Next Stop in the European Union: Expanded Tram Service

Lisbon Tram System Photo: Wiki CC

By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer

The European Union is angling for climate neutrality by 2050, and in order to hit that target needs to ramp down its transportation emissions by about 90 percent. Trams — or what is known as light rail here in the U.S. — are having a moment as part of that planning. Most European tram networks were built in the first half of the 20th century, but many in capitalist Western Europe were abandoned in favor of car-centric infrastructure. In many cities, the rails are still there — it’s just a matter of funding the return to tram service. Lisbon, Berlin, and Milan are all among cities that plan to restore or expand their tram networks.

Why This Matters: Lowering emissions doesn’t have to mean reinventing the wheel. As Lisbon Mobility Alderman Miguel Gaspar told Politico EU about efforts in Portugal: “We’re reinforcing a system that was created over 150 years ago to service residents scattered throughout our seven hills, and which now has the added value of being a decarbonized transit option for our city.” Restoring tram lines gives people increased opportunities to navigate their cities without a car, and building new lines expands access without costing as much as an underground subway system.  It also could light a path for the Biden administration’s efforts to restore or add light rail systems here to replace auto congestion in places like Seattle and Charlotte.

Tram Updates Across Europe

From Austria to Sweden, Europe has a long list of cities with tram networks. 

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