As well as the Metro and an excellent bus system –Bilbobus– Bilbao also has a small tram system. Running CAF built Urbos 1 Light Rail vehicles, the route covers different sections of the city to the faster and longer reaching Metro, offering a highly visible distributor from a couple of Metro stations it connects with to important destinations like the Guggenheim Museum. It runs both on the city streets and on dedicated and grassed corridors by the river. The Quay side has a wide promenade and cycleways on both banks. The revitalisation of Bilbao is built on the back of investment in high quality public realm with thorough attention to Transit and Walking and Cycling networks. The Guggenheim Museum is really the icing on the cake of this rebirth, not the starting point.

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Photographs by Patrick Reynolds.

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39 comments

  1. No bikes in sight, no buses only parked cars! What time of day and week? Only pedestrians active (3 cars parked on the street opposite the station)

      1. Bilbao can not be separated from the economic and social mess of the rest of Spain. The truth is the Spanish Government borrowed far beyond its ability to repay and wasted the money on a host of projects. Motorways, airports, trains, they were all unaffordable. Would you like NZ to have 50% unemployment in under 25 year olds just to fund the CRL? Of course Len Brown is already spending money Auckland does not have so we may yet all be crying into our paella

        1. Well if you are interested in accuracy you will discover that different parts of Spain are in completely economic conditions and in fact have quite separate structures. The Basque country is an outlier in terms of economic performance from the rest of Spain, and its cities in particular are at the heart of this:

          http://www.economonitor.com/blog/2013/12/what-we-can-learn-from-the-basque-country/

          Pretty clumsy to lump millions of people in different conditions in one heap just because we’re a long way away.

          Secondly I know some people seem to feel it makes sense to argue that because European cities have good transit systems and Europe is not generally not performing well economically therefore building for cars and not Transit makes a place rich. Writing the argument like that shows how stupid it is, but that is essentially how some argue; including the current minister of transport. Clearly this is a vast and inaccurate over-simplification and false conclusion.

          Looking for primary causes of European economic woes start with energy poverty, then move to fiscal inflexibility [Euro], competition from new economies…

          And most importantly if you are worried about borrowing and debt its the RoNS that should scare you Tens of Billions on duplicate highways that will doing nothing for economic performance only double down on our commitment to need ever more increasingly unaffordable liquid fuels imports. Also I’m not sure about your math 50% debt just to pay for the CRL, think you’ve thrown an addition zero on there amigo?

          1. You would also have to argue that cycling must be a great economic boost as the countries that have high cycling rates have generally been the best performing post-GFC (Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia).

          2. There’s no case for even correlation let alone causation between building urban Transit and poor economic performance as the boomingest nation of our age has also built not only Transit on an unprecedented scale but also the world’s most extensive High Speed Rail network…. China.

  2. Ohh, imagine if that was in Auckland. Shut down Queen Street, make it a park, and have a light rail system run up and down, awesome. Plenty of back streets for service vehicles etc!

  3. That would be pure joy around downtown Auckland… it would completely transform the economics and livability of the downtown area…

    1. Well funnily enough the autonomous Basque Region is doing very well, and Bilbao city runs a surplus. The transformation of Bilbao from an unloved and unvisited heavily polluted industrial wasteland into a successful tourism and services based global role-model is well documented:
      http://www.worldcitiessummit.com.sg/mayorsforum/about-bilbao

      Not suggesting for a moment that just whacking in a tram line will achieve this but rather trying to show that similarly building an ‘Iconic’ building alone won’t do it either. It requires whole transit networks, proper attention to place and design, aesthetic risk taking, and hard headed attention to detail.

      Interestingly there is plenty of evidence that it is the infrastructure over-investment in the ‘Club Med’ group of countries was in fact in underused useless highways mandated by Brussels:

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2324977/MP-203-Haunting-images-Spains-abandoned-multi-million-euro-highway–Eurozone-slumps-longest-recession-ever.html

      The FT article on Portugal’s ghost highways is better but paywalled: Google it.

      These are duplicate gold plated freeways that were also rolled out all over Greece since the EU…. Faith in the economic value of big road building is a transnational group think that defies the evidence:

      http://english.capital.gr/News.asp?id=1561455

    2. So Economic Reason – you wouldn’t want to see a few mill spent on “crap like this”. What do you think of our government spending $14 billion on motorways with a negative benefit-cost ratio?

    3. What an ironic pseudonym to operate under.

      Perhaps you should go to the Iberian peninsula and see the billions of Euros worth of empty freeways and unsold exurban housing

    4. Well if any there is transport investment might send Auckland’s (and NZ’s) economy into the red it’s the RoNS…. duh!

    1. Can’t speak for the others, but I don’t think we are ‘anti-trams’, we can be sceptical about their cost-benefit especially where they are sharing space with general traffic. I certainly prefer them to diesel buses, yet for the cost only one or two extremely busy routes could possible justify the capital investment. Most of us agree that there is a case for a Quay St-Queen-Dom Rd tram route,as Nick discussed in an earlier post. I would certainly like to see the bus route there run properly to build the case for higher capacity systems.

      Also in terms of what would make the biggest difference to Auckland investment in the CRL to unlock the dormant capacity, speed, and reach of the existing rail network is a far greater priority. But that isn’t because of being pro- rail and anti tram, or any other mode preference, but rather from an analysis of the opportunities and challenges faced by the city. And obviously capital is scarce, so i see any Light Rail investment as necessarily coming later.

      Of course if we had never lost them in the first place would be so much better- very had to get systems back once they’re dismantled.

    2. Not sure how you get that we’re anti trams. A full tram network would be brilliant but for the time being it’s not that practical to push for. My take is that we have a number of key components missing to a really successful PT system in Auckland. We’re missing the high level rapid transit that other cities have and that’s were the CFN comes in. At the next level down we have a number of not very customer friendly bus routes and that’s being addressed by the new network, we’re missing easy to understand (and fair) fares and that should be addressed by integrated fares. Let’s get the RTN sorted first and get the bus network completely optimised and humming. After that we can look to upgrade key bus routes to trams but there’s certainly lower hanging fruit out there first.

    1. Weshluld try this on Queen St with sealed crossing points our main concern will be delineating the tram corrodor to prevent pedestrians idly strolling into the path of a tram.

        1. Who said that you couldn’t walk across, could have regular paved sections across(20m intervals?), but we need to prevent people walking into the path of a tram without realising. What is it, 100,000 ped movements a day? need to at least make the environment obvious that there are trams travelling at 30k.

      1. No barriers. See above. People and trams are an ok mix worldwide. Currently people can step I front of four lanes of motorised traffic on Queen; no diff, except trams do not make unexpected turns or pull in and out of parking spaces and buildings.

        1. Yes, and we have a kerb to make it obvious that there are four lanes of traffic. I don’t think that it is unreasonable to expect a different surface at the same level and cannot for the life of me see where you got barriers from.

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