Greater Paris to get cable car to connect city suburbs

The first ever cable car service in the greater Paris region will connected two of the city's suburbs in just 17 minutes, according to newly-released plans.

The France's first urban cable car was inaugurated in Brest in 2016.
The France's first urban cable car was inaugurated in Brest in 2016. The Val-de-Marne département outside of Paris is set to acquire one of its own. (Photo by FRED TANNEAU / AFP)

Work on the line, which will connect the southern Parisian suburbs of Créteil and Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, is set to begin in March.

Known as Câble 1, this project will cover 5 stations and is aimed at providing “a concrete answer to the daily transport difficulties of residents of these Val-de-Marne communes,” according to Ile-de-France Mobilités (IDFM)- the regional public transport authority. 

A map shows the planned route of a cable car service in the Val-de-Marne département outside of Paris.

A map shows the planned route of a cable car service in the Val-de-Marne département outside of Paris. Source: IDFM

Each cabin will contain space for ten people sitting down and will be carried dozens of meters in the air above the streets below. In total, the line will run 4.5km – a distance it will cover in just 17 minutes. It is unlikely that anyone will be able to use the line until 2025. 

IDFM said that the project, which is set to cost €132 million, will represent an “attractive and innovative mode of public transport,” for some 20,000 local residents. 

In an interview with Le Parisien IDFM director, Laurent Probst, said that the service would have a capacity of up to 1,600 passengers per hour. 

49 percent of the finance for the Câble 1 service will come from the Ile-de-France regional authorities, 30 percent from the Val-de-Marne département and 21 percent from the national government. 

A legal challenge that claimed the cable cars would pass too close to people’s homes and infringe on their right to privacy, is set to be thrown out of court. 

The design plans have been revised to ensure that the cabines would pass higher above houses and to increase the distance of the stations to houses. Floors of the cabins will be opaque, meaning passengers can’t look directly down at residents below. 

Construction schedule

Below is the provisional construction schedule according to IDFM.

  • March 2022: Foundation laying and rerouting of network 
  • 2023 – 2024: Civil engineering works begin, pylons erected, cable cars connected
  • 2025: Câble 1 enters service

IDFM say that a dozen other cable car projects are currently under consideration. 

Similar urban cable car systems already exist in Brest and Grenoble. 

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Last stop: Paris waves goodbye to cardboard Metro tickets

The Paris Metro is phasing out cardboard tickets after 120 years, taking the capital's urban transit into a contactless future but leaving behind nostalgic fans who will miss the humble rectangular cards.

Last stop: Paris waves goodbye to cardboard Metro tickets

Beyond their intended use as a transport token, the tickets with their trademark magnetic strip have inspired artists, filmmakers and singers, served as emergency notepads and, most of all, bookmarks.

“As the metro ticket disappears, so does a part of our lives,” said Gregoire Thonnat, a collector and author of a book on the history of the metro ticket. “The metro ticket is part of how we picture Paris.”

From October 13th,  Ile-de-France Mobilites, which operates the metro’s ticketing system, will stop selling the pack of 10 cardboard tickets – known as a carnet – at around 180 Paris stations, and then progressively stop selling them across the network. 

However, tourists should note that the total elimination of the cardboard tickets is not on the agenda – it will still be possible to buy single cardboard tickets at metro stations, although the single cardboard tickets will be €1.90, up from €1.49 for a smartcard ticket. 

Anyone travelling outside of Paris itself – including to Charles de Gaulle or Orly airport – needs to buy a ticket that will cover the outer ones of the city, or a special single airport ticket.

Ile-de-France Mobilites had wanted the carnets to be gone by the first quarter of this year.

But then the Covid-19 pandemic erupted, and Russia’s war in Ukraine, and with it a global shortage of microchips needed to make the smartcards to replace the tickets — whose sales still total 550 million per year, more than 50 tonnes of paper.

“We were in a hurry, but the chip crisis slowed us down,” Laurent Probst, director-general at Ile-de-France Mobilites told AFP.

The operator has started cutting the number of metro stations that still sell carnets to nudge clients towards plastic cards, and many turnstiles can no longer read cardboard tickets.

‘Change their habits’

As a result, the share of card tickets used on urban trips has dropped from more than two-thirds a year ago to well under half now. “Our customers are beginning to change their habits,” Probst said.

He said carnets would be gone completely sometime next year.

Ile-de-France Mobilites is pushing ahead with more modernisation, including the use of smartphones at turnstiles, with Android phones to be enabled within weeks and Apple phones in 2023.

“I’m enthusiastic about this development,” Probst said. “This is a sea change in the quality of our customer service.”

Paris’s leap into the future comes 20 years after the New York subway abolished metal tokens, and more than a decade after London’s Underground went mostly paperless, but some are pleased that Paris has taken things slowly.

“I enjoy the texture of it, I enjoy the cleanness of the ticket itself when it’s new, and how much you can destroy it and still have it,” said Sarah Sturman, an Italian-American artist in Paris who uses metro tickets in her collage work.

“I’m going to keep collecting metro tickets until they’re gone, and when they’re gone they’ll be even more precious,” she told AFP.

“If I see a metro ticket in a scrapbook 10 years from now, it will all come rushing back: Memories of being on the metro late at night, or in the rush hour, my favourite metro line, or why I hate another one, losing the tickets, trying to sort through my bag at the turnstile, doing laundry and finding your crumpled metro ticket in a pocket afterwards,” she said.

‘Ideal thickness’

Cannabis smokers will also miss the 30-by-66-millimetre ticket, which can be used to make filter tips, or “roaches”, for joints.

“Ideal thickness, perfect width, readily available — the three gold standards of a good crutch,” said Jake, a Japanese-American student in Paris.

The metro ticket also has its place in popular culture, famously in singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg’s 1959 hit “Le Poinconneur des Lilas” (The ticket puncher at the Lilas station); as a keepsake for Yves Montand in the 1953 film “Wages of Fear”; and on the cover of Raymond Queneau’s novel “Zazie in the Metro” that director Louis Malle made into a film in 1960.

“The useful life of a metro ticket is one hour, or one and a half hours, and yet we get attached to it,” Thonnat said. “It’s quite irrational.”

“Metro ticket” is also the name of a pubic hair trimming style that leaves just a ticket-size strip after waxing. The cut, known in the United States as a “landing strip,” is the most popular among Parisian women, according to a 2020 study published by the Version Femina magazine.

‘Something to show our kids’

Some tourists visiting Paris can’t wait for the day when they won’t have to decipher complicated metro ticket machines. 

“I don’t like paper tickets, I want everything on my phone,” said Javier Romani, a visitor from the Catalonia region in Spain.

“I’m against the paper tickets,” said Jeff Noel, from Indianapolis in the US state of Indiana. “If you could do this electronically in your hotel room it would be a lot easier than trying to find a machine.”

Stefania Grigoriadou, from Thessaloniki, Greece, said she preferred online booking but would hold on to the ticket she bought to get to the Disneyland Paris theme park.

“It’s nice to have it as a souvenir. Maybe we won’t come to Paris again, and so we have something to show to our kids in the future,” she told AFP.