Mobilien: Paris’ Version of Bus Rapid Transit
Le Mobilien is Paris' version of what we know as a bus rapid transit system or a surface mass transport network. Paris has been doing “bus rapid transit” for decades, and after years of on-street operation and continuous fine-tuning they have now developed a system which they call the “Mobilien” - French for MOBI-lity plus “LIEN” which means link. Linking mobility. Unlike the BRTs that most US cities are looking at, the Mobilien adapts to different city contexts (i.e. street width and specific neighborhood dynamics). Mobilien doesn't aim at producing top speeds but making steady progress through the traffic stream. It launched in Paris after three years of planning in 2004 with the goal of cutting down on car traffic. To make the project possible, Paris' officials eliminated much on-street parking to create dedicated bus lanes that are shared with bicycles, taxis and emergency vehicles. Eric Britton from the new Mobility Agenda took me on a tour of Mobilien.
Eric Britton: [00:03] Mobilien comes from mobile, mobile and lien in French means link.
Eric Britton: [00:20] It looks like a Bus Rapid Transit system as you like to call them in the United States, and to an extent it is. But it is an independent evolution of transportation.
Emmanuel Martin: [00:35] What I was asked to do was a BRT, be as cheap as possible and make the bus go fast. Afterwards we realised that that couldn’t be like that, it wasn’t so simple. We had to take into account all the people living around. The city of Paris and invest something like 70 million euros on Mobilien. We have some, I think, some project that has been done to the lien and that works pretty well.
Eric Britton: [01:04] The Mobilien is a reserve lane. It’s for buses which are articulated buses. The Mobilien boarding site is slightly raised. You walk almost directly onto the Mobilien, so a person who has a leg problem, a person with a cane, has very easy access to it. Another part of the Mobilien is the Paris ticketing system. We all in Paris have what the [speaking French], which is now going through a new version, the navigo, and you just take your ticket and swipe it. And so there is no lost time as people board the system. The Mobilien, because they’re separated from traffic, go faster than getting around by car. They’ve increased the speed of buses, anywhere from 10 to 20%, which is really quite a bit. A couple of percent in urban traffic means a great deal. But probably for most people what’s interesting about the Mobilien is that they are increasingly regular because they are outside of the main, the mixed traffic stream, so you can plan your trip. And the planning system is further enhanced electronically because when you go to the station, you know when the next two Mobilien are coming. So if you want to go buy a paper, you have a chore to do, you can do that, and then onboard they will announce the time of your trip, of when they’re going to arrive at the destination. The Mobilien system has been conceived primarily for buses. The taxis have long been associated with public transportation in Paris and so the taxis have access to it, and then cyclists. It’s a safe cycling environment. These lanes are four and a half metres across.
Emmanuel Martin: [02:54] So the idea was to say we had to have real BRT’s and real road modification in order to have buses that can be regular. The aim was obviously to get… to raise the rider-ship.