Thursday, July 3, 2014

Throwback Thursday: My First Transit Experience

It's time for kind of a fun post, don't you think?! I know we're all transit funding and RTA and what is SMART/DDOT/M-1/DPM doing and let's increase bus service all of the time. Let's take a break!

With the mass popularity of 'Throwback Thursday', we decided to share My First Transit Experience - and would love you to do the same. Was there a turning point in your life where you realized that transit was amazing!? If you grew up in the metro Detroit post-trolley system (and with the advent of our suburban sprawl), you most likely had to travel out of the state or out of the country in order to experience transit in any sort of real way.

When I was a student at the University of Michigan, I had the very lucky opportunity to study abroad in Paris, France for three months. At the ripe old age of 19, I had never traveled away from my family, had never traveled abroad, and definitely had never experienced any sort of transit system. Sink or swim, right?

 The organizers of the study program gave us a map of the Metro, which honestly looked to me like a tangled web of colorful spider legs/WTF. Do people actually use this thing!?

See exhibit A:

I made the decision that I'd walk everywhere - this system just looked too scary to operate, and I'd totally get in urban workout shape. After taking a few VERY long walks, I decided to give myself plenty of time one day to get to school. This cannot be that hard, right? I had to travel along the gold line from the La Motte Piquet Grenelle stop, directly to La Sorbonne. Seemed easy. I gave myself an hour as I swear it was going to take me that long/I'd miss all the trains/it would totally break down and I'd miss class. I had to be at class by 8am, so I was solidly rolling with the morning commuters.

It took me SEVEN minutes. For the entire trip. I had plenty of time for a pre-class hot chocolate and pain au chocolat. YES. And as I relaxed before class - I realized this Metro-thing was less of a mystery and more of an opportunity. I could get a monthly pass - a Carte Orange - which could give me unlimited access to this amazing city (single farecard whaaaat). I took on the subway transfers with gusto and even got to a point where I didn't have to refer to the map much. This was a key turning point in my life - I always felt that I was able to figure out metro and bus systems other cities. And I started to wonder: why can't we have this in metro Detroit?

And setting me up for my future with 2 Women 4 Wheels, I started documenting the people that I met during these transit trips in my journal. These fine folks included a woman that I would see on the Metro a few times per month - and each time, she would say something quickly in French and give me a flower. Um, why not? There were also numerous people who would would stand on upside down buckets giving lectures to the entire train - one of the favorite topics were various points about "Beel Cleenton" (that's Bill Clinton for those unfamiliar with a French accent).

So, how about you, dear readers? What was your first transit experience?! #tbt