Thursday, March 27, 2014

Buses, Trains, and Automobiles

Union Station / Judiciary Square

With the exception of the three months I spent in Charlottesville, VA after I graduated from college, when my parents lent me a car so I could get to and from my nannying job, I've always lived in cities that rely heavily on public transportation.  Washington, New York, Paris, and London all have significant subway networks: the metro in DC is one of the busiest systems in the country, New York garnered an impressive 81 on its Transit Score, the métro in Paris crams 245 stations on 14 lines in just 87 sq km of the city, and London's Underground carries passengers on more than 1 billion journeys per year.  I actually prefer the bus to the metro - whenever people ask for suggestions about visiting London, I always recommend they travel by bus if possible because it's a brilliant way to see a city on the cheap and it's nice to be above ground - but I've never owned a car and I've gotten to know the subterranean tunnels of my cities quite well.

That's why I feel like I have every right to complain about and make fun of the metro in DC, the subway in New York, the tube in London, and the métro in Paris.  Riders of these networks have a love/hate relationship with them; we know we couldn't live without them, but at the same time they make our lives much more difficult than they need to be.  You simply must have a sense of humor to have a relationship with public transportation!  Check out the @MetroShutsDoors parody Twitter account and these fake Underground posters that disgruntled commuters made during the last TfL strike - you have to laugh so you don't cry, you know?  For example, this comedic take on the realities of public transportation in London has gone viral online because it hits so close to home...









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25 comments:

  1. I would loooooove to live in a place with public transportation! Knoxville is the 3rd largest city in Tennessee, and our bus system is borderline laughable. Currently, I live about a half hour from Knoxville, so it's not like I could currently utilize any of it, but basically, unless you have a car, you're not going annnnnnywhere.
    Definitely explains why it almost always ranks as one of the most polluted cities in the country. Sigh.

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  2. These posters are so funny, and they seem spot on of how I have felt during my time on public transportation.

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  3. These are fantastic and hit the nail on the head when it comes to public transpo. I'm often very jealous of DC's metro system-- it is so easy to use and makes things so much easier than things are here in Baltimore. Our bus system is a complete fail and you just never know if you'll make it to where you need to go on time or if the bus will even show up. And little known fact, we do have a metro. However, I'd have to walk just as far to get to one of the stops as it would take me to walk where I want to go anyway, so there's no point in using it. *Sigh.* My husband and I stick to our bikes because at least Baltimore is bike friendly for the most part.

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  4. I can't believe you prefer the bus! I detest taking buses - they are soooo slow! The stopping and starting gets to me too if I'm on for awhile as since I've gotten older, I've also become more susceptible to car sickness.


    I have had a car at my disposal my entire life and I loved driving. I'm doing without now which I thought would bother me but it doesn't. Europe tends to do the 'no-car' thing much better and I'm happy to take advantage of that while I'm here.

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  5. I love public transportation, although the planning for the additional time it requires takes a bit of getting used to. It's definitely frustrating when there is NO public transportation option, like most of America. Atlanta's MARTA is terrible and ridiculously bad, but it's there, so we always used it to go downtown or to sports events/festivals/etc. It helped that a bus runs directly from the street I grew up on to the main train (subway) station, though, so we didn't have extra legs to get to the bus. And I loved, loved the ease of the train in GB and Europe. We used public transportation on all of our trips, rarely using cabs and only renting a car for our 2 weeks in Southern Spain/Portugal.
    I've also always had a car, though, and having a car in N Yorks made a huge difference. I knew people who only used the bus/trains, and while they are fantastic they are a bit limiting as to where all you can go. (Our second house's hamlet didn't have a bus servicing it, and the closest stop was 2 miles away.) And the Highlands are significantly easier with a car. But we never took our car down to London, that just seemed silly.

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  6. Urgh this is the one thing I hate about Metro Detroit - being the Motor city the city and it's suburbs was all designed around and for the car, so there's no metro, there's no really decent bus service public transport is a go no that there's no will to create either because people don't want more taxes or they don't want people from Detroit having an easier commute into the burbs (yeah there's still that mind set here). But that's a whole other debate for another day! Granted the public transport system in the UK has it's issues, but at least it functioned lol.

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  7. Georgia ChristakisMarch 27, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    this cracked me up! Trust me Betsy, as a a girl born and raised in suburban sprawl, the grass is always ALWAYS greener on the other side. I get cut off (and probably cut a few people off myself- whoops) and endure traffic jams for the silliest reasons on a daily basis; we suburbanites dream of walking or riding the metro to work. It's comforting to know that there's no perfect system- I'm just grateful my car hasn't crapped out on me yet!

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  8. This is the best. Also "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" is one of my favourite holiday films. (Which I hope this is an illusion to. Otherwise, ignore!) My bus v tube preference depends a lot on the time of day. x

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  9. I remember how completely confused I was when I took the metro for the first time at 14 years old, on a field trip to DC. Now, I love using it whenever I am in the city, and I'm excited for the day when it will potentially make its way out to Loudoun (although that would be a long ride).

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  10. "Please respect urban solitude"-ouch, that hits too close to home! Those signs are great. Complaining about the DC Metro is a hobby that I think every DC-area commuter acquires magically within seconds of their first ride. :)

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  11. First of all, YOU HAVE LIVED IN THE COOLEST CITIES! Second of all, hilarious. I like the one about wearing iPods and not staring at people for more than 2 seconds.

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  12. I do know I've been spoiled! Jon doesn't even have his license - we just get to take advantage of... oh wait... do our tax dollars/pounds pay for this stuff? hm. I should look into it!

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  13. haha I know! especially the ones about NO EYE CONTACT :/

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  14. I had NO IDEA that Baltimore has a metro! huh. but YAY for cities being bike-friendly - I know DC and London are making a BIG effort in that area.

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  15. they are slow, it's true! but if you're not in a particular hurry I find them more enjoyable than being underground - especially if it's a nice day!

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  16. I read some really damning articles about Atlanta's reliance on cars when you guys had that ice storm... yikes. maybe that will inspire the city to rethink how it wants people to get from A to B?

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  17. haha that's what I was trying to reference but I messed up the title! oops :)

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  18. haha I know! I do have to admit that I have a Zipcar membership, which I love, and I take advantage of my parents' car as often as they let me - I do LOVE driving!

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  19. I wonder why trains never took off in America for commuting the way they did in England? It's SO common for people to live as far outside of London as Loudon is from DC and to commute into the city for work by train and then tube. why not here? hm!

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  20. I know! I am supremely lucky. it is true.

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  21. speaking of "that mind set" did you know that that's why there's no metro stop in Georgetown in DC? apparently the planners wanted to put one in but the residents were afraid it would bring the riffraff in! (that might be an urban legend, but...)

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  22. We just got back from Stockholm and I was so excited to see that they had a tram, I mean I love buses and subways as well but a good tram just makes me so happy for some reason!

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  23. Hehe I was scared that it was just a coincidence that that you'd be like, "what on earth are you talking about?!?!" x

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  24. My love (and hate) for public transportation is one of the ways that I know I'm really a city girl at heart. I don't mind driving, but I much rather hop on and off a tube or bus to go about my business. Lord I miss it!

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