The German capital plans to make major investments to expand bus and rail networks, boost frequency, and get ahead of population growth. When it comes to public transit, you can’t accuse Berlin of holding back on cash.
This week, the city announced its transit masterplan for 2019 to 2023 (with a period of focus that actually extends to 2035), and a major overhaul of the city’s transit networks is in the cards. The funds allocated are generous, to say the least: Berlin is committing a remarkable €28.1 billion, or just under $32 billion, to transportation projects.
Berlin’s spending on improving public transit has always been generous—last year, for example, the city pledged €1 billion for new subway trains. The promised level of investment is still remarkable, even in Europe. London’s Crossrail link, for example, is a major 74-mile heavy rail route due to open this autumn that has required the construction of new stations and new tunnels beneath the city core. Its initial budget was around $20 billion. The Grand Paris Express, a massive expansion of the French capital’s metro system into its suburbs that entails the opening of 65 new stations, will cost around $28 billion. Both projects are seen as remarkable, even grandiose transformations of the way their cities connect to their regions. Their funding still falls comfortably short of what Berlin plans to spend in a metro region that has far less than half the population of either London or Paris.
So what does $32 billion buy you in Berlin? A fair bit, it seems. The headline item from the masterplan is a massive expansion of the city’s streetcar network. For years now, Berlin’s trams have been spreading out from East Berlin—where the state retained them long after they were junked in the West.