Zürich model

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The Zürich model is the approach by the city of Zürich in Switzerland that permitted its public transportation system to achieve and maintain a high market share. Many other cities have emulated elements of it, especially when new tram systems were introduced.


In the 1970s, Zürich was planning to move many of the tram lines in its central area into tunnels. This project was rejected in a referendum. In the 1970s, a project to create an underground railway was similarly rejected.[1][2][3]

Despite the failures of these attempts to provide Zürich with a different kind of transportation system, public transportation in Zürich has maintained a high modal split, with 65% of people commuting within the city doing so by public transport and only 17% using cars.[1][3] In his book, Status Anxiety, Alain de Botton has suggested why the model is so effective:

There are communities ... whose public realms exude respect in their principles and architecture, and whose citizens are therefore under less compulsion to retreat to a private domain. Indeed, we may find that some of our ambitions for personal glory fade when the public spaces and facilities to which we enjoy access are themselves glorious to behold: in such context, ordinary citizenship may come to seem an adequate goal. In Switzerland’s largest city, for instance, the need to own a car in order to avoid sharing a bus or train with strangers loses some of the urgency it has in Los Angeles or London, thanks to Zurich’s superlative tram network, which is clean, safe, warm and edifying in its punctuality and technical prowess. There is little reason to travel in an automotive cocoon when, for a fare of only a few francs, an efficient, stately tramway will provide transportation from point A to point B at a level of comfort an emperor might have envied.[4]

Elements of the model[edit]

  • A dense network providing many direct connections and short headways.
  • High priorities at intersections.
  • Low impact of road congestion on operations.
  • Parking maximums (instituted in 1989), followed by parking limits in the downtown (1996)[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Moglestue, Andrew (April 2005). "Zürich: Top city — thanks to light rail". Tramways & Urban Transit. Ian Allan Ltd / Light Rail Transit Association. pp. 130–134.
  2. ^ Moglestue, Andrew (May 2005). "Zürich: The Cobra rules, all above ground". Tramways & Urban Transit. Ian Allan Ltd / Light Rail Transit Association. pp. 180–184.
  3. ^ a b Moglestue, Andrew (December 2005). "Zürich: A city and its trams". Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  4. ^ Alain de Boton, Status Anxiety, Vintage Books, 2005, p. 250
  5. ^ Norman Garrick, Christopher McCahill. "Lessons From Zurich's Parking Revolution". CityLab. The Atlantic (August 8, 2012). Retrieved 5 October 2016.