“Urban air sets you free” is an old German proverb based on the medieval principle that one year and a day in a free city would free you from serfdom. Therefore, a free city attracted many people to live their life there.
Today, towns are still an attraction to many since they provide all kinds of opportunities. Cultural and educational infrastructure of a modern city provide us with an abundance of freedom and choices to make it one of the most desirable places to live, work and enjoy a modern metropolitan life.
The desirability of metropolitan areas has seen continued growth and has brought a wide range of challenges to city planners and to us as citizens. Since the 90’s city councils have shifted their focus from the car to creating a socially and environmentally friendly city. Pedestrian areas, parks and bicycle paths are just a few of the visible changes. However, this does not seem to be enough. Today, approximately 75% of EU- citizens live in towns and the particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide has become unhealthy. This has forced cities like Paris to ban certain diesel-fuelled cars from its streets as of 2019. It is a fair prediction that there will be ban on all non-electric / hybrid car in the near future.
To fight climate change and improve inner city air the move towards e-mobility seems the only valid option. Within the last 25 years the European energy mix has shifted from a predominantly coal fuelled power production to a more varied mix of renewable energy, nuclear power and high efficient natural gas power to reduce the Co2 emissions and improve the air quality. Earth Day 2017 (22.04) marked the first day in history that the UK could provide electric power without the use of coal fuelled power plants. In the EU the portion on renewable energy has increased to 25% and by 2020 the 30% target should be reached.
Further steps to improve the air quality and public life in the towns and cities involve their transport systems. Any person that uses public transport reduces his carbon footprint by 70%, even though half of the buses are still powered by fossil fuels.
This move towards “e-Mobility” is a renaissance of a trend that was started in 1881 when the first electric tram was introduced in Berlin.
In Europe especially, the tram already makes an innovative contribution to e-mobility in regards to local public transit. Nearly 200 European cities own a tram or LRT (Light Rail Transport) system, 70 of these being in Germany.
Being a comfortable and silent means of transit, the tram also has an enormous cult character and gives an advanced and great city a classic charm. Everybody likes the tram – from young to old, locals to tourists. These emotional and unique features (rail bonus) make the good old tram essential for European metropolises and big cities for the future as well.