Transport in Paris

Transport in Paris

The Paris Transportation Network network is very diverse and exists literally over many levels. Its bus, "Tram", the "Métro", Autoroutes, trains and planes together all serve to maintain a high level of communication between Paris's many different districts and beyond.

treets and thoroughfares

Paris is well-known for the non-uniformity of its map. This seemingly haphazard arrangement of streets, alleys, squares, boulevards, and avenues is a result of a superimposition of one street plan upon an earlier other.

As with the birth of most agglomerations, a first network of streets was formed by the built-up areas around paths, roadways and places of trade, and a second formed when land surrounding these was divided and sold for building - in the French tradition, a plot of land was usually divided in a series of long and narrow parallel plots extending to both sides of a central lateral strip reserved for a passage across it. Very rarely was a street planned in advance.

A few exceptions aside, Paris' growth remained true to this schema (for over eight hundred years!) until the mid-19th century city renovations by the Baron Haussmann laid waste to entire quarters to make way for a network of new Boulevards and Avenues that make much of Paris today. Many of the city's winding and narrow streets still remain, but one must search through the quarters behind the Avenues to find them.

The 1970s City-limit-hugging circular Périphérique expressway was the first real change since the above, as were narrow "expressways" along the quays of the Seine river and a few inner-city underground passages. It is not the map of the streets that is changing most these days, but the streets themselves: A recent movement towards prioritising public transportation systems and eliminating "through-city" traffic has created barricaded bus/taxi/cyclist alleys, narrowing the passages reserved for automobiles and delivery vehicles. Although lightening circulation within the city itself, this tendency is a source of heavy congestion to the Capital's gateway thoroughfares.

Cycling in Paris

Cycling is a popular mode of transportation in Paris. The Vélib' bike hire scheme was introduced in the middle of 2007 with over 20,000 bicycles available at hire points throughout the city.

Public transportation

The horse-drawn "Omnibus" became Paris' first form of public transportation from 1828. The horse-drawn tramway was next to appear from 1871; as for motorised transport, steam-driven trams appeared from 1880 before being replaced by the electric tramway from 1888. The first attempt at local rail transportation appeared when the "Chemin de fer de Petite Ceinture" was open to passengers from 1875, but was outmoded in favour of the métro (the first porte de Vincennes-porte de Maillot line) appearing from 19 July 1900. From 1905 the tramway began to disappear in favour of the motor-driven bus, but the "tram" has begun very recently to make a re-apparition around Paris. For a more complete history of Paris' various forms of public transport, please see Paris Public Transport.

Just to note - the Metro and Tramway, most of the Bus and a few sections of the RER are run by the RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens), the government-subsidised company whose jurisdiction covers all transport touching the Parisian Capital. The rest of the RER, as well as the Transilien, are run by the SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français), the state-owned train company whose rail network covers all of France.


One hundred years after the creation of its first line, today's Paris métro has 14 lines (not including two shorter "navette" lines and the Montmartre funicular), and 12 of these penetrate well into the surrounding suburbs (as two, lines 2 and 6, form a circle within Paris). Most lines cross the city diametrically and only the above-mentioned inner-city circular lines serve as a unique lateral interconnection.


The RER (réseau express régional) is a network of large-calibre regional trains that run far into the suburbs of Paris, with fewer stops within the city itself. From its first line A in 1977 it has grown into a network of five lines, A, B, C, D and E: three (A, B, and D) pass through Paris' largest and most central Châtelet-Les-Halles metro station. Line C occupies the path of former railways along the Seine's Rive Gauche quays, and the most recently-built line E leaves Paris' gare Saint-Lazare train station for destinations to Paris' north-east.


These are suburban train lines connecting Paris' main stations to the suburbs not reached by the RER. The "Transilien" lines are named as a play-on-words for the "transit" of "Franciliens," inhabitants of the "Île-de-France" "région" of which Paris is the capital.


All of Paris' tramways had stopped running by 1957, but this mode of transport has begun to return to the Parisian scenery in recent years. Beginning in 1992, two lines (the "T1" and "T2") were built parallel to the outer boundaries of the capital. The "T3" line, opened in 2006, occupies a grassy track running alongside most of Paris' Left Bank boundary.


Paris' bus lines are its most developed form of transport, interconnecting all points of the capital and its closest suburban cities. There are a total of 58 bus lines operating in Paris that have a terminus within city limits.

The capital's bus system has been given a major boost over the past decade. Beginning in early 2000, Paris' major arteries have been thinned to reserve an "express" lane reserved only for bus and taxi, and more recently, these normally sign-and-marking-designated lanes have been isolated from the rest of regular circulation through low concrete barriers that form "couloirs" and prevent all other forms of Paris circulation from even "temporarily" entering them.

National and international rail connections

Paris's first "embarcadère" train station, the predecessor to the gare Saint-Lazare, appeared from 1837 as a home for the "novelty" Paris-à-Saint-Germain local line. Over the next ten years France's developing rail network would give Paris five (including the Saint-Lazare station) national railway stations and two suburban lines, and from 1848 Paris would become the designated centre of an "Étoile" (star) spider-web of rail with reaches to (and through) all of France's borders. This pattern is still very visible in France's modern railway map.

As far as national and European destinations are concerned, rail transport is beginning to outdistance air travel in both travel time and efficiency. The still-developing SNCF's TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) network, since its birth in 1981, brings France's most southerly Marseille only 3 hours from the capital. A train similar to the TGV, the Eurostar, has been connecting Paris to central London through 2h 15 of rail since 1994, and in the opposite direction, the Thalys line connects Brussels through 1h40 of rail.

National and international air connections

Paris had its first "airport" in the fields of Issy-les-Moulineaux (just to the southern limits of Paris by its Seine river's Left Bank) from the first aviation trials of 1908. Aviation became a serious mode of transport during the course of the first world war, which in 1915 led to the installation of a larger and more permanent runway installation near the town of Le Bourget to the north of Paris. A yet larger airport to the south of the Capital, Orly International Airport, began welcoming flights from 1945, and yet another airport to the north of the City, Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle, opened its gates from 1974.

Today the former airfields of Issy-les-Moulineaux have become a Heliport annex of Paris, and Le Bourget an airfield reserved for smaller aircraft. Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle takes the majority of international flights to and from Paris, and Orly is a host to mostly domestic and European airline companies.

Chronology of Parisian transportation

*13th century. first mention of "Charrettes" and "bacs".
*1305. Isabeau de Bavière enters the Capital in Paris' first known "chariot branlant" (suspended buggy).
*14th century. Carts and trams for sovereigns and the King's court; covered litters for women nobles.
*1617-10-22. The first "taxi" concession for portable chairs, followed by other like concessions for chariots and carts. The chariots of the latter concession, granted by the King to a certain Nicolas Sauvage, were later called "fiacres" because of their habit of waiting for fares in front of one of Paris' (then few) major hotels named for the Saint Fiacre.
*1653. New association under (with) Charles Villerme, given the privilege (by the King) of renting horse-drawn carriages. The same with Givray in 1657, and again with Catherine Henriette de Beauvais in 1661.
*1662, January. The King distributes "licence" letters to the duc de Rouanès, the Mis. de Sourches et le Mis. de Crénan to circulate their rentable carriages along a fixed route - in other words, Paris' first bus system. There were five cross-town itineraries and one circular.
*1664. Four-place horse-drawn open carriages: "chaise de Crénan" - served first as a city carriage, then as a rentable "taxi" carriage.
*1671. New types of carriages appear: roulettes, brouettes et vinaigrettes. Other transports in use that year: cabriolet, "modern" coach, sedans, two-floor sedans (with top rack), face-to-face coaches, sedan-cut or diligance-cut (side doors) coaches, and the "désobligeante.
*1682-03-18. Royal licence authorizing rental coaches to charge a 5 sol fee.
*16th century. the "carrosse" (four-wheeled coach) appears early in the century, followed by the "coche" (suspended coach) around 1575–1580.
*1780. Rental "cabriolets" replace hand-drawn and hand-carried "chaises."
*1790. The revolutionary government grants entrepreneurs freedom to do any business they like without restriction.
*17th century. "chaise à bras" - an enclosed single seat carried either by two porters or pulled by a porter on two wheels. This mode of transport appeared because of the city's narrow and crowded streets - used at first by invalids or the ill, then later used by all.
*1800. Police regimentation of all Parisian rental and public transport services.
*1817. Return of control over public transport businesses: no public transportation vehicle allowed to circulate in Paris without a special permit.
*1828. Stanislas Baudry creates several horse-drawn "Omnibus" bus lines. The name comes from his first such endeavour in Nantes in 1823 - one of his bus line's terminuses was at a hat-maker's shop that went under the name of, when combined with that of its owner, "Omnés Omnibus"; "Omnibus" means "for all" in Latin.
*1853. "Impériale" omnibus invented: the first double decker buses. The upper floor was cheaper and often uncovered.
*1853-08-16. The government authorizes the civil engineer Loubat to construct a tram system between Alma and Iena. He had already done the same in New York one year earlier (he had actually reactivated a failed 1832 tram system).
*1854. City engineers Brame and Flachat draw a plan to connect Les Halles to the Chemin de fer de Ceinture through an underground air-propelled railway. The line would begin at La Villette and go through an open trench until the Strasbourg station, from where it would go underground to the marketplace, and the freight would be lifted to the surface with hydraulic elevators. Five kilometres long, foreseen cost nine million francs, approved by study panel, construction announced, but project abandoned.
*1854. The 25 public transport lines cover 150 km of Parisian streets. Different lines designated by a letter system then.
*1854, February. CGO (Compagnie generale des Omnibus) created after another concession grant. They had the right to shuttle and park their buses anywhere in Paris for a 30 year period, but this delay was later extended to 56 years (or until 30 April 1910). They also were granted the right to create two new lines serving Boulogne and Vincennes.
*1854-02-08. Napoleon III authorizes (by decree) a tramway concession between Sèvres and Vincennes with an antenna to the rond-point de Boulogne, but the only part exploited was between the place du Concorde and porte de Vincennes.
*1855. Creation of the "Compagnie Imperiale des voitures de Paris" - a merger of all existing voiture (taxi) companies.
*1855. Faster and larger two-horse omnibuses (24 seats). Inside seats cost 30 centimes and include a transfer. A seat on the imperiale costs 15 centimes, but no transfer possible.
*1856. Loubat returns his CGO concession to the government.
*1866. "Voiture" (non-syndicated) taxis are once again given complete freedom - anyone with a buggy can give transport services.
*1867-02-25. Creation of the "Bateaux-Omnibus" and "Hirondelles parisiennes" companies - replaces a paddleboat service between Port-Royal and Saint-Cloud.
*1873. first (horse-drawn) tram line opens
*1874-09-03. Tramway "between place de l'Étoile" and Courbevoie opens.
*1875-06-15. Tramway "between place de l'Étoile" and La Villette.
*1890. Paris has 300 km of public transport (divided between the (State-Owned) "CGO" and the "Cies de tramways Nord et Sud").
*1897-1900. Metro planned and first line built
*1900. first motorized trams
*1900-07-19. first metro line opens between Vincennes and Porte Maillot (line 1)
*1905. First combustion-driven bus line along the rue de Rennes (14 km/h).
*1906, June. First Parisian bus line opened by the "C.G.O." ("Compagnie Générale des Omnibus")
*1909-12-13. Paris' first one-way streets (rues de Mogador et de la Chaussée-d'Antin).
*1913. Last year of service for horse-drawn omnibuses (last line running: "Villette-St-Sulpice") and horse-drawn tramways (last line: "Pantin-Opéra").
*1913, January. animal traction forbidden for all Parisian transport lines
*1920, September. Creation of the "STCRP" ("Societé des transports en commun de la région parisienne"), one company to govern all surface public transport within the department de la Seine.
*1922. First three-colour stop light at the rue de Rivoli/bd de Sébastopol crossroads.
*1927. Busses equipped with air-filled tires.
*1937-03-14. last day of service for last Parisian tramway.
*1937-03-15. Tramway line between Vincennes and porte de St-Cloud closes (123/124 (PC)). .
*1938-08-14. Last day of service for the last tram line running in the Parisian basin (between Montfermeil and Le Raincy).
*1948-03-21. Date of law creating the "Régie autonome des transports parisiens" (RATP). State-run company takes over all Parisian public transportation formerly controlled by the STCRP and "la Cie du métro de Paris."
*1960-1973. The circular "boulevard périphérique" expressway built.
*1968, June. First two-floor bus (line 94) since 1911.
*1971. Last "plate-forme" (open top) bus circulates. RER begins construction that year.
*1979, May. Parisian buses equipped with Radio-telephones.
*1983-05-03. First articulated buses enter service.
*1992-06-30. Tramway returns with new line between "préfecture de Bobigny" and "La Courneuve". Extended to St. Denis (gare) on 21 December.

External links

*en icon [ How to Use Public Transportation in Paris] (PDF)
* [ Eurostar Homepage]

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