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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
MORE PHOTOS, click to enlarge
*hooray for planning nerds*