Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE credits
The urban population is growing rapidly and in the meantime the environmental problems, global as well as local, are increasing. Qualitative public transportation is, and will further more be, an essential key factor in order to transport this population in a rational and sustainable way. Apart from the ecological challenges, there is also a need to create enough space in the urban fabric in order to house the growing population and in same time offer a city with public arenas that enables a democratic use and vitality.
One of the purposes of this thesis is to explore what factors that have contributed to the recent light rail renaissance, which can be said to have started around the mid 1980’s. A lot of cities worldwide are in the progress of implementing new systems, and even more are examining the possibility. The relatively new and booming interest for light rail cannot exclusively be explained from its core traffic capacity, a fundamental part of the attention comes from the fact that many cities have complemented their systems with an overall improvement of the physical urban environment. Another essential purpose of the study is to examine whether streets where light rail have been implemented can be said to have developed differently in terms of city life and vitality compared to streets without.
There has been little research regarding the relationship between light rail implementations and its effects on city life. The theoretical knowledge has therefore been gathered with a dual focus, where theories regarding city life mainly have been collected from the works of the Danish architect Jan Gehl and American urban theorist Jane Jacobs. The main part of the knowledge regarding the light rail renaissance and modern implementations have been gathered from French systems, which are especially said to have succeeded in combining light rail and city development. A case study has also been performed, in Strasbourg, France, to further be able to answer the paper’s purposes.
The light rail renaissance arose a decade after the global oil crisis had emerged. This was also a time with a lot of debate regarding how much space the car should be given in the urban environment, and what effects it had on cities’ urban structure and appearance. Other explanations to the many new French systems seems to be its holistic view on urban planning, and its laws and taxation principles, which indeed have been favorable to light rail implementations.
The tendency to stay in an urban place is, to some extent, dependent on the quality of the same. Many cities have, when implementing a light rail system, chosen to upgrade their surrounding environment and by doing so offer their citizens a more qualitative urban context. It is concluded that an urban upgrading is more likely to happen in combination with investments in a permanent public transportation system, like light rail. Another conclusion was that city life is determined by a lot of different factors, and appears differently depending on where in the urban fabric the street is located; the total amount of traffic seems to be more important rather than the specific means of transport; the street’s physical structure is another important factor and covers aspects as dimension, scale and design. The paper concludes that light rail can be implemented in streets with such characteristics.
2012. , 70 p.