King Mohammed VI rode with French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and head of Moroccan government Abdelilah Benkirane on Casablanca’s spiffy new tramway during its debut run, which traversed the distance between United Nations Square and Mohammed Square on 12 December, 2012.
Designed to reduce air pollution, ease vehicular congestion and increase economic development in what is arguably Morocco’s busiest city, the 31km Y-shaped line connects all of the city’s hot spots, but not everybody has rolled out a red carpet for the new Rapid Transit Tram System.
It takes 60 minutes to travel from one end of Casablanca’s new tramway to the other and costs less than a dollar per trip, regardless of distance traveled.
With 48 stations linking all of the city’s major neighborhoods, as well as ONCF stations, business districts, hospitals, and the downtown area, the new tramway is expected to breathe new life into the city.
With service running between 6.30am and 10pm during the week and until 11.30pm on weekends, the tramway will also generate new jobs – both for those working directly for the transportation ministry and for residents who previously lacked access to far flung places.
Just one part of a broader government plan to attract investors and turn the city into a thriving, internationally-recognized metropolis, the second tramway system in Morocco, and the largest – given the long route and number of stations, is only the first of four planned for Casablanca.
This combined with an express road network and other planned infrastructural upgrades that are in the works will cost the Moroccan government a total of 45 billion dirhams or USD5.34 billion.
Largely considered as a positive development that will clean up the city and make travel less painful, critics worry that taxi drivers will be put out of business as a result of the new tramway line.
Others have expressed concern for the safety of Casablanca’s pedestrians and drivers, who are unfamiliar with tramways.
“Already, cars have run into the tramway, not realizing that it will not stop for them, and residents have been confused about the ticket’s cost. I think the companies in charge of the tramway should make sure residents understand how everything works,” Idriss Aarabe, a graduate of Hassan II University, told Your Middle East in a recent interview.
Nonetheless, the tram, which travels at approximately 19km per hour, has the capacity to handle 250,000 passengers per day. That means one quarter of a million people will be off the road, and that is a good thing.
Image of tram via Wikicommons; Map from Casablanca Transport