Prague city planning

16 04 2009
Awesome multi-modal transit

Awesome multi-modal transit

In addition to beautiful architecture, Prague also has a great integrated public transportation system.  Users can purchase tickets for the amount of time they plan to use the system in increments of 30 minutes, 75 minutes, one day or long-term passes for residents.   This provides access to the underground subway and the above-ground trams.  There are no turnstiles, instead, users are expected to get their passes stamped upon entry to the subway or onto the bus after purchasing tickets at conveniently located vending machines.  This increases the efficiency of the system and eliminates lines at turnstile bottlenecks and ensures that tram drivers do not need to check tickets.   Plus, the ticket prices are very reasonable.

Park and transit hub

Park and transit hub

The trams and subway cars are very modern and clean, and most stations have minimal graffiti and feel safe.  Ridership is high, and it was rare to see trams run empty.  The entire above-ground tram system has overhead eclectic lines, so there are no, or very few, diesel emissions from buses.  Some places the above-ground trams have there own greenways, sometimes a separate lane, sometimes a shared land, and sometimes major tram routes occupy one half of the street and vehicle traffic is restricted to one way on half of the roadway.  Major hubs for the above-ground trams are located near the subway entrances, and often have large and lively public plazas or parks.

Transportation cross section: vehicles/peds./light-rail/bikes.  For the record, Alexa wanted more trees between the pedestrian and the cars, instead of along the train tracks.

Transportation cross section: vehicles/peds./light-rail/bikes. For the record, Alexa wanted more trees between the pedestrian and the cars, instead of along the train tracks.

This is a busy city, with pedestrians, vehicles and trams in close proximity and in really high volumes. The traffic engineering here is awesome.  We have never seen pedestrian circulation so restricted or controlled, but with good reasons that facilitate smooth pedestrian flow.  They often have metal rails to prevent street crossing in certain locations, but with the busy vehicle (people drive really fast on the narrow cobblestone streets, like a James Bond movie) and tram traffic, we quickly realized that jaywalking is really dangerous, and there is really no reason to do it, since the entire multi-modal system is well synchronized and is actually very efficient if you follow the logic of the system. The barriers help the pedestrians deal with the fast vehicle drivers and the trams by facilitating access across roadway segments either in the middle of a segment or at limited legs of an intersection, depending on the direction of traffic and amount of lanes.

Prague is very pedestrian friendly.  It was a common experience to realize that the sidewalks were wider than the vehicle travel lanes in many places as we walked around the city.  In addition to the wide pedestrian streets, some avenues are pedestrian-only and outdoor dining can be found throughout the city.

An exception to buildings of Prague the ulgy communist era National Assembly building

An exception to buildings of Prague: the ugly communist era National Assembly building

The architecture in Prague is legendary, and speaks for itself.  Walking through the city is a constant visual experience due to the large amount of detail on the buildings and views at endpoints of visual corridors.  The city is full of landmarks, which provide great visual draws as you move through the city.  There is a wide range of architectural styles here that is great to see just strolling around the winding medieval streets.

Paneluks on the fringe of Ceskz Krumlov, far away from the old center

Paneluks on the fringe of Český Krumlov, far away from the old center

The communist era left mark on architect and planning here as well.  Fortunately, the large scale panelaks developments occurred mostly on the outskirts of the core of the city.  These soulless developments, like Pruitt-Igoe, were built of pre-fabricated cement and have a massive, inhuman scale that was supposed to foster the tenants of communism such as collective living and minimal privacy.  They were often shoddily built, lacked access to shopping or open spaces, and didn’t have any of the “bourgeois” design embellishments of the traditional buildings in the core of the city.   According to the Museum of Communism, the reaction to the panelak housing was a boom in weekend hut culture, in which residents escaped to small countryside hamlets to garden, enjoy open space and some privacy on the weekends.  However, panelaks still provide housing for many residents in Czech and can bee seen in the outskirts of the city centers.  Some are in better shape than others, and some are painted colorfully to try and give them a little life.

Weekend garden cottages

Weekend garden cottages

Transit hub park

Transit hub park

Details on a building

Details on a building

MORE PHOTOS, click to enlarge

Configuration: SB one way, WB one way.  Two right turn lanes with constant flow, so no ped. crossing is allowed.  We saw someone almost get killed for trying to illegally cross.  It is much quicker and safer to make the three crossings, as directed.

Configuration: SB one way, WB one way.  Two SB right turn lanes with constant flow, so no ped. crossing is allowed.  We saw someone almost get killed for trying to illegally cross.  It is much quicker and safer to make the three crossings, as directed.

Buildings around transit hub

Buildings around transit hub

*hooray for planning nerds*


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2 responses

27 04 2009
Tom the Redhunter

I’ve always heard good things about Prague and your post confirms it. I’ve never been to central Europe but one day hope to go. Best of all, it sounds like the communists didn’t too too much damage and/or the people were able to recover quickly.

Re the subway – what a unique system of charging! It sounds a lot better than the farecard system we have in Washington DC. My experience in subways around the world is that they vary greatly. Some are fantastic and others terrible. In Brussels if you got off at the wrong stop and wanted to get back on you had to totally exit and pay all over again to get back on. In Moscow the famed chandeliers were in a grand total of one station that we saw. If you ever hear anyone say “mind the gap” you’ll know they’ve been on “the Tube.”

Pedestrian friendly – the first city in which I saw one of those countdown timers at a crosswalk was in Moscow in 1993. Weird, huh?

13 05 2009
Leah

Alexa! I love the details and planning talk you have on your site! Wow, no only is this fun for your nerdy planning friends to read ; ) but it will be a great resource for you when you get back. I went to Prague 2 summers ago and the only thing I remembered from the subway was that they had some intense elevators, the longest in the world I heard.

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