According to Fernando Salazar, director of Cuenca’s transportation department, the success of the city’s new tranvía depends on how well it is incorporated into other forms of transportation, particularly the bus system.
In its planning process, Cuenca is looking at the experience of other cities with similar light rail systems. “The situation closest to Cuenca’s is Bordeaux, France,” Salazar says. “Although Bordeaux is smaller than Cuenca, there are many similarities to our situations,” he says.
Bordeaux uses the same electric tram manufactured by French transport and tech giant, Alstom, expected to be running in Cuenca in less than a year. As in Cuenca, the Bordeaux tram route runs through the center of the historic area of the city, switching to battery power in some areas to avoid the use of overhead cables. Also like Cuenca, a high percentage of the population in Bordeaux use public transportation to get around — 41% vs. Cuenca’s 43%.
Salazar says that in addition to buses, Cuenca plans to expand bicycle and pedestrian routes to accommodate shorter trips. “An integrated transportation systems uses a variety of forms of mobility with the ultimate goal of reducing use of private vehicles,” he says. “This reduces congestion and pollution and improves the general livability of the city.”
According to the Cuenca transportation department, the city bus system currently accommodates 420,000 daily trips with a fleet of 475 buses. “We believe that 30% of those trips will switch to the tram but this depends on how well we coordinate the systems,” says Salazar. He says tram ridership to increase in the future as it adds additional lines.
According to University of Madrid researcher Cascajo Rocio Jimenez, the use of public transportation in Bordeaux has increased with the introduction of the tram six years ago. “People are actually leaving their cars behind because they like the convenience of the tram and the way in connects with the bus system,” he says.
He adds: “What we’ve found, in other cities as well as Bordeaux, is that the urban rail line quickly becomes the backbone of the public transport system and, as additional lines are added, it replaces many of the buses and becomes more popular with the public.”