Milan Transit Report (Part Two: Trams and Buses)


To conclude (as the readers issue a sigh of relief) the transit reporting from Milan, I want to talk about trams and buses.  Trams are a huge part of the street scene in Milan, and have been for a very long time. Let me clarify that trams are a bit of a cross between what we would today call streetcars and light rail in the US.  Today there are 18 lines covering a total of about 100 miles in Milan. The trams are quite versatile; many operate in mixed traffic on narrow city streets, but many also operate on separate rights-of-way in grassy medians, and a couple even in tunnels for short stretches. While in many places they aren’t much faster than buses, they are smoother, have more capacity, and add immeasurably to the ambiance of the city.

The trams come in several varieties, ranging from oldest still operating in the world to state-of-the-art.  You can see some of each in the photos below, but let me talk for a minute about the very old, as they are quite special.  These trams are quite famous the world over and inextricably linked to Milan, but there’s a catch – they were designed by and named after an American named Peter Witt (who was a transit commissioner in Cleveland in the early 20th century).  Milan’s Peter Witt trams, or streetcars as they are sometimes called, are now over 80 years old and still rolling.  They can also be found in San Francisco, where Muni owns about 10 cars carefully restored and used on the unique and excellent F Line, which is quite possibly the best attraction on the West Coast (don’t get me started on that or this post will never end!).  Somehow, I missed riding on these (I know, you can hardly believe it), so I will have to take Astrid to Milan (for trams only, of course!).  On with the pics…

A beautiful street scene showing two Peter Witt trams, captured by my colleague (who actually has no interest in transit but does find Milan's trams quite special).

The modern Eurotram, with low floors and several sections.

A very modern Sirio tram leaving Abbiategrasso on Line 15, one of the busiest tram services - you can see the tram right-of-way separate from the street here as well as the easy integration with the metro, directly from the stairs on the tram platforms.

A modern tram passing through Piazza XXIV Maggio in the Navigli District in southern Milan - there are wires going every direction as the middle circle line, tram lines 29/30, also passes through here.

The inside of a low-floor tram - lots of green!

One of the scenic grassy, separate tram medians...you can see the nice February Milan weather (especially compared to London!)

Before concluding, a word on buses.  Buses in Milan were quite impressive, overall, with excellent real-time information, lots of new buses, and good service. 

They have over 500 buses with monitors (one facing each way from the center of the bus) that show the next several stops, connecting routes, and even a live map showing you where you are!

Nice bright buses mark the new X73 express service to Linate Airport (make sure you pronouce that "EEKS" 73 like the Italians).

Last but not least, trolley buses! Milan has nearly 150 trolley buses, the majority of which operate on lines 90/91, which are the outer circular route. The three concentric circles (94 diesel bus, 29/30 tram, and 90/91 trolley bus) provide excellent connectivity between radial tram and metro lines.

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Posted on 16/03/2010, in Transit and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I love the monitor with the stops and map! Great idea! VABMTA

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