A tram ride into the future
- By Karina Juodelyte-Moliboga
VILNIUS - If you haven't already seen the future of transport in Vilnius, you still have until March 7th to visit the model tram standing in front of the Vilnius City Hall on Europa Square. This modern, life-size model was borrowed from Nice, France and installed here to give Vilnius citizens and tourists an idea of how Vilnius' transportation system might look in coming years.
Vilnius has never had an electric tram (Klaipeda was the only Lithuanian city that had one, back in 1904). The idea of installing a tram in Vilnius first appeared in the 1980s, but it wasn't until 2001 that the concept saw a revival. Now, with people lured by the prospect of faster transport and fewer traffic jams, the tram model has been a popular attraction. Young and old alike are coming by to see what may very well be the future of Vilnius.
Here visitors can sit in the tram and feel as if they're actually going through the streets of the city. Adding realism to the experience, a different tram stop is announced through the loudspeakers every couple of minutes, while the 'conductor' gives out tickets for the ride and provides his passengers with information about this mode of transport. People can also e-mail their friends a 20-second video greeting recorded with the tram right in the background 's a great opportunity to send a quick "Hi" from Vilnius. And since the tram is heated, there's no need to worry about freezing in the cold weather. Here's a helpful hint 's if you happen to be waiting for your date in Europa Square in the chilly weather, the tram model is a good escape from the cold.
There's no guarantee, however, that any future Vilnius tram will look like the tram model.
In fact, there is no guarantee trams will ever ride the streets of Vilnius at all. Fierce debates on the issue are raging, both among politicians and citizens. Some locals view the idea of a tram with distrust, worried about how the new transportation system would be arranged. Others fear that the tram's vibration would harm the Old Town's historic buildings, as one line is supposed to run through that district. There's also concern, despite the city government's assurances to the contrary, that some streets will be closed, and that the drivers will need to retake driving exams. And then there's the inevitable question of cost. Building each kilometer of a tram line costs about 40 million litas (57.1 million euros). With the first line planned at 10.4 kilometers and the whole project consisting of three tram lines, the estimated cost for the whole project is up to 3 billion litas. All controversy aside though, a visit to the tram can be an exciting glimpse into Vilnius life in the years to come.
You can visit the tram:
Mon 's Fri 9 a.m. 's 7 p.m.
Sat 's Sun 9 a.m. 's 8 p.m.