Thursday, December 17, 2009

Public Transportation!

Yeah, this topic totally deserves an exclamation point.

I think public transportation is awesome. I can't drive, but even if I could, public transportation is just way more awesome. It's cheap, you can do other things while on the way (as opposed to while driving, reading while driving is frowned upon generally), it's better for the environment, and, well, it's awesome. Plus you are less likely to die, I think.

Sadly, in America, we apparently do not believe in public transportation.

Okay, big cities have buses and trams and trains and subways, but almost anyone who doesn't live in a big city is just out of luck. Sorry.

That's not the case in Germany, or most of Europe, where even the tiniest towns are connected to the world by public transportation. I get get anywhere I want to go in Bremen on public transportation, no problem. It's awesome.

That's probably what I miss most about Germany: public transportation.

Plus, public transportation provides some awesome people-watching opportunities. There are some very interesting people in the world.

German public transportation is interesting in particular, because of the way you pay for it. You buy a ticket, and validate the ticket when you get on. No ticket barriers. On some buses, at some times, you have to show your ticket to the driver, but that's never the case on trains/trams/subways. There are ticket inspectors, and your likelihood of running into one varies depending on what exact transportation you're using, but it operates mostly on the honor system. You pay a fine or go to jail if you're caught without a ticket, but most Germans would never think of not buying a ticket.

My German friend says that's because you're supposed to buy a ticket, and it would be really embarrassing to get caught without one. Most Americans would stand more by my logic, that if you ride public transportation regularly, the expected amount in fines you'd have to pay, adds up to less than if you bought a ticket every time.

Luckily, this isn't an issue for us in Bremen, because we all have semester tickets for students.

But it's an interesting cultural observation, I think, that an honor system like this actually works. (It's not just Germany, but also a lot of the rest of Northern Europe.)

Just, food for thought.

1 comment:

  1. I actually hate this honor system because it often ends up rewarding those trying to cheat the system and punishing those who make honest mistakes. I can't tell you the amount of times I've had to pay fines for honest mistakes. I'd much rather have machines like they do in London or Paris where pay and you KNOW you have a vaild ticket every time.