there’s room to let passengers off, go for it.

        I would *not* do anything that puts buses in front of a train due to possible delays caused by use of the ramp. Minor changes to the existing signals could increase the chances that buses dropping off passengers will be at the front of the line.

        Last time I drove in the tunnel, buses dropping off tended to end up at the front of the line, but there were some minor issues – Switching the Inbound 255s to Bay I at CPS, for example, would be one optimization. Also: Reenforcing the “Yield to coaches on your right” rule at CPS (Bay I = Drop off, Bay C=front position, Bay D=rear position). The IDS entrance would be a little trickier, but I don’t see why it couldn’t be done.

      2. It seems like it shouldn’t cost that much to move the Link bay to the front, and the bus bays behind. Still, if we design something that increases the capacity of the tunnel on paper, the problem is Metro may just try to use that increased capacity, while still not embracing ORCA or having more than a couple boarding assistants.

        A simple ban on cash boarding in the tunnel might help get us out of the hole instead of digging the hole deeper. But then, the Union might insist that only operators are qualified to show passengers where the vending machines are, and we’ll end up pulling even more senior drivers from peak routes, to do super-light duty. I also think deploying bus ticket machines — which will be obsolete in the tunnel in five years — in order to avoid making ORCA free after rebates is goofy. Free ORCA now! Free ORCA now! Free ORCA now! (Okay, keep charging $5, but have $5 e-purse on the card.) I feel my inner d.p. building up here….. WE SHOULDN”T BE CHARGING $5 FOR THE HONOR OF PAYING FASTER, WHEN NO OTHER BUS AGENCY IN THE US&A CHARGES MORE THAN $2 FOR A SMART CARD, AND MOST CHARGE NOTHING FOR THEM AFTER REBATES. WANT US TO USE ORCA? DON”T CHARGE FOR GETTING A CARD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        Ah, I feel better now.

      3. Or, maybe just use ticket vending machines to sell tickets valid on bus or train when someone doesn’t have an ORCA?

        How would you place the bus bays to optimize tunnel throughput from 2016 to 2019?

        How much do you want to optimize it? Travel time through the Portland transit mall has been drastically reduced with the reduction of buses using it. As I have suggested before, one way would be to eliminate all buses from the tunnel that are headed south, and have people use the trains to get to Royal Brougham. The bus routes formerly in the tunnel would start their route there. This would only work with significantly increased Link frequency, but replacing several dozen buses with a few trains should actually result in some decreased operating costs.

        I understand that the bus to train transfer is much harder further north, as there is no place like Royal Brougham, as the bus layover area at Olive Way and 9th doesn’t really have any good way to accept passengers from Link. At some point, however, that is going to have to be dealt with if the tunnel is to reach its full capacity.

        The bus tunnel platforms are a bit narrow to maximize passenger throughput to the escalators. I assume the ultimate plan is for a center platform to be added in the current dead zone in the center of each tunnel station. If so, that would help passenger movement immensely from the trains. What you do is you have the center platform be the exiting passenger platform, as it is the widest. When the train arrives, the doors facing this center platform open first, and passengers exit the train. 2-3 seconds later, the doors on the boarding side of the train open, and passengers boarding then have a relatively obstacle free entry into the train. Everyone exiting the train is on a completely separate platform.

        A 25 second station stop becomes a 12 or maybe at most 15 second station stop using doors on both sides of the train, using this method.

        Link probably isn’t there yet in requiring that level of throughput, but if you want to optimize the traffic flow in the tunnel this is the type of thing you do.

      4. I wouldn’t expect the center platforms to be implemented in the next ten years. We know that the configuration of IDS will not allow it when they transform it for East Link, since they want to be able to turn trains there. For the other stations, it will be an option, but they probably will not want to disrupt the stations so much. ST has lots of other projects to spend their money on.

    2. Agreed a hundred percent on everything, Velo, and a whole lot more. But there’s are three measures overdue by 24 years this coming Septermber 15 that would clear up most of the above:

      1. Give all first line personnel on Tunnel duty the training and indoctrination the work demands. Whatever it costs will save millions in wasted paid time.

      2. Arrange regular weekly meetings between rail and bus supervisory personnel, and places and communications so drivers of both modes can meet daily to compare notes- neither of which have every existed.

      3. Have someone with knowledge, skill, and authority be present in one of the staging towers at portals to coordinate operations, at least during rush hours.

      The finest orchestra in the world without all three of the above would cause the audience to break their eardrums with the stabbed-in points of their own fingers.


  5. Yesterday I was on a run of the 44 that was running about 10 minutes late late. Most of the delay had occurred shortly before I got on; based on OBA and some things that happened on the bus, my guess is there were boarding delays due to a large group of teenagers boarding (I’m imagining lots of cash-fumbling and general confusion with this crowd). Anyway, a man on the bus that had been on longer than me asked whether his stop was coming up; he was new in town and was at risk of being late getting back to a shelter for the night. If the 44 was running on time he’d have made it back easily. He was actually close to a step up in life; he’d be renting his own place soon. Lots of similar things happen every day. I’ve overheard people on the phone, nervous about a delayed bus getting them from class to work on time.

    Some people claim speed and reliability of mass transit are elitist concerns, that coverage is all that matters for equity. But everyone needs to get places on time. Maybe people with more choices talk more about speed and reliability, but people with fewer choices often have worse consequences when it fails.

    1. “Some people” sounds like the ones by whom Sam has “I’ve been told.” Are there specific groups you know of that have been saying speed and reliability do not matter?

      1. Some variation on this argument comes up every time changes are proposed to route 2, for example. It was a big force behind the route 42 craziness. Some people think it’s really important to preserve historical routings and very specific pairs of destinations, even when they get in the way of a network that has even a chance of running reliably, and this is often presented as a social justice issue. Maybe it is, sometimes. Speed and reliability are clearly social justice issues, too, and we shouldn’t forget it.

      2. Never gave Sam that much credit for talking to drivers. Apologies, Sam.


    2. God forbid people miss the start of Keeping up with the Kardashians or are delayed getting home to rip a bong load and play GTA for six hours. You Americans sicken me.

      1. Or you’re five minutes late picking up your kid from the daycare. What are they gonna due, charge you for that? Oh wait, they do (quite a bit in some cases).

        Or you are five minutes late to work after dropping off your kid at daycare (or school). What will your boss due, fire you? Yes, in many cases, he (or she) will.

        Sorry, Sam, if America sickens you. But these are the cold, cruel realities. People’s lives get demonstrably worse because of bad public transit. Quite often, the consequences are far, far worse than you and your Kardashian watching, bong smoking friends could ever realize. This is why it behooves us all to make it better.

    3. I don’t know why people say speed and reliability are elitist. Very often it’s people who aren’t doing as well financially who have the most trouble if the bus is late or doesn’t come. If, say, someone is unemployed and trying to get to a job interview, a late bus may mean they’re late for the interview and don’t get the job. Also people in lower level jobs are more likely to be disciplined or fired if they’re late for work a lot due to unreliable buses.

      1. I think today’s generation is just made from less hearty stock. People in generations past didn’t think the sky was falling if a bus was five minutes late. It was an almost unnoticeable event. But people today whine and complain more, and are more narcissistic and impatient. You are the participation trophy generation. You were raised to believe you can’t make a mistake. So when you would throw a tantrum in the restaurant and smash your plate to the floor, instead of scolding you, your mother would apologize your spaghetti wasn’t hot enough for your liking. So now as an adult, when your bus is five minutes late, because you were coddled growing up, you stomp your foot and say, “This is unacceptable! Nothing should ever delay me! Everything should always go my way and be perfect!” But of course, you won’t admit that’s the true reason you have buses that are late, because you are a spoiled narcissistic brat. You say it’s unacceptable people homeless people are trying to get to job interviews or something.

        Just calm down. Grow a spine. And understand that a bus being a few minutes late is just part of life. Pussies.

      2. The bus used to run on time, because the region had half the population so your cars weren’t clogging the streets in front of it. Full stop.

        It’s always fun receiving condescension from the precise demographic — white, male, right-leaning baby boomers — that received a debt-free education and proceeded to put its fetishes for picket fences and global imperialism and its pathological tax-aversion on the next generation’s credit card.

        No generation in history been as selfish nor demanded instant gratification quite as much as yours.


  6. I got to see what happens when the 512 runs more frequently and less frequently than scheduled yesterday, and got to see the accuracy-challenged real-time arrival signs at the bus bays at Lynnwood Transit Center. There were about 8 northbound 512s that came through during the 50 minutes I was waiting for the southbound 512. The southbound 512 was close to packed. The northbound 512s were coming in pairs, with one close to 1.0 load factor and then another below 0.2, roughly every 15 minutes. This was from 7:00ish to 8:00ish p.m. last night, *after* deploying extra buses to handle the Mariners traffic, and the back-up on I-5 due in large part to the closure of SR 520. I know of no special event in downtown Seattle that was just letting out. I think it was just a heavy ridership day that also included Sounders and Mariners traffic, but the heavy Saturday evening load heading back to Everett was not part of any spike. A First Transit supervisor was on hand to answer questions, and assisted with boarding a wheelchair.

    Leading up to that, I got to find out the pecking order for the North Sounder track. We had to wait 30 minutes just a quarter mile south of Edmonds Station waiting for a late Amtrak train to use the single-track zone first. I saw a lot of level, bare area along the track to our right that looked like work is underway to double-track a long section up to Edmonds Station.

  7. Come on. Can’t anybody see when Sam is messing with us? If your want to give a bad mimic of a hostile comment on this country, you gotta say something like “Die Infidel Dogs!” in a bad Pashtun accent.

    Same with a nineteen year old saying anything starting with: “Back in my day…”.

    However, no fair teasing Sam for a very human lack of experience. So to help him understand, let’s find him two conditions:

    1. A job offering exactly a full-time high seniority transit driver’s fairly good wages, benefits, and definitely a run card and a bus.

    2. Knowledge he’ll lose it all four being one minute late for work four times or so.

    The resulting pathetic yowls will bristle the fur of pussies from Sound to Mountains and border to the Oregon line.

    Hey, Sam: get on your laptop and go to Giveverybodyabreak.edu. Of ask Kim Kardashian if you can be on her show.


  8. Speaking of linear distances, rather than the horizontal and circumferential ones shared by the Kardashian sisters, whose figures would be considered droolingly luscious by huge majority of the world’s men:

    Yesterday’s discussion of regional light rail left out the same thing true of LINK planning: express track. No reason every train has to make every stop and be held to sixty.

    However, even extra fast electric trains Everett to Olympia should have bathrooms, dining, and an espresso machine. Slight update but same idea as the Electroliner.

    A name that really does make “LINK” sound like a pork sausage.

    ‘Night, gang.


Comments are closed.