As I begin to write today’s entry, my mind has gone back twenty-five or thirty years. I’m trying to remember how the public transit system in Vienna worked during my first visit.
I recall buying my ticket in a vending machine. Then I walked down steps to the train platform. There were no turnstiles, just steps. I boarded the train and, several stops later, I got off. I walked up the steps to the street and continued on my way.
Thus, the “Honor System” has been in use for many years in Vienna.
This same system was in use in Munich, and is probably available in many transportation systems throughout Europe.
As I continue to search my memories, I’m pretty sure it was true in Paris. We bought passes that were good for a specified period of time. When riding a bus, we simply showed the passes to the driver. When riding the Metro, we simply got on and off without much ado.
In London – the foreign city where I’ve spent the most time – my mind is foggy. For one thing, during my ten-week stay, most of my traveling was on shank’s mare. When we did ride the public transit, it was for a specific purpose with a specific destination.
On further reflection, on one of our trips to London we did buy a multiple-day pass. So, they must also have the honor system.
One-way and round-trip tickets could be purchased in every one of the cities I’ve named. But the real bargains were with the multiple day passes.
In Munich, we purchased the City Tour Card. It was good for three days travel for up to five people. It also provided discounts at many of the tourist attractions. The cost was forty-eight Euros.
On the surface, that sounds expensive. That’s approximately $65. However, to put it in perspective, it cost eight Euros to get from the airport to the main train station in Munich. So, for my bride and I, that would have been thirty-two Euros for the round trip. Then, every time we rode public transit within Munich, it would have cost each of us another two and a half Euros.
We knew in advance that we would be taking one round trip on a tram. That would have been ten Euros added to the thirty-two to get back and forth from the airport. Figuring we would take additional rides just to get a “lay of the land”, the forty-eight Euros was a bargain. It would’ve been an even bigger bargain had our friends been able to join us.
By the way, those people in Atlanta who think the MARTA fare is too high should be happy; $3.50 per ride is almost double what they are currently paying.
If it wasn’t for tax dollar subsidies, MARTA would be out of business unless they raised their fares dramatically. I have no idea if the Munich and Vienna transit systems would operate in the red without tax payers’ support. I do, however, believe that they save a lot of money using the honor system.
For one thing, they have no turnstiles to install and maintain. Next, they don’t have to fuss with tokens. And the operators of the various means of transportation don’t have to deal with selling or collecting tickets.
Tickets are purchased from vending machines or small shops close to the stations. In Munich, we used a vending machine at the airport. In Vienna, we bought our tickets in a small tobacco shop.
Perhaps one of the biggest advantages is also their biggest selling point. Getting on and off a bus, tram, or train is much faster when no one is trying to pay. With no turnstiles, it is much faster to pass through a transit station.
All of these advantages encourage people to use public transit. That’s something MARTA definitely needs to do.
I have ridden MARTA from North Springs to the airport during the morning rush hour and have had no problem finding a seat. By the time the train is nearing downtown Atlanta, there may be a few people standing, but very few. People don’t ride the trains; they’d rather sit in traffic.
That brings another thought to mind. I don’t recall seeing a single parking lot in downtown Munich… nor in downtown Vienna. The only parking was on the street, and most of those spaces were taken.
In Atlanta, there are too many reasonably priced parking lots. If the City Council really wants to make MARTA a success, they need to place heavy taxes on those parking lots and discourage people from driving into downtown.
Combine that move with installing the honor system, and they can expand MARTA and quit using tax dollars to keep it afloat.
By the way, there is one major factor that helps insure the honor system works.
Security personnel spend their days getting on and off transit vehicles. Their sole purpose in life is to ensure that all riders have valid tickets. Being caught on a tram, bus, or train in Munich without the proper ticket results in a forty Euro (about $55.00) fine.
In all four of the cities I’ve mentioned, their mass transit systems are far superior to most I’ve seen in the states. The only one that comes close is New York City. It’s been a few years since I’ve been to the Big Apple, but as I recall, the cleanliness of their trains left quite a bit to be desired.
So, in summary, I think that, next to the real German and Austrian food, the most important European item that we should import is the honor system for our public transportation.
I invite your thoughts.