Trams that run on grass

This isn’t what you think.

Monocle Magazine recently offered up 25 examples of good urban design, many of which have a green-ish tinge. Example #5 is the humble tram:

> There’s something quite magical about watching trams in Barcelona, Strasbourg or Frankfurt glide silently along beds of grass as they do their city circuit. Where possible, this attractive combination of efficient public transport and inspired landscaping should be standard as part of the urban fabric.

Gliding silently on beds of grass? The article doesn’t include any pictures, but Google is here to help:

This is, how you say, quite cool. More images here. More urban design goodness here.

**Update:** I’m going to work a tricky maneuver called the reverse hat tip. Inhabitat picked up this post and turned it into a way better post, with loads of pics and a more thorough explanation. Check it out.

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  1. Andy - January 28, 2009

    This is fine if grass is a native plant that can grow in the climate of the region. Given that in Northeastern Spain water is being brought in by boat and the future projections are for declining rainfall, I’m not sure this idea is very sustainable.
    I live in California, where we’re looking drought in the face and wondering if all of our lawns will be brown and dead by June. The last thing we need to be doing is planting more lawn.

  2. Ann - January 28, 2009

    It need not be lawn; could be just a hardy, drought-resistant ground cover. I live in CA too and love this idea, bravo, Barcelona!

  3. Kevin Wright - January 28, 2009

    You are the negative type of environmentalist that gives the rest of us a bad name. When I work with people who really really don’t want to support public transportation and I show them wonderful things like this (and yes I understand your argument) it makes them understand what I and others like me are fighting for. We are people who are trying to make the world better through these types of projects. Then people like you come in and smack us in the head with a figurative hammer because the ursalus mushroom, or some such thing will be harmed when the masses are allowed clean public transportation. Why bother fighting the right wing pro car folks when I’ll be trampled upon by the people I’m trying to help? I’m sorry for you that Hillary didn’t win, get over it. Maybe you should Google the video of Obama’s inauguration speech and understand that you have to occasionally make some sacrifices for a better world.

  4. Seth - January 28, 2009

    It looks really good aesthetically, however let us compare Pros and Cons
    Pros
    – Looks good
    – Assists with Runoff water management/filtration (through absorption rather than direct route to sewers)
    – Helps with cooling earth surface and creation of micro-climate
    – Sound absorption
    Cons
    – Requires watering could lead to rusty train rails and early replacement
    – Requires fertilizer (probable)
    – Requires maintenance and mowing
    *Ideas*
    – use Buffalo grass (less water, no mowing, mostly a brownish color all year)
    – have the train cut grass while it moves :P hehe

  5. Jorge - January 28, 2009

    It is a wonderful sight. Meanwhile, everywhere I look in US cities we are converting soccer and football fields from grass to PLASTIC!! Has anyone played on a plastic grass field? It is hot and sandy. What si wrong with grass sometimes a bit of mud in this country??

  6. Ernest Callenbach - January 28, 2009

    Doesn’t anybody remember New Orleans, and its streetcar with the famous name—running on grassy strip for many decades. . . .

  7. Doug - January 28, 2009

    Whoa Kevin, let’s imagine that part of the Obama spirit is avoiding ad hominem attacks. Andy has a point about drought in California (and in Spain for that matter), and planting more grass is not part of the answer. But we don’t need to make a false choice between attractive transit and water use efficiency.

  8. Den Mark - January 28, 2009

    At first thawt, i don’t understand what is so innovative or progressive or wonderful, or whatever, about this. It looks nice. Okay. What else. I would be excited about this plan if no fertilizer, no weed-killer, no mowing, no weed-whacking, no watering were involved. Maybe goats could eat the grass. Whatever. If more people ride trains because of nice grass, that’s cool.

  9. Tony - January 28, 2009

    I rode TramVia in Barcelona. It is quite good as a transit line and as a good urban design neighbor. I suspect the grass tracks are holding up in that climate with some maintenance. Similar grass tracks for light rail lines in Berlin have been in existence for over 20 years. In that climate, the grass tracks require minimal maintenance. Perhaps once a year lawn mowing/trimming. Someone from the Berlin transit system told me that the trams themselves act as lawn mowers, thus minimizing conventional maintenance.