And yes, I know some of you eschew trains and buses with a passion. But if you have any interest at all, into the heart beat of a city, try it!
Some writer-travelers call it the “sanctity of mass transportation” I call it just being smart, since it is often very affordable, and fast, since many big cities are a traffic nightmare. Some metro stations are like museums, while others have wonderful shopping and market halls. Some have been repurposed into world class museums, like the Musée’ d’Orsay in Paris. And yes, some are to be avoided at all costs, like the train station in Yekaterinburg.
If you believe in global warming as I do, this is yet another way to stay out of cars, cabs, and Ubers. You will help reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. You will help reduce busy traffic on the streets. In the U.S., only fourteen million of us use public transportation. A staggering 88% of all trips here are made by cars, many carrying only ONE person.
How about safety? Riding a bus is 79% safer than driving or riding in a car. And healthier too, since we usually must walk to and from the bus or train station.
Then there is the issue of cost reduction. Studies indicate the average household can reduce their annual household expenditures by $6200 annually. That is more than the average household spends on food each year!!
But mostly, I believe that you will see more of the city you are visiting, and get a better feel for the people and culture. So, why don’t more of us use public transportation? The common excuse is that it is not readily available in most American cities. But this is definitely NOT the case in foreign countries, where many people do not have cars.
Train systems are the most efficient, emitting less carbon, and using less fuel per passenger than buses. Many buses are now electric, hybrid, or natural gas. Many cities have special lanes for buses only.
Some people taking the city bus for the first time actually learn something new and interesting about the city they live in. Many times, on my foreign travels, I will take the bus, tram or train to the end of the line just to see the city.
Another thing: it might be the great equalizer. How? “But most spectacular, most particular, was the strange democracy of it all. In the grand scheme of a city, a train car was an odd microcosm — this narrow subterranean space, where men with pristine sneakers and hedge funds would stand with their noses wedged into the armpits of their bodega cashiers, edged in by gaggles of small, grinning girls in ballet costumes. There was no hierarchy here.”
Not all the trains and buses are clean, modern, or pristine. Some are dirty, smelly, and grimy. Some have no air conditioning, and the seats are uncomfortable. Some are very difficult to get my roller bag up or down the steps. There may be pickpockets, ladies of the evening, or too many giggly teens on cell phones. But therein lies the charm of getting to really know your place.
I would never trade my experiences on transportation like the Moscow Metro, the Bangkok Skytrain, the Shinkansen, or even Amtrak. Those experiences made my trip even better. You should try it!