The Copenhagen Metro is an automated (driverless) light metro. It is a baby metro; it was first “born” in October 2002, then had two growth spurts in 2003 and one more in 2007 (to the Lufthaven!). It is a baby size-wise too; the total network is just 12.7 miles, with two services (called M1 and M2) stopping at a total of 22 stations. Still, it carries more than 50 million annually (or about 140k per day), which is more than any light-rail system in the US (except Boston’s Green Line) and about the same as LA’s Red/Purple line metro subway lines.
As a “light metro” the trains and stations are baby-like too; each train is only three (articulated) cars long and about 130 feet long with a total capacity of 300.
There are three main things that make the Copenhagen Metro cool. First and most important: frequency. By far, the greatest part of (variable) operating cost for any public transport operation is labour cost – so driverless metros effectively break the linkage between service frequency and operating cost. This means that the service can run very frequently all of the time (and also enables the economical use of short trains, which can perhaps mean cheaper infrastructure as stations can be smaller). This is the same effect I reported about the Vancouver SkyTrain here.
That’s right, the relatively small and unknown Copenhagen Metro runs 24/7/365, with trains every 20 minutes overnight weeknights (same as NYC) and each service running every 15 minutes overnight on weekends. I am pretty sure this makes it the only 24/7 metro service outside of the US (and there only the NYC subway, PATH, PATCO, and the Red and Blue Lines in Chicago). Overall, the frequency is just awesome…the shared segment – the 9 stations from Vanlose to Christianhavn – have a train every 2 minutes during rush hours, every 3 minutes most other times, and up to every 7.5 minutes all night on weekends!
The second cool thing is the view out the front (or the back), thanks to the driverless system. Besides being efficient (allowing for the frequent service), the whole driverless thing also gives you that futuristic vibe.
The third cool thing about the Copenhagen Metro is the Danish design. Maybe it will fade – and those Italian trains running so frequently 24/7 are already looking a little worn in spots – but the design is pretty slick modern.
All of the stations are built with the same (award-winning) design by the same architectural firm. Of the 9 underground stations, 6 are deep-level; these are open boxes that are 66 feet wide, 66 feet tall, and 200 feet long, with the platforms exactly 59 feet below the surface.
Overall, the metro is pretty cool – the frequency is awesome and the design is good, although a little repetitive and perhaps not likely to age all that well. While it does serve the airport, the big destination Nyhavn and one end of the Stroget (both via Kongens Nytorv), and interchange with regional trains and the S-Tog (at Norreport and S-Tog again at the slick Flintholm integrated station), its less-than-comprehensive coverage does somewhat limit its usefulness, especially to visitors. It misses Copenhagen Central Station and the many destinations around it – Tivoli, City Hall and its plaza/square, the western part of the Stroget, and Slotsholmen, the city’s government core.
These limitations will be at least partially resolved by the new Cityringen, or City Circle Line, now under construction and expected to open in 2018. It will come close to doubling the size of the metro (15 more km with 15 new stations plus two interchange points with the existing lines), and will serve many of the missing destinations. For more details, see the map below or go here.
Posted on 31/08/2011, in Transit, travel, Travel to Europe and tagged automated metros, Copenhagen, Copenhagen Metro, driverless metros, light metros, transit frequency. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.