Thursday, November 26, 2009

Deutschland, Part 8

One of the best aspects of my Germany trip was the opportunity to bear witness to the miraculous German public transportation system. Aside from flying in and out of Munich, and one stretch with a rental car, nearly my entire trip consisted of train travel.

Between cities I took the Deutsche Bahn regional trains, which were fast, comfortable and reasonably priced. Within each city there were two systems of trains, the U-Bahn, which is much akin to the subway system of New York, with a high concentration of stops in busy areas, and each stop only a minute or two apart. The S-Bahn, pictured above, was a more macro train system, allowing you to travel quickly from one area of a city to another. Both were wonderfully easy to use.

In between, where there might not be 100% train coverage, there were generally extensive networks of trams and buses. Anywhere I wanted to go, and just about every city I visited, I could generally get within a few blocks using public transit, and the regularity of these trains, trams and buses was commendable.

There are cities in the US with this kind of extensive transportation system, notably New York City, whose system is about just as efficient, though a lot less clean. But what is truly remarkable is the extent to which the entire country seemed to be covered by this consistent system. In the smaller towns there may not be an extensive subway system, but the buses were easy to use and got me to the important places.

There are too many cities in the US that are lacking adequate public transportation. South Florida, in which a large portion of the population is too old to even drive at night, has a few buses meandering around, and not much else. Detroit, because of the powerful auto lobby, has resisted any sort of meaningful transport infrastructure, which has contributed to the death of the city proper. Anyone who's ridden the People Mover in downtown Motown knows that it's a bit of a joke.

And although Germany also has a powerful auto industry, its focus, as with much of the rest of Europe, on sensible mass transportation has allowed it it create an efficient and extensive system that meets the needs of pretty much everyone in the country.

In the US, we--and our governments--make a lot of choices that benefit the individual at the expense of the common good. Emphasis in many areas is usually more on lower taxes than on desperately needed public works. Hopefully one day we'll realize that the common good is often just that: really good.

1 comment:

james said...

Oops - looks like you forgot the photo credit, which is courtesy and net etiquette when using others' photos for your posts.

Photo from James at

Thanks and cheers - James...