Mass Transit

We Live In A Modern City (Almost)

Living in LA requires a car. Two problems with that:

1) Not everyone who lives here can afford a car and they rely on mass transit, which, in modern times, had been almost entirely made up of buses until 1990. That's when the Blue Line train opened, followed over the next 26 years by the Red, Green, Gold, Purple and now the Expo Line. But still, mostly buses.

2) Because there are so many cars and the majority of mass transit is buses, the roads are crowded.

LA had a history of great rail transit with it's Red and Yellow car system, but due to high costs, they were phased out for buses, the last rail lines dismantled by 1963. So to build subway and surface rail lines in a city that for decades relied on vehicles on surface streets is no easy feat, I'll grant you. And LA is big. Let's look at a map (click on it for a bigger image).

0f57261fdcc1fb8fab9357fcfc118c77The five boroughs of NYC are large. The greater LA area is also very large. This map incorporates other cities that live within LA (Long Beach, Santa Monica, Culver City, etc) and starts to touch on Orange County ("WHICH IS NOT LA OMG!"). Just to reiterate that restarting rail lines is not easy after all those years. And not just geographically. The amount of people who are against mass transit is astonishing.

I went to a few of the planning meetings for the EXPO line (as it is two blocks away from our house). I met many neighbors who were vehemently opposed to having it near us. "Crime will go up!" There is plenty of crime in our part of town already, trains or no trains, sorry to say. "We don't want those people come to our neighborhood!" Who are *those* people? People who want to use mass transit, like me?? "Our property values will go down!" In fact, property values generally increase. "The noise of above ground trains will be unbearable!" This part I can't judge because we live two blocks away from the train, not across the street from it. However, we do live three houses away from the 10 freeway and that sucker is LOUD. I doubt people can hear the train over the sound of the rushing freeway!

I couldn't wait for the train to get here and all this preamble to say: THE TRAIN FINALLY OPENED ON MAY 20!!

They had free rides on Friday the 20th and all day Saturday the 21st. We hopped on after work on Friday and went to Santa Monica to have dinner. What a blast!

Expo7 Expo6 Expo8 Expo1Expo2

On Saturday the trains were PACKED. But we went again, meeting friends in Culver City and taking the train down to Santa Monica for lunch. While we had to stand the whole way, both ways, it was still a pleasure.

I'm currently working in Culver City and made it my goal to take the train at least once a week. It actually takes less time to drive, but I love have a little walk, a little ride, then another little walk. And after being on so many other city transit systems in my travels, it's almost surreal to use a train to get around in my neighborhood in LOS ANGELES! It's almost like living in a modern city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Coast Starlight -- Twitter Replay Day 2

Coast starlight logo


Continuing our trip via Twitter up the West Coast on Amtrak's Coast Starlight.


Day Two, Sunday July 26, starting at about 5:30am.


Sun is coming thru a crack in the curtains, I can smell coffee brewing. Shasta is close. (click)

After Emeryville the Big Dipper hung just outside my window last night, sang me a lullaby. Truly was CoastStarlight.

Kurt's still asleep. Hard not to wake him so we can spoon and watch the trees go by. Bunkbeds! 

Nice view out the window, getting near Shasta. Breakfast time! (click)

My mother in law just said to Kurt and I, "I hope your offspring has your nose." pointing to me

Jaime the car attendent advised: "walk like a duck." It helps!

View at breakfast (click

The view after breakfast (click) NICE!

A breath of fresh air in Klamath Falls. (click)

Upper Klamath Lake. Gorgeous lake country in Oregon (click

beautiful day in the moutains! (click)

View at lunch. Willamette river I believe. Lovely. (click)

Arriving in Eugene in a minute, sucking up all the 3g I can get!

Hot and fresh air in Eugene. Nice break to be outside! (click) did I mention Hot?

Eugene is where my dear friend Jai died in a house fire with her two kids 5 years ago. Bittersweet memories of this town.

OMG we got MOONED outside of Eugene!!! That is fantastic! (click)

OH @ breakfast "I didn't become a language teacher because I'm good at languages." O RLY?

Hay! lol (click)

Quick stop in Salem. Hot cloudless pretty day. (click) Kurt is trying the shower downstairs.

Oregon City? Big industrial complex at the falls. (click) [Oops! can't find this picture...]

Aproaching Portland. Kurt celebrates with a hot dog. Only 5 more hours till Seattle. (click)

Big bridge into Portland. (click)

On that bridge into Portland. (click)

A HOT quick and not so fresh air stop @ Union Station Portland (click) nice station, classic!



Coast Starlight -- Twitter Replay Day 1

For those of you who don't follow me on Twitter (@Kulia), I live-tweeted our trip up on the Coast Starlight from Union Station (also called LAX) to Seattle. 

For those of you who don't know what Twitter is, it's like micro-blogging. You can only use up to 140 characters per post. You can upload photos to add to each tweet that links to where your images live. I took a photo for almost every tweet so please click the little link where indicated to see the visual. 

Here is Day One, Saturday July 25, starting at 9:00 am:

We've arrived at the station! (click for picture) 

LOTS of people in line for the Surfliner to San Diego. We don't have a track assignment for the Coast Starlight yet. Coffee.

Union Station (LAX) is lovely as ever. (click for picture)

My 91 year old mom in law just commented on how people use to dress up to travel. I'm in shorts. Hmmm

On board! (click for picture

We're off!! Adios LA!

First stop! The back side of Van Nuys is not as pretty as you want. (click for picture

Waiting for the coffee to be ready (click for picture)

Tunnels through Simi Valley, but lively rocks when we are out of the tunnel

*lovely* rocks

And now champagne!! (click)

Stop #3 Oxnard. Our lunch rez is in 1/2 hour. (click)

There's a place to eat in Oxnard near the train station called A Burger. Not THE burger. Just A.

Dining car! (click)

Santa barbara station - smoking stop (click)

Stopped south of SLO waiting for a freight train to pass. (click)

In the parlor car. (click)

Near pismo... (click)

(click)

Stop #5 San Luis Obispo (click)

At SLO we could step outside for a few minutes. Gorgeous day! (click)

Did I mention they have a movie theater on the train? Dude! (click)

Up and over the hill to Paso Robles. (click)

I also love seeing the original parts of cities and towns, the old Main or Front streets near the train stations.

Stop# 6 Paso Robles. Best picture I could get at this sweet small station. (click)

Also, watching Kurt tidy up a script-entertaining as he mouths words and gestures through the dialog.

Dining car just as we are arriving at Salinas (click)

Train is going through Watsonville which is right near where my sister lived. Suddenly feeling quite sad.

Didn't have my camera out but there was a multi screen drive in theater with lots of cars pulled up and getting ready to watch at San Jose

Post dinner diversion (click)

Sun going down as we pull into San Jose. (click)

Beds are made, teeth are brushed, just need jammies! (click)

That ended Day One of our trip. Next post -- Day Two!



Random Tidbits To Finish The Week

Goldstar Tonight is the Battlestar Galactica premiere of the last ten shows. We are joining friends to all watch together and that will be fun. Apparently there is a series called "Caprica" in the making which tells an earlier story of, uh, Caprica an the cylons, etc. Why make a whole new show and cancel the original when clearly the show is very popular? Confusing.

 
Goldstar I bought a book on Umbria yesterday from my 2nd favorite travel bookstore, The Traveler's Bookcase. (Well, technically it's #1 because my favorite bookstore, California Map and Travel went out of business.) We've not been back to Italy since January 2003 on our honeymoon. Six years is way too long to be away from Italy, IMAO. I was watching Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and he went to Venice. Oh Venice. Just watching those images made me really long for Italy, wether it's Venice or Rome or Lucca or Siena or whatever. I just need to go back. So as a soothing balm, I bought a small book on Umbria to whet my appetite and to dream a bit about our next trip. 


Goldstar I donated platelets yesterday, got $15 worth of coffee at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf as a thank you, which was very nice. I watched the first half of "A Fish Called Wanda" which I hadn't seen in ages. Oh the pants on Jamie Lee Curtis! No low rise jeans in sight for miles/decades. Plus a few lines I had forgotten about like Kevin Kline yelling at John Cleese "You're the vulgarian you f**k!!" Nearly spit out my grape juice. Sarah had come along to donate as well, but alas her hemoglobin was not quite high enough. She's now wolfing down Total to bulk up her blood. It's a drag when you get turned away for that. (It's happened to me a couple of times now.) After all the birthday gifts and wishes, it was nice to give back a bit.

Goldstar I've taken the bus a few times this week. I had an acupuncture appointment on Tuesday in Westwood and it was easier/cheaper to take the bus (either the #8 or #12 Big Blue Bus) than to find and pay for parking. Plus after acupuncture, it's nice to keep that warm buzz going by not driving. Yesterday I took the bus home after platelets as Sarah didn't stay. Also a good way to relax after giving of your bodily fluids. (which my body will replace by today -- amazing.)

Goldstar 2009 is shaping up to be a bit different than my intellectual/monkey/uber capricorn brain thought it would be. I really find I need to catch up with myself, regroup, restructure myself, my life, my health. My health is generally good, but it can be much better. There are pounds to be shed, tight muscles to relax and stretch, greener foods to eat. There are photographs to take and new projects to start as well as projects to finish. I'm looking forward to it all but find I can't force myself to do it all faster! Now! Hurry! There are times when I feel like Luke on Dagobah, ready to live up to his Jedi potential but still a sulky kid needing a patient guiding hand. I am working with my inner Yoda this year and I will be the Jedi I always knew I would be. 








My Top Ten List of Public Transportation--Part II--#s 5-1

5. METRO DE LA CIUDAD DE MEXICO (The Mexico City Subway.)
MexicocitymetroYou may recall I worked in Mexico City in the summer of 2006 (see, it says so up there under the blog title.) While we only had one day off a week, the free day was spent doing some light sightseeing. Usually with Paddy I'd go to nearby places on foot or by taxi. When Kurt came to visit we paid Jesus to drive us to Teotihuacan and spent the day at the pyramids.

But not until Debra came to visit did I ride the subway. I actually had two days off in a row! We rode the subway one day to Coyoacan and the next day to Xochimilco to spend time in a crazy colorful boat, floating past gardens and other boats. Riding the trains out there was great fun. The system is a snap to learn and gets you all over the city (which is HUGE). It's very crowded and can be very warm with all those people. But you will always find something to buy on your trip to wherever you are going: Band-aids, razors, nail clippers, cds with music mixes (bootlegged? No, couldn't be...), coloring books and crayons, candy, gum, and many more things I can't recall off the top of my head. We wondered what kind of living you could make selling on the subway.

On my last weekend there, I went out to La Villa on the subway and sat next to a high school age girl who looked at me funny and asked if I was a tourist. I told her I was working there but that on this day, yes, I was a tourist going to the cathedrals. She asked me what work I was doing and I said I was working on a movie. She got very excited about that. Then her stop came and she got off with a big smile and wave. I didn't take the subway back from La Villa as I was wiped out. I found a taxi instead.

The other thing I love about the subway there are the graphics for the whole system. Each station has a name (obviously) an individual graphic that goes with it. This is what you see for the stop at Camarones on line 7, or this for Velodromo on line 9, or this for Martin Carrera on line 4 and 6. My favorite was this cool dude who graced my nearest stop, Chapultepec, on line 1.

I don't think anyone beats Mexico for these great metro graphics.

4. LONDON DOUBLE DECKER AND BENDY BUS (Parf of the tfl--transit for London)
Londonbusmap In the fall of 2006 I went to London for three weeks to finish out my work from Mexico City. I hadn't been to London in ten years and was excited to be there to work, not just be a tourist. The company put me up in a hotel in Clerkenwell and the office was in Soho. I certainly couldn't afford taxi's every day, even with per diem, so I consulted friends at work about best tube routes and they mostly said not to take the tube as it is so crowded and hot and slow. I was surprised and tested this theory my first day and sure enough, it was crowded and hot and slow. So I then learned the bus system and bought an Oyster card and rode the bus back and forth every day.

Route/bus #19 was my favorite as it was always a double decker and I liked to go upstairs and watch the city go by. The #38 would get me there too but it was usually a bendy bus and a bit more crowded. I got on the bus at Rosebery Ave, after a short walk from my hotel (The Zetter, a very hip hotel with annoying showers). I would de-bus on Shaftesbury Ave, right in front of the office I worked in. Nice! I liked having a walk (well, not every day) from bus to hotel in the evening to unwind and have some fresh air.

I realize there are so many more busses and bus stops than there are subway cars and stops, but I wish the route maps had a bit more specific info on where busses actually stop. It's never a huge problem as you can always get off a block or two away if you missed your stop or guessed wrong as to where you were. I like maps. I like specificity. I liked the London busses. And I especially like the very handy Oyster card which you merely swiped on the pad as you entered the bus. You can refill it online so you are never out of bus or tube fair.

3. METROPOLITANE DELLA CITTA DI ROMA (Or my favorite city's subway.)
Romesubwaymap Roma Roma Roma! Bella Roma! Oh I love Rome. It's my favorite European city. The food, the history, the wine, the well dressed people. The subway system is not extensive. I believe it would be grander if construction weren't stopped every few feet by some archeological find. It is the eternal city, after all. There's got to be quite a bit of stuff buried there after 2700 years.

The few times I've taken the subway while there, it was usually to get to some sight early in the morning to spend the day there, then when you are weary from all that art in the Vatican or from climbing the stairs to the top in St. Peter's or crawling all over the Coliseum and the Forum, you hop back on to your hotel. There is something just amazing and cool to getting on a subway, getting off at a stop called "Colosseo" and then you exit the subway and there it is. THE Coliseum.

But walking is mostly what you do in Rome, to breath in the life pulsing through the streets and the people. To look at storefronts and have Vespas fly past and find that perfect little place to eat when you need a break or to have that third cup of gelato on a hot (or cold, who really cares) day. So while I've spent more time on other subways, I love Rome so much, I had to put it in the top five.

2. THE LONDON UNDERGROUND (or simply the Tube.)
Londonundergrouindmap"Aristotle was not Belgian, the principle of Buddhism is not "every man for himself", and the London Underground is not a political movement. Those are all mistakes, Otto. I looked them up!"

Way Out. That classic map. Mind the Gap. The red circle logo. You probably know a lot about the Tube even if you've never been on it. It is the world's oldest underground system, starting its first route in 1863, and the longest with over 250 miles of track. (Compare to NYC with 229 miles and their subway started in 1904, though elevated trains started in 1868.) It gets you just about anywhere you need or want to go. Though, as mentioned above, it is getting pretty crowded and um...for those of us who live in dollars...very expensive, though it gets much better if you have an Oyster card. Cash one way fare is £4, which with today's conversation rate is $7.94. Yowza! With an Oyster card, a one way fare is £1.50. (only $2.97)

But nevermind all that money stuff. As a tourist, the Tube is fun, gets you to all the sights you want to see from churches to castles to parks to shopping and nightlife. I love the older stops with only two tracks and two platforms. The tube shape is most obvious in those and usually the tile is gorgeous. I also love the deep stops where you go down an escalator that seems to go on for a mile and can make you dizzy. There are vending machines that sell good snacks (most chocolate bars are much better in London than in the US.) and drinks. And UNLIKE Los Angeles, you can eat while you ride.

When I first went to London in 1989, my friend John was our defacto London guide as he had had a study abroad semester there a year or two before. He knew the tube like the back of his hand so we just followed him at every station. This was the first time I'd ever used public transportation on a daily basis so it was almost frustrating not being able to learn it as John whisked us to the proper platform. Those were also the days when there seemed to be much more dirt and filth in the air in tube stations. With the approaching train would come a cloud of victorian soot and coal dust to settle on your skin and in your nose, making your end of the day ablutions quite shocking with all that black coming off and out of you. I didn't notice quite so much dirt this last time.

That first trip to London and Europe holds a special place in my heart. The four of us had so much fun. Then there was the infamous evening of a few too many pints and we were riding the tube back to our hostel and we had to get out at High Street Kensington. The train stopped and the sign in the station reads "Hi St. Kensington" which I looked at and in my pint induced confusion said "Hi (as in hello) Saint Kensington?" John burst out laughing and for the rest of the trip we would greet each other with "Hi Saint Kensington! Good morning Saint Kensington!" 21 was a fun age.

The London Underground is a classic and will always beckon.

And my #1 Public Transport is:

1. REGIE AUTONOME DES TRANSPORTS PARISIENS (or the Paris Metro)
ParismetroIt was a tough decision about which would be first, though the top two contenders were never in doubt. I love the Tube, but I have a much closer relationship with the Metro, and I don't even speak French.

After London in 1989 we headed to Paris and there again rode the metro. We were all new to it, so we all learned how to use it and raced around seeing sights and enjoying it all until the day when there was some kind of chemical leak or someone set off tear gas in one station and we all bolted for exits, coughing and crying. Strange. We had no idea what happened and neither did the other locals standing around looking at each other, then going about their business.

When I returned on my own in 1992, I used Paris as my base city and would stay for a few days or a week, then go to Spain or Italy, then return for another week or so. I used the Metro a lot, but when you travel alone (and are not in a hurry) the days can get pretty long. So one day I decided to walk to my daily destination, no matter where that might be. I got to see parts of the city up close and personal and enjoyed those details a lot.

My favorite moment was walking past a large fancy wedding dress shop early one morning. There was hardly anyone on the streets and I looked into the window and at the back of the shop was a young woman in a wedding dress with her mother and the store owner or salesperson. This looked like a final fitting perhaps. As I watched, the young woman caught my eye and smiled and shrugged. I smiled back, then moved on.

The Paris Metro does not have as many miles as London, only 133, but it does carry more riders per day (4.5 million vs. London's 3 million). And there is somehow something fresher, slightly more modern about the metro that the Tube doesn't have. The Tube has its tidy graphics, but the Metro has the amazing art nouveau station entrances designed by Hector Guimard like this one:
Paris_metro_guimard_entrance_dsc006 (click for bigger nouveau-ness.)

Navigating the Metro is easy. You find your destination, determine the line number it is on (1-14), then follow that line to its final destination so you know which direction to in the station. Since I don't speak French, I would remember the direction by making up a horrible pronunciation of the last stop. If I were taking line 5 toward Bobigny, I would say "Bo-Big-Nee" in my mind. Or the #8 toward Créteil Préfecture would be "Perfect Creatures". Helpful? Yes. Classy? No. But it's all in my mind so it's not so bad. And it works like a charm and makes me feel slightly less like a tourist having to refer to a map from time to time.

I've been lucky enough to go to Paris six times and every time, the metro is like an old friend, waiting to journey me to wherever I want to go. I love the feel of those ten slim tickets in my hand after buying a carnet. I always leave used tickets in my jacket pockets so months or years later I pull it out and think about the last time I was in Paris, on the metro. It then makes me wonder (and plan) when our next trip will be to the city of lights.

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I would love to hear about other subway/mass transit experiences in other countries. I realize mine is quite "Western World-Centric." Tell me about Tokyo subways or Moscow subways or Rio De Janeiro buses or Sydney trams. Educate me.

Thanks for reading, see you on the Metro.


My Top Ten List of Public Transportation--Part I--#s 10-6

I've begun to ride the bus in Los Angeles instead of using my car (which I plan to sell shortly). I would LOVE to use the subway, but alas, I live on the Westside and apparently it is too hard to build a train system through here in a small amount of time for a reasonable budget. (There are virtual reams of paper devoted to this very topic on blogs all around LA, so I don't need to recount any of that here.) So the bus it is. And while on the bus, I thought about all the cities I've been to and the different public transportation I've used and which ones I like best.

So here is my Top Ten list of Favorite Public Transpos:

10. CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY (CTA)
Chicagomap(I had a hard time choosing this over the LA Metro system as I have been on both only once. But I chose Chicago because the LA Metro trip I took was just to waste time while on my 1 1/2 lunch break for jury duty downtown 10 years ago. There was a metro station right there, I hopped on, rode for 1/2 hour, turned around and came back.)

18 years ago I went to visit a friend who lived in the suburbs of Chicago (my first time in the Second City) and we took the train into town a couple of times to see museums, walk around the city, go to see some improv (at where else?) and generally be tourists. The concept of getting on a train instead of driving and trying to find parking seemed really magical, so grown up, so like what I'd always seen in tv and movies. I loved it. It also seemed so darn easy! The trains let you off close to wherever you wanted to go and you could talk or read or sleep or whatever you wanted to do! Just great. I don't remember much more about the train except that it sparked a positive feeling for mass transit train travel that still goes strong to this day!



9. MASSACHUSETTS BAY TRANSIT AUTHORITY (Lovingly known as "The T".)
BostontmapI've been to Boston only twice. The second time was for a funeral for Kurt's cousin who I had never met, but as we were engaged at the time, of course I went. It was also the first time I had met his mother so there were some interesting mixing of emotions. We flew home from that trip on United flight 175 on Sunday, September 9, 2001.

The first time I went to Boston was in the summer of 1999. The Museum of Fine Arts had en exhibit of 150 paintings and drawings by John Singer Sargent. The show had started at the Tate in London and then was in Washington DC and would finish in Boston. I had to see those paintings. I flew out on Friday and had tickets to let me in first thing on Saturday. I took the T to the museum and was so excited to be on a train, carrying me to see breathtaking works of art. I spent hours drinking in the portraits and the water colors and the drawings. I must have gone through each room about three times, spending the most time with Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose. Then, in my drunk on Sargent haze, I got back on the T and went downtown to look around at the city, and eventually back to my hotel. I'm so glad I took that trip.

As for the T itself? Couldn't tell you much except again, I loved how you could just walk to nearby stations and be transported to amazing places to see amazing things. I didn't have to navigate streets and parking and other drivers, I got to relax and enjoy the whole Seeing Art and Seeing Boston thing.

(I was reading on the T website that they are rolling out free wifi on their trains! God, that rules.)

8. METROPOLITAN TRANSIT AUTHORITY (Otherwise known as the New York City Subway System.)
NycsubwayFamous the world over as a character in zillions of movies and tv shows, the NYC subway (as far as I had learned before I ever laid eyes on it) is a grimy, hard-bitten dangerous necessity in the lives of millions of people in the city of New York. The first time I went to NYC was in 1998 for the premiere of Godzilla at Madison Square Garden. I was there for about 5 days and loved every second. It blew my mind that you could stand on a street and wave and a taxi would stop and pick you up, just like in the movies! Jacquie and I took the subway out to Brooklyn one night to have dinner with my old friends Dave and Digo. We had a great evening and ended up taking the subway back at 2am, both of them assuring us it was perfectly safe, which it was. How great that you can hop on a train across NY to visit friends for dinner and back again, costing maybe a couple of bucks all together.

It wasn't until I was back in the spring of 2001 working on a movie that I used the subway much more often. I met my mom's first cousin Caroline and her husband, Arnold Roth, on that trip and they were so kind, having me to dinner and making me feel part of their immediate family. (They live on West 72nd street, in the building next to The Dakota -- so New York!) I was staying at the Mayflower hotel and walked the ten blocks to their place one Sunday to meet them for brunch. They were waiting for me at the subway entrance near their place and down we went. Down into the tunnel and down town to a restaurant near CBGB, which I had never heard of. (I grew up on a rock on the middle of the pacific ocean, don't forget...the land that musical time forgot.) We had a lovely brunch with their sons and sons' families and then subway'd our way back uptown. Wonderful.

Later on one of those Spring 01 work trips, Kurt came out to visit and we decided to go see Coney Island. We took the subway all the way out. It took about an hour and was a fascinating journey below and above ground. I loved seeing the neighborhoods change on they way out there. We rode the Cyclone where the carnies are almost as frightening as the ride, we rode the Wonder Wheel, swinging car, of course, where any thoughts of "OSHA" must be put right out of your minds. (Oh and if you click onto that link, holy cow--be warned of the jingle that plays automatically--that is some classic jingle.) We ate Nathan's Hot Dogs, watched a very dirty looking plushy Pikachu try to con kids into taking photos with him (Yeesh!) and probably had some ice cream before heading back to Manhattan on the subway.

I loved the ease of subway use -- there seem to be entrances on every block. You can get anywhere you need to go within a short walk of wherever you are. That to me is phenomenal. As for aesthetics, the NY subway leaves a little something to be desired. It's a workhorse, not a showhorse. But it got me wherever I needed to go. And how can you not appreciate a subway system that has a very famous song written about one of its lines? Listen here.

7. DOPRAVNI PODNIK HL. M. PRAHY (Otherwise known as the Prague Public Transit Co. Inc.)
PraguemapIn the early summer of 1992, I was traveling on my own for three months, again backpacking/youth hosteling through Europe. I had visited a friend in Bavaria, then got on a train to (then) Czechoslovakia to visit Prague for a few days. The whole way on the train into "Eastern Europe" (oooooh, cold war hadn't been over too long!) I read through my travel books, preparing myself for the new country. But not just a new country, a whole new alphabet. I knew I could find my way to the youth hostel agency, but I was worried that the subway system would be confusing, what with the new alphabet I had to work with. I psyched myself up, pumped myself full of confidence that of course I could do it and hadn't I left plenty of daylight in case I couldn't?

I got off the train, went down to the subway and was confronted with the subway system map. I just started laughing at myself and my misguided fears. Please look closely (and click for bigger) on this subway map. There are three (3) lines. Line A, Line B and Line C. Yeah. I think I can figure it out.

Confidence firmly established in my brilliant navigational skills, I bought a three day student pass (which was probably about 85¢ at the time) and got on board, getting off exactly where I needed to go, probably with a transfer thrown in for good measure. I walked out into the beautiful Prague sunshine and got out my book with the map showing the hostel office and then got a bit confused. A young man was selling fruit nearby, I walked over-- (You have to know I was blonde and had a big backpack on plus a smaller day pack in front, quite the youth tourist give-away.) -- and smiled and pointed at my map and the address and he said "Oh, sure, that place is just down that block and over a few more blocks." Perfect english with not much of an accent. DUDE! I laughed again and said thanks and went on my way.

I found the hostel office and booked a stay in a place that was $5 a night and breakfast, but a little off the beaten path. I took a bus/tram to the end of its line, where the hostel was located, and have never been stared at so much on my whole trip. Was it the backpack? The blonde hair? The fact that I was a young foreign woman alone, riding this very local tram? Who knows. But I felt perfectly safe, and found my hostel, it was in a boat house on the river with the BEST SHOWERS I had through my whole trip. I took that tram in every day to see the sites and enjoy Prague. At the tram stop near my hostel was an ice cream vendor. A double scoop was about 20¢. Yum! I knew I would walk it off during the course of each day.

Prague is a gorgeous city, I highly recommend it.

6. WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY (AKA, the Washington DC Metro)
DcmetromapLast Fall I was working on a movie in Washington DC for a few weeks. I was lucky enough to have weekends and a few afternoons off. When I did, I used the subway a few times to get around and see some sites. I guest blogged for Metroblogging DC while I was there and complimented that fair city for a fine subway experience. (This was my first time there.)

It was late summer and quite warm during the day. I loved that the subway cars had air conditioning, carpeting that looked new and clean, cell phone reception underground (!!) and the people were so polite (or just very well trained) as they stood on the side of the open doors to make room for people getting off the trains and then moving to the center of the cars instead of stopping immediately. This is some seriously good mass transit etiquette.

The best part about that trip and that subway system was my stop's name: Foggy Bottom.


Please tell me about your favorite mass transit experiences in the comments.
I'll soon post #5 - 1.
Any guesses what #1 will be?