On Track for the Future

Can Swiss rail provide a model for the American West?

Event Details


swissnex San Francisco
730 Montgomery St., San Francisco, 94111 United States


April 20, 2010 from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm America/Los Angeles (UTC-07:00)

Swiss people use public transportation for 19 percent of all their trips. Mass transit accounts for just two percent of trips in the US, although that number is growing. So, can Swiss transportation solutions provide a model for the American West? The Sustainable Transportation Road Show, launched by the Consulates General of Switzerland in San Francisco and Los Angeles, brings this question and others to swissnex San Francisco during an in-depth discussion of rail transportation in the two regions.

Gregor Saladin, media spokesperson for the Swiss Federal Office of Transport, and Elizabeth Deakin, a professor of city and regional planning and urban design at UC Berkeley, discuss rail infrastructure—its present and its future—in both Switzerland and California. WIRED Magazine’s Rachel Swaby, who recently co-authored an article on bullet train networks in the US, moderates.

Accompanying the discussion is the exhibit, “The Challenge of Sustainable Transportation for the 21st Century: Prospects for Switzerland and the US.” The exhibit looks at the similarities and contrasts between Switzerland and the US with regard to rail travel and presents policies, incentives, infrastructure, land use planning, and timetables for transportation projects including the Gotthard Base Tunnel, set to provide a modern, low-gradient railway through the Alps to allow for shorter travel times and more freight capacity.

Partnering with the Swiss Federal Office of Transportation, swissnex San Francisco, the Exploratorium, the Institute for Transportation Studies at UC Davis, the University of Washington, and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Sustainable Transportation Road Show is a project of the U.S.-wide program ThinkSwiss-Brainstorm the Future. As a leading country in science, research, and technology, Switzerland is working with its American counterparts to address key global topics such as sustainability to better understand trends and arrive at solutions.


6:30 pm doors open
7:00 pm presentation starts
8:30 pm reception and networking
9:30 pm doors close


Elizabeth Deakin

Elizabeth Deakin is Professor of City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley, where she is also an affiliated faculty member of the Energy and Resources Group and the Master of Urban Design group. She served for 10 years as director of the UC Transportation Research Center, the UTC for Federal Region 9, and for four years as co-director of UC Berkeley’s  Global Metropolitan Studies Initiative, which involves nearly 70 faculty members from 12 departments. Deakin’s research focuses on transportation planning, urban development policy, environmental impacts, and political and institutional factors  in policy implementation. She has published over 200 articles, book chapters, and reports on these topics. She served for nine years on the City of Berkeley Transportation Commission and was one of the founding members of the Alameda County Transportation Tax Authority. She also served for four years as the Legislature’s representative on the California Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance Committee.


Gregor Saladin

Gregor Saladin is the media spokesperson of the Swiss Federal Office of Transport (BAV/FOT) and Assistant Department Head of Information and IT. He holds a degree in philosophy and literature from the University of Basel. Since 1983, he has held various positions at Swiss press agencies and worked as an editor and journalist for several Swiss media companies, specialing in public transportation. He founded a railways news service.
Saladin joined the FOT in 2002 where he organised communication of the New Rail Links through the Alps (NRLA). He recently served as project manager for the Gotthard base tunnel’s breakthough event. He has contributed to several publications including More trains for Switzerland and The Lötschberg base tunnel. His knowledge of public transportation systems is not only theoretical but also practical: he uses public transportation all over the world.


Rachel Swaby

Rachel Swaby is an assistant research editor at WIRED. She has been with Wired for the last three and a half years and has written articles on a wide range of topics including transportation. Her most recent feature discussed the future of high speed rail in the United States.





Photo: Myleen Hollero

Event Photos