Monday, November 2, 2009

The Price of Progress

Things were a bit of a mess on line 1 of the Paris metro this weekend with service completely suspended between the Charles de Gaulle-Étoile stop and the western terminus in La Defense. To the RATP's credit, there was plenty of advance notice and plenty of signage plus a replacement shuttle bus, but people being people....well, you can imagine.

Actually, it's been somewhat messy along that stretch of line 1 for a few months as preparations are made to fully automate it by March 2012. It's the most used line in the system, carrying some 725,000 passengers each day, tourists and locals like, as it crosses the city stopping at 25 stations including several points along the Champs-Élysées, the Tuileries, the Louvre, Châtelet (the stop from hell I mentioned in an earlier post), the Marais, Bastille, and points east. Right now, only line 14 is automated and it's the only one that's fully functional during a transit strike. Automation of line 1 thus will save a lot of headaches for everyone, except I suppose the folks who drive the trains.* But more importantly, the automatic trains will move faster than the human-operated variety, with just 85 seconds anticipated between trains during rush hours.

At the moment, there's one automated stop on line 1 and gates have been erected along the platforms at several other stops. Although I may not be here long enough to reap all the rewards, I'd say it's definitely worth the hassle.

*Lest you worry about the drivers losing their posts, rest assured that it's all been worked out with the unions to reassign them once they're no longer needed on line 1.


debbie in toronto said...

what I don't understand is the silly ticket system...why don't they use tokens or make the swipe cards easier for tourist to get..those tickets NEVER work and you don't know if it should be face up or's confusing as anything...I had a "good for a week super ticket" that only worked for a couple of days and then at Pigalle one day the turnstile ate it..never to be seen again...naturally all I got was a shrug from the person at the ticket window since I had bought it from an agent not from them...curses!!!

jonnifer said...

I'm impressed with the constant maintenance, modernization and expansion of the Metro system. There are always a few stations "en travaux" which can sometimes be inconvenient but is generally a very good sign!

Liz said...

But what about the thieves that work that line? It seems automation will make their jobs even easier.

Although line 14 is quite nice.

Anonymous said...

Oh no, never use the "superticket"; always buy the pack of 10 from the machines (unless you are in Paris for a solid week, from at least monday to monday, because then it is more cost effective to get a navigo pass).

I actually love the Chatelet exchange. I enjoy trying to figure out where the "above ground" equivalent is of wherever I am underground. I enjoy speculating about the fruit stand and the musicians. I enjoy walking past that tsigane group which plays in the late mornings by the news stand. Does anyone buy the fruit there? It all looks really good is being bathed in such hot-breathed air!

I change trains daily from Line 11 to 14. It is my important dose of people madness before i drop into my quiet office or return to my quiet(ish) apartment. At first I detested the heat, the jostling, the commotion and noise. then i relaxed and started to love it.

I also recommend learning how to negotiate the tunnels backwards, as it will reveal various shortcuts which can cut minutes from your traverse. you sometimes have to blast through oncoming traffic, but it makes it all the more fun!

or, perhaps, I am mad.

Finally, if you want to experience a truly exceptional metro system which is being constantly expanded (well, at least until the economic crisis anyway) check out Madrid, Spain. Unbelievable. It makes Paris' metro look like a pony ride. Seriously.

Starman said...

Making Ligne 1 automatic is one of the best ideas the RATP has come up with in a long time.

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