Paris – a visit to the railroads

Paris has been an inspiring test site for everything connected to rail transport, stations and ‘transit oriented development’. One can find good functioning ‘gares’, traditionally from the nineteenth century, such as Gare St. Lazare and Gare du Nord. The seven terminal station buildings were completely integrated in Paris’ classic street pattern and boulevards. One of the stations, Bastille, was demolished later on. Some stations are located very close to one another, such as Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est, and Gare de Lyon and Gare de Bercy. However, each has distinct destinations in France and abroad.

Gare Montparnasse set the scene for one of the most iconic train accidents in history. In 1895, a locomotive burst through the main facade, after having trouble with dis-functioning breaks. The station was completely rebuilt in 1969, establishing a heavy green deck on top of the platforms, with trees, event spaces and tennis courts. The square is flanked by enormous modernist buildings on three sides, and one of Paris’ highest office towers.

In suburban districts, such as Marne-la-Vallée, regional RER stations are integrated with social housing, shopping centers and extensive parking facilities. The surroundings of station Noisy Le Grand, for example, are dominated by roads and drive-ins, while the RER station itself is situated underground. Postmodernist architect Bofill realized several buildings in this area, such as the housing complex below.

The Promenade Plantée is an early example of reuse of an obsolete railroad viaduct. It was refurbished as an elevated park in the 1980’s and 1990’s and has since that time propelled revitalization of the adjacent neighborhoods. The trail consists of both elevated and street level sections, as well as a tunnel section. It has served as an example for many other transformation projects, such as the New York High Line.