Solving the Börneplatz Problem

Last night, I blogged about an inefficient bit of track design at Börneplatz in Frankfurt. And to make it EVEN MORE exciting, I left… A CLIFFHANGER.

In case you forgot the thrilling tram junction diagrams.

So, to see the solution more clearly, let’s strip away all the real world complexities for a moment. We’ll ignore the tracks, the roads, the platforms and so on, and reduce it all down to lines.

Simple

Now, let’s group these lines together. We can divide the lines into three groups, depending on the direction they come from.

Colour coded

There are three groups of lines highlighted – the lines coming from the old town (red), the lines coming from Ostend (blue) and the lines coming from Konstablerwache (green). There are three places where lines of the same colour meet, one for each colour. If we put our stations there, every line would have precisely one station on it. In other words, every tram could pass through Börneplatz and reach exactly one platform!

There are two ways of doing this in the real world. Either we put all the platforms on the lines leading towards the junctions, or we put them on the lines leading away from the junction (but not a mixture of the two, which is where the current design goes wrong).

a. Stations on the approach to the junction. b. Stations on the exit from the junction.

There are pros and cons to each. With the first layout, trams queue up in an orderly fashion before the crossroads, so there’s no risk of a tram getting stuck in the middle and causing gridlock, but each platform gets an odd mixture of tram destinations. If you want to go to Konstablerwache, for instance, then you’ll want either the 12 or the 18, but these trams go from different places, so if you picked the wrong side of the road, bad luck, you’ll be waiting another 5-10 minutes. (The current layout has this flaw as well, although it only affects trams heading to Konstablerwache.)

The second design puts the queueing area in the middle of the crossroads (as, again, does the current layout, although because trams run on reserved track around Börneplatz, it’s less of a problem than it could be), but trams are now grouped by their destinations. It’s now possible for each platform to be simply signed “Trams to Altstadt and Hauptbahnhof”, “Trams to Ostend” and “Trams to Konstablerwache and Bornheim”.

Either way, the 11 tram would no longer have to stop twice, and as an added bonus, there would only need to be three platforms, rather than the four they have at the moment.

There may be perfectly good practical reasons for not setting out the junction like this – perhaps it would interfere with the buses that also use the tramway to Konstablerwache, or perhaps they didn’t want to confuse people by demolishing a platform currently in use. Still, they already use a similar design at Stresemannallee/Gartenstraße, so it’s not impossible.

And don’t get me started on the whole Hauptbahnhof/Münchener Straße débâcle…

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