Questions of economics, infrastructure and security are front and centre in Nice's public dialogue these days. The much-anticipated opening of the city's second tram line in 2019 is a source of civic pride. At the same time, the high cost of other infrastructure initiatives such as Nice's new stadium has generated controversy, as has a new region-wide tax imposed by Nice's mayor. Meanwhile, the city continues to rebound from the 2016 terrorist attack on the Promenade des Anglais.
When Nice's first tram line opened in 2007, it dramatically improved quality of life in the city, reducing traffic congestion and spurring an urban renaissance in trackside neighbourhoods such as Libération. Similar effects are expected in 2019 when Nice's second tram line becomes fully operational. The new line, known as ligne 2 or ligne est-ouest, will add 20 new stations to the system along an east–west axis between Nice Côte d'Azur airport and the city's ferry port. The 11.3km route includes 3.2km of subterranean track, with four underground tram stations.
The new tram line's expected impact on transport within Nice is nothing short of revolutionary. Passengers arriving at Nice Côte d'Azur airport will be able to travel to the city's ferry port in only 26 minutes, and vice versa, with intermediate stops providing easy access to major tourist attractions, including the Promenade des Anglais, the beaches and the trendy Port-Garibaldi neighbourhood.
The 19 new tram cars, which arrived in Nice in 2018, have a sleek design intended to facilitate disabled access and improve visibility, along with a distinctive ochre-and-black colour scheme. The cost of the new line, initially projected to be €450 million, has swollen to €780 million according to Nice mayor Christian Estrosi, or over €1 billion according to his political opponents. Meanwhile, some have expressed safety concerns about the underground tunnel, after a series of incidents in which holes, cracks or sinking pavement appeared in the vicinity of construction sites.
From an outsider's perspective, Nice's age-old allure as a sunny, welcoming beach destination remains as strong as ever. Even so, the city continues to absorb and digest the impact of the July 2016 terrorist attack that left 86 people dead, when a truck plowed into the crowd gathered along the Promenade des Anglais for annual Bastille Day celebrations.
A year after the attack, huge crowds gathered along the Promenade to honour and remember the victims, releasing 86 balloons, one for each life lost. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks there were recriminations from Nice's mayor's office, alleging that the French government had provided insufficient security personnel. More recently, the city has taken significant steps to ramp up its own security apparatus, including a whole new approach to the city's flamboyant annual Carnaval festivities. Starting in 2017, Carnaval was moved away from the waterfront and into a restricted-entry zone guarded by traffic barriers and airport-style screening facilities; costume accessories such as pirate swords and cowboy six-shooters were banned; and the traditional end-of-Carnaval fireworks were cancelled due to security concerns. After sagging in 2017, visitor numbers rebounded in 2018, and the prevailing atmosphere remains overwhelmingly festive, despite the changes.
Meanwhile, the Promenade des Anglais has reclaimed its traditional role as Nice's heart and soul, with large throngs in evidence along the waterfront – but some locals confess they still lament the city' lost innocence. The boardwalk has always been the place where parents bring their toddlers to take their first steps, ride their first bike and roller-skate for the first time, and it may still be a while before some can resume those activities without thinking twice.
Recent infrastructure projects have had a sometimes controversial impact on Nice's budget. The city's gleaming new 35,000-seat stadium, built to host Euro 2016 championship football matches, was developed as a public-private partnership with German insurance company Allianz. The stadium construction deal, which requires the city of Nice to pay €8 million annually to Allianz for a period of 27 years, has provoked displeasure among some Nice residents and prompted allegations of favouritism and corruption, with Nice's mayor Christian Estrosi being brought before a government committee investigating alleged improprieties.
In 2018 rifts between Nice and smaller surrounding communities erupted when Estrosi pushed through a new municipal property tax that was perceived as extortionate by some smaller towns that don't directly benefit from Nice's large-scale infrastructure projects. Opposition minister Auguste Vérola spoke of the smaller communes being held hostage, Cap d'Ail mayor Xavier Beck said that unlike during the 2008 financial crisis, there were no exceptional circumstances justifying creation of the tax, and mayor Jean-Paul Dalmasso of La Trinité accused one of his ministers of treason for voting in support of the tax.