I went with my friend Pat to Paris this weekend via the EuroStar high-speed rail line. I hadn’t been on a high-speed rail since Japan. The feeling of going at ear popping speed was nostalgic of riding the bullet train across Japan. The train ran under the English Channel, however my seat was facing the opposite direction and I didn’t see the channel at all before the train was consumed by the darkness of the Chunnel. I listened to my IPod for about forty minutes as we whizzed through the bottom of the Channel and miraculously we surfaced in France.
When we arrived in Paris, I made it a goal of mine not to ask anyone for directions ever. This worked out well because most signs were posted in the Lingua-Franka of English. I was surprised to see that the ticket machines didn’t take paper money and so I had to wait in a ten-minute line for change. Other then that oddity, the Paris metro was great.
The Paris metro was complex. It had loads of lines intersecting and converging. The names were difficult for me to catch when spoken. The metro system was developed before the First World War before many common sense public transit system ideas were developed. The Paris metro system was dirty and effective. I think that it was comparable to NYC’s metro system with its high filth to function ratio. The presents of trash in the streets made me reminiscent of my filthy American city.
I think that Franco-American tolerance for trash is one area where we Americans and Frenchmen have some common ground. Although America is across the Atlantic Ocean there were some similarities between France and America that were more alike than between England and France.
London, which constantly complains and triumphantly announces its diversity at the same time is a pale pasty white city compared to Paris. Paris had much more visible diversity than London. France’s diversity was so staunch that it almost felt like I was in America again. I felt like I was in Philly again awkwardly riding Philadelphia’s unpleasant metro system.
Maybe when it comes to race France is not more diverse than England, but England is doing a better job integrating the foreigners than in France. It is possible that just like in America, where public transit is unjustly viewed as a utility for the poor and not a public service for everyone, France’s public services are used by a higher percentage of minorities. There for it may not actually be that the general population is more diverse than England, because inaccurately viewing the Paris Metro with an English mindset, one would expect to see the general population represented in the passengers, this would be in error because in France it may be more like America where the urban minorities take public transit more often.
If this is the case and in fact London is statistically more diverse than Paris, then I must applaud the English for doing a better job than the French by making a public transit system that is used by everyone and isn’t associated with economic class. This is a good element that the city of London could teach the world
Of course if you ask many urbane Americans they will try to disagree because of their fear of being politically incorrect, but overall American public transit is viewed as a utility that society made for the poor. Much of American public transit is privately owned and since the systems are primarily used to shuffle America’s underclass to their work the stature of the cliental make the system quite poorly funded and dilapidated. Until Americans, who are closely attached to their “independence and cars”, are ready to make a step toward social harmony the public transit systems of America will continue to be awful.
I can see from comparing Britain and Japan, countries that have an emphasis on social harmony, with America and France, countries with less emphasis, that countries with a better emphasis on social harmony will have a better public transit system.