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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.


[intro music]

Eric Britton: [00:03] Mobilien comes from mobile, mobile and lien in French means link.


[music]

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.


[music]

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.


[music]

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.


Speaker: [03:13] [speaking French].

[music]

Transcription Sponsored by: Transcript Divas Transcription Services

Elizabeth Press is a Filmmaker for Streetfilms. She joined Streetfilms in 2007 to focus her video work on advocating for better biking, walking and mass transit.

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  • Anna

    NYC could speed up its loading and unloading noticeably IF there was annual card or monthly or weekly card which people simply flash at the driver or IF there was some modicum of trust and people were allowed to dip their cards at some place else than the front of the bus. It takes about five seconds per person to board because of the card dips. If people just get on and off without having to stop, it goes a lot faster. Likewise, why do school children dip their cards? Why do they have cards? (I don't care if the young'uns ride "for free." For that matter, given the huge amount of free parking in Manhattan, I don't care if anyone rides the bus "for free." ) Why is an expensive program in place to allow the retired and handicapped to ride and be billed once a month by their bank? or Chase? (whichever). (Why not just let them put their change nto the till?) The unlimited buses which often run half full and only save about ten minutes in the case of the number 5 are frankly a disgrace. The system needs to be closely monitored using video cameras to discover exactly what is up and who is shirking his duty to stay on schedule (drivers should be allowed to use "next bus please signs" when they are five minutes - ten minutes off schedule and esp. if the next bus is visible in their rearview mirror.

    Common sense perhaps?

  • Adriana

    I am all for re-allocation of lanes to give transit priority and Mobilien definitely does this.. and it's hard to argue when one of the world's most admired cities is implementing it.. It is good to see it promoted. Lane allocation is one of the most powerful carrot + stick mechanims out there to support transit ridership.

    However looking beyond that Mobilien is not really so impressive - it is on par with what is called BRT in North America, which pales compared to the really full BRT systems like Bogota's TranMilenio. I suppose part of teh differnce is the scale.. this looks like it stops frequently and is more aimed and local trips rather than the fast regional service that TransMilenio excels at.

    imho no one should have to plan their trip around transit - service should be frequent enough that you show up and never wait more than 2-3 minutes not matter what. What is the point of nearly no-step loading when you can have totally level boarding?

    Also, I disagree with the shared bike and bus lanes. They might be fine if either mode of traffic is light, but once frequency of the buses goes up or bike ridership goes up, then everything will be bogged down by the speed of the cyclists.

    It also takes alot of the carrot out of the lane-reallocation if the buses can only travel at the speed of a bike they are behind. If long-term use is the goal, cycle lanes ought to be their own entity.

  • Frederic

    Unlike
    Bogota TranMilenio but as the BRT in the USA, Mobilien works as a
    supplement to diverse systems. For the long travels,
    the RER(REGIONAL EXPRESS NETWORK) are the fastest, then subways, streetcars
    and Mobiliens, and finally buses. But, an improvement of the streetcar and the buses would be to validate tickets as we enter of the platform rather than in buses or streetcars. It would make us save some time.

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