Another of the cities I stopped off at on my holiday was Munich and I was surprised by just how much I really enjoyed it (and not just from all of the beer and pretzels at the beer gardens ). We had a great time looking around the city including spending way too much time, but also no where near enough in the Deutsches Museum (my wife really regretted suggesting we go there). But apart from the touristy things, there were a few bits about the city that really stood out to me that are of relevance to this blog, the key ones being the cities built form and transport.
Firstly it is interesting to learn that both the urban population and the size of the urban area is not that much different to Auckland, although the surrounding countryside has a lot of towns and villages that boosts the population of the region quite a bit. The other thing is that compared to many of the other European cities I visited, Munich has a lot of newer buildings. This is probably largely are result of WW2 where about 50% of the city and 90% of the city centre was destroyed forcing new construction and it is the mix of old and new that caught my attention as many of those 1950s buildings are now being replaced with more modern ones. Old and new buildings in the city don’t seem as out of place next to each other which may be due to them being the same height as the more historic buildings they are next, but some of you readers are probably more experts on this.
The other thing you will notice with the photo above is the pedestrian area. The area in the heart of the city runs for about 800m between two public plazas and was packed with people. It is actually quite wide and easily felt as if you could fit four lanes of traffic down it (sound familiar). It did used to have traffic down it but in the 1970s it was pedestrianised and it is now one of the busiest pedestrian and also shopping areas in all of Germany. Because of this success many of the neighbouring streets and lanes have either had similar treatment or at least significant pedestrian improvements. To me this is exactly how I feel that Queen St should be and while we aren’t about to pedestrianise it just yet, at least we have started improving some of the nearby side streets with shared spaces.
The other day I had a look at how the Paris metro would look in Auckland, of course Paris has a massive population to support the system so it is a bit unrealistic to ever expect that we would develop a rail system like that in Auckland. Munich on the other had is much closer to Auckland so I found it a great place to learn from. Munich has a system of buses and trams at street level but also has two quite extensive rail systems.
The first is the S-Bahn which is a network of rail lines that heads out through the suburbs from the east and west of the city and into the countryside servicing the many small towns and villages I mentioned earlier. Up until the 1970s each of the lines terminated at one of the stations on either side of the city however spurred on by the upcoming Munich Olympics a tunnel was built to connect the two main stations. As a result the lines have been joined up together and run through from one side of the region to the other, passing through the city centre on the way (the tunnel runs directly below the pedestrian area above). In many ways this is similar to what we are looking to do with the CRL and linking up our existing lines into a couple of routes will help to make the system much more efficient. the S-Bahn is the green network in the image below.
The other rail network that exists is the U-Bahn which is a metro system and is in blue above. It was also built for the Olympics in the 70′s so in comparison to Paris is quite new. Again what I really likes about the U-Bahn was that the various lines joined together when going through the city which increases the frequencies for the most dense part of the city. Off peak each line would run at 10 minute frequencies but of course that doubled up in the sections were two lines joined together. With the various lines interconnecting at various places they also form a bit of a grid and combined with the rest of the PT network, makes it quick easy to get across the city with just a transfer or two. Using the systems of both Munich and Vienna really helped me to decide on how I think our rail network should eventually develop but I will leave that a future post.
But it isn’t just the network that is interesting. A lot of effort has also gone in to making the various stations unique, attractive and usable. The photo below is of one of the stations I visited but there are lots of other examples of interesting stations on the Wikipedia page linked to above.
But it is often the little things that make a difference when travelling. Here you can see a small diagram that is on the covers of the power supply that gives a reminder as to what direction the trains travel. This is surprisingly useful when underground as while you have directions to the correct platform, you don’t always realise which side the train will come from.
All up I had a great time in Munich and can easily see why if often rates highly as very liveable city and there is lots that we can learn from.