Friday, April 18, 2014

P ~ Public Transportation #atozchallenge

All Aboard! "It's Very Swedish..." a train on a cultural journey through Sweden, exploring the differences big and small between American and Swedish culture.

Is the public transportation in Sweden so convenient and easy to use because it needs to be, since fewer people have cars, or do fewer people have cars because there's really no need, with such a convenient, inexpensive alternative?  That's the chicken/egg question and though The Nutritionist and I discussed this at length, we didn't come to a conclusion.

What I remember most vividly about the convenience of Swedish public transportation was the ease with which I traveled from Farmor's apartment in Göteborg, to a little day-use only island in the archipelago just off the coast.

It was one system of payment, by this time reloadable, magnetic strip cards that you ran through a reader while boarding, whether you were getting on the bus outside the apartment complex, 

then a streetcar to the central bus station, 

then on another bus to the harbor, 

and finally, onto the boat to the island.

Here I am, haven't been to Sweden since the 80s, it's now 1996, and I'm no longer traveling with Farmor as my guide.  No problem.  My friend had told me where to end up, and at what time. Got myself a map the day before, figured out the best route, and off I went.

The bus ride to the harbor and the boat to the island was one fare, so as I got off the bus, I was handed a transfer slip, which I showed when I got on the boat, and there she was, saving me a seat.

Another example of the convenience of it all was the evening I went out on the town at night.  There I was, married, 31, and had never been out at night in Sweden.  Caught a bus to the same friend's house, we had dinner, then we all headed downtown to a bar with outdoor, sidewalk seating, and had one of the most pleasant evenings of my life.

Ironically, the entire conversation consisted of, wait for it, the cultural differences between the US and Sweden!  My friend's boyfriend, and their other friends, a couple, who joined us, were very interested in hearing about US culture, and since I hadn't been to Sweden as an adult, I found it wonderful to be able to talk to peers about my perceptions.

The last bus for Farmor's apartment complex left at 12:45 am, and the stop was across the street from the bar.  I actually saw the sun go down that night, as the pleasant breeze caressed our conversation, the beer flowed freely, and then my designated-driver bus took me safely home.

I would not have been able to accomplish either of those journeys here in America without spending a LOT more money, and going home a LOT earlier from the bar.  Our bus lines are hard to coordinate, there's a lot of wait if you need to transfer, and though the buses run on schedule, they sure don't run as often as the Swedish buses.  Then there's the part that I couldn't have gotten myself to a gorgeous island since Colorado is rather short on those.

If you're an American, do you use our public transportation?  If you're from another country, what's the public transportation like there?  

~Tina, remembering 11:00 pm sunsets, island breezes, and a great visit to my homeland.

©2014 All Rights Reserved
Photo credit: Bus
Photo credit: Street car
Photo credit: boat


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Public transportation here, well, it sucks. Except in the really big cities. Maybe it has to do with the fact America is so spread out? I was in college the last time I took a bus. And ever since one tried to crush my car into the curb, I've held buses in disdain. I won't tell you what I call them now...

JoJo said...

Certain cities have very easy public transit systems. Like San Francisco. You could get a monthly Fast Pass which was good on all buses, cable cars and trains. If you decided to pay ala carte, you got a slip good for 2 transfers on the buses, etc. Boston is also really easy to get around thanks to the T.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tina - London is fine, but watch the late night rides. Round Eastbourne .. it's possible to use the bus - and I get free rides (being elderly!)... but I drive to town for an evening out, or get a taxi back having walked down ..

Public transportation is manageable .. but having had a car for so many years - I'd hate to switch!

Living out of town here in a village - the public transport services aren't great.

We had excellent trains - but when Dr Beeching axed many of the branch-lines after the War - main line travel is ok - ie going to large towns and travelling back somewhere else .. but the smaller towns and villages have been left off the map - c/o Beeching. They are trying to reintroduce some lines ..

But we don't have the same situation as Sweden ... looks so easy and convenient .. cheers Hilary

L. Diane Wolfe said...

We live outside a small town and have to drive everywhere. It would be nice to have easy transportation.

CA Heaven said...

Must admit that I don't use public transport very much. I either drive, or use my bike. Going downtown, I always walk, since we are living close to town center >:)

Cold As Heaven

Kate @ Another Clean Slate said...

I can take either a bus or train to work. It definitely is nice to have the option!

Brian Miller said...

i love riding public many stories all pressed together....there is little where i am...too the city and the we are limited to the bus...and even then, just in town...


I only use it to park and ride to sporting events. It is the only way to get out on time and beat the traffic.

Kathe W. said...

when I lived outside of POrtland Oregon I used the buses for daily commuting. However if I were to try that today in Portland I would be hard pressed as the powers that be have made the almighty decision to reduce bus travel by spending a whole load of $$ for light rail that doesn't even get near where I lived. Ergo- I would have to DRIVE to a bus stop. Moronic.
Now- today I live in the sticks of upper Northern California. There are a few buses that connect the little towns. BUT- soemhow you have to get to the few bus stops. So- not so convenient. Fortunately- I am retired and don't have to get out every day.
Countries like Sweden have denser populations and because they are smaller countries the commuting can be easier to maintain. They are extreemly lucky. I would like to visit Sweden after reading your blog. Thanks!

Jo said...

There is a pretty good public transportation service here in my part of Canada. I don't use it, but when we first came to Canada I used to go to work by bus and on a cold winter day, they used to let me sit on the warm bus whilst waiting for a change at the bus depot. There are dozens of buses running around the streets so I think one can really get around well.

In the UK I used to take the bus to school, we didn't have school buses, and it was never a problem. But from what Hilary says, maybe it would be more so today.

shelly said...

Public transportation in Florida is horrible. I've had to use it twice in my life due to transmission problems.

Hugs and chocolate!

We're almost through this challenge!

Donna Hosie said...

I'm a big supporter of public transport; I use the bus system every day to commute in my city.

But I also believe that Governments need to invest more. Better routes, more frequent services. It's the only way to get the convenience of the car pushed aside.

klahanie said...

Good grief, human, Tina,

You sure do write some very long pawsts!

I do know that the public transport in Sweden is a marvel. The public transport, outside of London, is a total joke. My human has to rely on his car to get to places. The buses operate at no pawticular time.

Quite the contrast to the public transport system in Vancouver which is very good and reasonably priced.

Pawsitive wishes,

Penny the friendly host of the Alphabark Challenge! :)

Andrew Leon said...

I'm not much for public transportation. There are too many reasons to even go into it.

D Biswas said...

"Is the public transportation in Sweden so convenient and easy to use because it needs to be, since fewer people have cars, or do fewer people have cars because there's really no need, with such a convenient, inexpensive alternative?"

Well we could ask the same question in Singapore, but don't think anyone will, after living here a year or two.

Cars are made prohibitively expensive here-- you pay through your nose in taxes. The permission to drive a car on the streets alone costs about 50, 000 USD, and that lasts only 10 years.

People still buy cars here, but the large majority, including me, take public transport, which runs like clockwork, btw, like everything else on this dot of a nation :).

Julie Ann said...

Tina, I find your commentary on transportation apt. My husband and I are living in an east coast US city with no car, and the public transit here, though occasionally passable, is unreliable regularly. I'd love to show him the other places inthis world where transportation lines (public or howsoever) actually run on time and don't cost much. Hong Kong was great for this. Hoping to see Sweden soon.

Anonymous said...

Most of U.S, not designed for ease of use in public transport. I use it in larger U.S. cities and foreign countries, but not in Denver (altho new light rail line coming our way, and we will use that to go to downtown Denver).

Your post was beautifully written - parts flowed like poetry. Good job!

Chris Boothman said...

From my experiences, public transportation in USA can be hit and miss! In many cities such as NYC, it is great whereas in other cities such as LA it is awful. In lesser communities such as here in Arkansas where we currently reside, it is non existent.

However, back in UK the public transportation for the most part is great. I think we are moving towards a society throughout the world that needs a great public transportation system so it's nice when you come across countries that already have a solid structure in place already.