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The official magazine of United Nations international civil servants
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The official magazine of United Nations

international civil servants in Geneva

© TPG
Geneva’s public transportation in a pandemic world
7 Dec 2020

Interview with Anne Hornung-Soukup, Chair of the Board, TPG (transports publics genevois).

How has the tpg adjusted to a pandemic world?

When Covid-19 reached Switzerland, the Swiss Federal Government stated clearly that public transport was an essential service which had to be maintained, even during confinement.

Within an amazingly brief time, the tpg had organized extensive measures to protect passengers, drivers, and administrative staff.  Drivers were supplied with sanitizing gel, and masks as soon as they were available. The first door of all vehicles was closed off to limit proximity between drivers and passengers, and plexiglass partitions were installed in agencies to provide protection. All vehicles were sanitized several times a day by special cleaning teams. A majority of administrative employees were sent home with laptops and meeting software so they could continue to work at a distance. In the face of a major sanitary crisis, tpg management and employees all acted with unprecedented speed and efficiency.

During confinement in March and April, the number of passengers on tpg vehicles fell 85% compared to the year before. The schedule of vehicles was lightened, but as an essential public service, buses and trams were maintained, and were greatly appreciated by people in essential services like health care, grocery stores, and cleaning and delivery services.

In July 2021, the tram line 14 which now stops just before Bernex will be extended to Vailly, providing service to more villages in the area. In addition, the 15 tram will be extended in the next few years, to Grand-Saconnex, and probably across the border to Ferney-Voltaire.

After Covid, what’s next for public transportation?

During confinement we saw what the world can be with less pollution: dolphins enjoyed the clean Venetian canals and rare blue skies were seen in China, India and elsewhere. Said Serge Dal Busco, Conseiller d’Etat for the canton and Minister in charge of infrastructure, « the canton of Geneva is determined to support the tpg and other forms of sustainable mobility, not just to reduce pollution, but also to make the economy more efficient by reducing wasteful and time-consuming traffic congestion. »

©TPG/Pierre Albouy

How does the tpg benefit UN employees ?

People working in international organizations live in the cantons of Geneva and Vaud as well as in neighbouring France. The 15 tram to « Nations » opened in 2004, and a multitude of bus lines connect various towns around the UN.  At the end of a momentous year in 2019, the launch of the new tram line 17 to Annemasse and the arrival of the new train, Léman Express, with a stop at Sécheron, brought even more efficient transportation choices to UN employees.

The tpg adheres to the UN sustainable development goals to provide mobility which improves the life of everyone in the Geneva region.

What new tram lines are coming next?

In July 2021, the tram line 14 which now stops just before Bernex will be extended to Vailly, providing service to more villages in the area. In addition, the 15 tram will be extended in the next few years, to Grand-Saconnex, and probably across the border to Ferney-Voltaire. Another new line will go through Plan-les-Ouates to St Julien.

Does the tpg do more than buses and trams?

The tpg has earned the reputation of an innovative company.  Over the past few years the company has developed many projects including TOSA (a clean energy fast-charging new bus), two services of autonomous vehicles, new ways to purchase tickets, in-house virtual reality and distance learning, and Mobility as a Service (MaaS). 

The TOSA bus, on line 23 between Carouge and Geneva airport, reduces or eliminates three types of pollution. Powered by clean electric energy, it produces no air pollution. It’s much quieter than diesel so noise is reduced, and the visual pollution of overhead lines is eliminated since it charges batteries at occasional stops.

©TPG/Pierre Albouy

One autonomous vehicle is circulating on line XA in Meyrin, another is being tested on the hospital site of Belle-Idée.  Tickets can be purchased in many ways, by instant messaging, through a proprietary TpgPay card, on the tpg phone app (tpgPreview) and more.  Virtual reality and distance learning are used for training of drivers and administrative staff alike.  Mobility as a Service, now in testing, combines tpg bus and tram services with other mobility services such as rental cars, shared cars, taxis and eventually shared bikes and scooters.

Mobility is Life

Even before the pandemic, it was clear that sustainable mobility is key to the future of the world. Public transportation reduces pollution and congestion, makes economies more efficient, improves public health, and provides access to educational, social and cultural opportunities. The tpg adheres to the UN sustainable development goals to provide mobility which improves the life of everyone in the Geneva region

Snapshot of Tpg (Transports publics genevois) :

  • Owned by canton of Geneva
  • 2100 employees, of whom 1300 drivers (12% women)
  • 426 vehicles, nearly half electric
  • 71 lines covering 95% of the canton and extending into France
  • Ticket sales provide about half of income and a yearly ticket costs 40% less than in Zurich

 

* Sarah Bencherif works in UNITAR (United Nations Institute for Training and Research) and is Editorial Coordinator of UN Today. Sarah Bencherif travaille à UNITAR (l’Institut des Nations Unies pour la Formation et la Recherche), et est la coordinatrice éditoriale de UN Today.
Read more articles about International Geneva
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