A small revolution is underway in the French city of Metz.
The public transport network was recently restructured to incorporate two new innovative High Service Level Bus services (BHNS). We met Jean-Luc Bohl, President of Metz Urban Agglomeration, who has been piloting this project since 2009. M. Bohl assessed the success of the project with the Urban Design Observatory.
Good morning M. Bohl, you’ve overseen the restructuring of the transport system in an agglomeration with more than 230,000 inhabitants. Since its inauguration, have inhabitants reacted positively to this new network?
Yes, with more than 23,000 passengers a day, we’ve already reached our objectives for 2014. And, we expect this number to increase in the following months, particularly around Christmas and New Year.
One of the aims of the METTIS network is to decongest car traffic in the city with efficient links between the local TER trains, bus services and self-service bikes (Vélomet’). The measurees are reinforced with three out-of-city car parks and a self-service car hire scheme, Autopi. But, is it difficult to change users’ car habits?
Habits are slowly changing and we try to reinforce the complementary nature of cars and public transport. By providing transport that is efficient in terms of regularity and timetabling we are able to change habits.
Users realise that systematically using the car is expensive. With public transport, particularly METTIS, journeys are less expensive and quicker thanks to special bus lanes and priority at traffic lights. For us, it is essential to simplify and harmonise public transport. We support all measures that help achieve this, particularly those reaching out to companies.
Aside from the economic dimension, what are the other advantages of the BHNS compared to the tramway, for example in terms of aesthetics and safety?
There are numerous advantages to BHNS. As well as creating an effective network, we have also tried to enhance public spaces by working closely with architects specialising in French national heritage. The areas covered by the buses have been improved. In order to be innovative we called on the services of designers. The buses (by Van Hool) has just won three prizes at European Coach Week 2013: the design award, comfort award and Grand Bus award.
In comparison to the tram, the BHNS is a quieter, more flexible and safer thanks to a new light system installed at pedestrian crossings.
Does Metz plan to develop smartphone applications to make it easier to access network information?
Yes, the project has already been launched and will be ready in a few months. This will meet the demands of a high level service both at the stations and inside the vehicles.
Finally, why did you choose JC Decaux from the many service operators that responded to your project bid?
We chose JC Decaux because they offered the best technical and financial package. JC Decaux also gives a percentage of the advertising profits back to Metz.
In order to match the performance and quality of the vehicles, we asked them to adapt the design to meet our specifications. This is where Marc Aurel came in to design streamlined stations in complete harmony with the city landscape.