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With 23 measures, Zurich politicians want to get the traffic problem at the zoo under control – once again

Up to 1.4 million people visit Zurich Zoo every year – and the majority come by car. A traffic concept, which includes the construction of a large multi-storey car park, is now intended to improve the situation.

Car traffic around the zoo becomes a problem, especially on nice weekends.

Karin Hofer / NZZ

Zoo Zurich has continued to develop over the past few years and has attracted more visitors accordingly. The Masoala Hall was inaugurated in 2003, the new elephant park was added in 2014, and the Lewa Savannah with giraffes and rhinos in 2020. With up to 1.4 million admissions per year, the zoo is now one of the most visited attractions in Switzerland. Only to the Rhine Falls do more people make the pilgrimage.

problems on peak days

But the zoo has a big problem: it is not very accessible by public transport – for example in comparison with the Basel Zoo, which is a ten-minute walk from the main train station. That’s why the proportion of visitors who travel by public transport is lower in Zurich. In 2019, corresponding surveys projected a share of 43 percent; at the Basel Zoo or at the Verkehrshaus Luzern it is around 50 percent.

This leads to some problems in the district, especially on peak days. Even if all parking spaces at the zoo are occupied, drivers push past the barrier, park on forest paths or on the side of the road. Sometimes the streets are so congested that even the trams can’t get up the Zürichberg. On an average working day, around 2,300 people come to the zoo, on Sundays around 5,200. But there are peak days with over 9,500 visitors.

There is a traffic arrangement in case all parking spaces at the zoo are occupied. The cars are then diverted to the Dolder artificial ice rink by traffic cadets and the visitors are taken to the zoo in shuttle buses. But even with these measures, nothing can be done on peak days. Then the motorists circle through the neighborhood and park their vehicle at the first available spot.

Various things have been discussed and tried out in recent years in order to get the problem under control, but so far hardly anything has really convinced. In 2018, the municipal council therefore commissioned the city council to develop a new traffic concept. This is now available – with a volume of several hundred pages and no fewer than 23 measures that are to be implemented continuously over the next few years.

A central measure is the zoo cable car, the realization of which has been delayed for years with appeals. It should one day lead from the Stettbach train station through the Sagentobel to the zoo – and increase the proportion of public transport by a good 4 percentage points. The zoo made a first attempt for the cable car in 2008, but failed before the administrative court. The revised design plan now seems to be on better paths; the building appeals court gave it the green light, and we are now waiting for the decision of the administrative court.

The idea of ​​bundling around 1,200 parking spaces in the vicinity of the zoo in a newly built multi-storey car park is somewhat surprising. This would be able to cope with the rush on most days, and according to the report it would no longer be necessary to switch to the parking lot at the Dolder artificial ice rink.

Tricky and warmed up

The car park could be connected to the municipal parking guidance system. This would also make it easier to redirect the flow of visitors. The long planning and approval phase and the high costs are mentioned as possible disadvantages in the report. It may well be added that the construction of a new parking lot in red-green Zurich is likely to meet with bitter political resistance.

The 23 measures also include an old postulate that has already been rejected in a referendum. It is about extending the tram tracks to the entrance of the zoo. A corresponding VCS initiative was rejected in 2008. Now the expediency of the measure is to be checked again “open-ended”, as the report says. The idea of ​​opening up the route with an autonomous bus has been shelved for the time being.

The 20 remaining measures relate, among other things, to improvements in public transport services or better control of car traffic. Among other things, they want to check whether a quarter-hourly bus service between Stettbach and the zoo can be introduced – at least until the cable car is built. The ticket zones would also have to be adjusted so that you don’t have to pay for several zones on the shortest route.

Furthermore, one thinks of a simplification of the Rail-Away offer of the SBB or a new combined ticket for zone 110 (City of Zurich) and entry to the zoo. When it comes to controlling car traffic, for example, it is about automatically recording trips to the zoo, automated barriers or optimizing the traffic situation.

First signatory Balz Bürgisser from the Greens is disappointed

Balz Bürgisser (Greens) was the first to sign the postulate in 2018 calling for the new transport concept. He is disappointed with what the city council has now decided. Public transport will be promoted with the proposed measures, but these are primarily ideas from mothballs or those that could have been implemented long ago. One could have condensed the timetable of the tram on nice weekends long ago. The taxes for public transport could also have been integrated into the zoo entrance fee, says Bürgisser on request.

What Bürgisser vehemently rejects is the proposed large parking garage at the zoo entrance. The buzzword “bundling of parking” is pure label fraud. The multi-storey car park would not simply replace today’s parking spaces; their number would be doubled compared to the current situation.

Today there are around 600 parking spaces within a radius of 400 meters around the zoo entrance. After the construction of such a multi-storey car park, there would be 1,200. It is completely nonsensical to promote public transport to the zoo and make traveling by car more attractive at the same time. If there were such a car park, many people would no longer have to walk from the Dolder car park to the zoo or take the shuttle bus.

15 years until implementation

Bürgisser is convinced that the zoo itself could do more. He would have to point out much more clearly that public transport has priority when arriving. And he could develop tickets that would only be valid for off-peak hours, such as Sunday mornings. This would spread the masses of visitors a little better. And last but not least, the tariffs for parking at the zoo would have to be increased. Compared to the parking spaces elsewhere in the city, these are far too cheap today.

In the traffic report, the measures are broken down according to the period for their implementation – from short-term (0 to 5 years) to long-term (over 10 years). The total duration is estimated at around 15 years. The municipal civil engineering and waste disposal department is in charge of this in cooperation with the traffic department, the city police and the transport companies. The zoo should be involved in the implementation of the measures. The municipal council – and possibly the electorate – will only be included in the decision for important projects, such as the planned multi-storey car park.

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