No, we’re not talking about the great sandwich shops of the Continent. We’re talking transportation here, and Europe has mastered the art of mass transit for years. Here are just a few of the main subway systems to give you a taste of what efficient transportation (something alien to us here in the States) is really like.
Officially the London Underground, this 250 mile long system is affectionately called, “The Tube.” The world’s oldest system was begun in 1863 and now carries about 1171 million passengers a year. It costs 2 pounds for the average trip which converts to about $3.10 in real money. If you’ve ever experienced London traffic you know what a necessity the Tube is. Speaking of necessities, make sure you have some spare shillings for the Loo, because it costs to pee in the Tube.
Called the Paris Metro, this system is about 136 miles long and costs about 1.7 Euros which would be about $2.10 to you and me. The Metro carries 1524 million passengers annually. About 1523.5 million, give or take a few hundred thousand are wearing scarves and will turn their nose up in your general direction. The remainders of the riders though are very friendly and happy to offer any assistance you may need. Some folks call them helpful, others use their proper name: pickpockets.
Also called the Metro this system is only 25.8 miles long due to the annoying problem of finding ancient artifacts everywhere you dig in Rome. The traffic here is prodigious though and what little mileage the system has is more than balanced by the 309.8 million passengers it carries yearly. The average trip is about 1.5 Euros or about 2 bucks. The riders of Rome are stylish, friendly, animated and talkative except when the train is moving and they have to use their hands to hang on.
Called the Berlin U-Bahn this is the underground version, along with the above ground S-Bahn which makes up Berlin’s mass transit system. The U part started operating in 1902 and is about 91 miles of German efficiency and engineering. To say this line has changed over the years is putting it mildly. Between the 2 World Wars and that nagging situation with the Berlin Wall, things have been changing constantly. By July 1, 1990 all border restrictions were lifted and the system now carries 1,360,000 passengers daily. They move at an average speed of 19.1 mph, slightly slower than that other Bahn we know as the Autobahn. Basic tickets for one zone are 2.1 Euros (you do the math) but are determined by how many zones you travel through. The Twilight Zone is extra I believe.
Actually in Sicily, this one makes our list because at about 4.1 miles it is the not just the southernmost but probably the smallest system in Europe. With just 6 stations and a ridership of around 1600 a day, it’s a bit different than hoping on the Tube in Westminster station. At .80 Euros good for 90 minutes (come on, how long can it take to go 4 miles) or 8 Euros good for a month, this is also the cheapest ride around. If you get lost on this system, maybe you should be taking a taxi anyway.
by Michael Ryan