In Paris, the risky about-face of Denis Baupin [aka Monsieur Embouteillages, Mr Traffic Jam-- who wants us all to take the bus, but himself has a private taxi subscription paid for by the city. By the way, taxis can take the bus lanes, so he has the best of both worlds. Of course, he's important! not just a mère de famille trying to do bulky family errands around town. (Have you ever noticed how rarely you see men carrying anything, compared to women?)]
In the face of criticism, the Transportation deputy has been forced to revisit his projects.
By Sibylle Vincendon
Libération, Sat 16 Dec 06
It is possible that the day of glory will arrive [quotation from national anthem La Marseillaise] for Denis Baupin, [Paris Mayor] Bertrand Delanoë's environmentalist deputy for transports. He must wish it, because times have been hard these past few months: seen at the beginning as courageous, the creation of wide lanes reserved for public transportation gradually was seen as not necessarily improving the frequency of buses. Marginal on pollution. And perhaps just a tad discriminatory toward drivers from the suburbs. Annoying when one is on the left, and even more so because the right believes that it sees a crack where it can slip in a wedge. A success for the tramway would come at just the right time to erase the mounting wave of criticism.
The arrival of the tramway has been promised for eons by the environmental deputy as the end of the troubles. The hell of the construction is past. From now on, the trip from Ivry to Garigliano will take 24 minutes instead of 32. There a still a few unknowns: no one knows how successful the management of the intersections with the Porte d'Orléans and the Porte d'Italie, major passageways into Paris, will be. The example of tramways in the provinces, confronted with far less traffic, does not tell us. In Paris, the least new measure (one-way streets, suppression of a lane) has a cascade of repercussions. And up till now, the prediction of these "systemic effects" has not been the strong point of Baupin's teams.
The leftist municipality has thus been surprised by the explosion in the number of two-wheeled vehicles (motorcycles and mopeds), which no one foresaw. The question of transport of goods was not seriously considered until last year. Nothing has been organized for the parking of workers coming in from the suburbs (in construction) or for health professionals. Major evolutions like e-commerce and its development of small deliveries, or the aging of the population with help to live at home, are not being faced. Of these, one is crucial: it is not the city of Paris that decides how many buses and taxis circulate in the enlarged special lanes. For the buses, it is the Syndicat des transports d'Ile-de-France (Stif) [isn't that perfect! They Stif us!], presided over by the region Ile-de-France [Paris's region] since this year but in which the city's vote weighs only 30%. And certainly not 30% of the needs. On the taxi side, things are worse: the police prefecture, in other words the national government, runs everything. Or rather nothing, since the calamitous situation of taxi availability has not budged an iota. [Photos: Hundreds and hundreds of taxis in line at the airport, waiting for hours rather than return to Paris. Here's why.]
"Pressure." This lack of power has politically risky effects, at a time when some arrondissements barely voted on the left. How to explain to a driver going at a snail's pace that he sees only three buses in 30 minutes in the bus lane next to him? How to calm the people on a major road in east Paris that has been made into a one-way street? For a long time, Denis Baupin professed that it was necessary to "put the system under pressure," an expression that the mayor's cabinet uses to explain the doctrine of first reducing the room for cars, and afterwards augment the alternative offer of public transportation. This dogma is no longer in style. In September, during the Marcoussis seminar which reunited the elected representatives of the municipal majority, the principle was reversed: no more changes in the roads without an alternative transportation offer. The closing of the roads along the river or the pedestrian zone in the center of Paris are put off till later. To keep Paris is well worth a delicate touch. [This refers to King Henri IV, who converted to Catholicism to inherit the throne, saying, "Paris is well worth a Mass."]