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I studied abroad in Europe this past summer and I noticed many differences between how Europeans live their lives versus how we Americans live ours. One of the major differences was the modes of transportation used to commute. In Europe, walking, biking, and using the metro system are commonly seen, and driving automobiles is the most recognized form of transportation in the United States. Walking ten miles a day to get to restaurants school or other destinations would be considered weird in the United States given how commercialized automobiles have become through sociological momentum. According to Carolan, parking lots and drive-thru lanes all encourage the use of the car while making public transportation and walking less convenient as well as attractive (2017).

Europe is more friendly to public transportation, walking, and biking than the United States making their cities mixed-use communities. Mixed-use communities incorporate pedestrian, bike, and mass transit into how people get from place to place (Carolan, 2017). Walking and the metro system seemed to be the most popular modes of transportation that I saw people use in Europe and that I used myself. The metro system in Europe ran efficiently because multiple metros were arriving every few minutes and closing their doors shortly after they arrived. The longest I ever waited for a metro was ten minutes and that was when it was a music festival day in Rome and the streets were packed with people.

I was only in Rome for a weekend because my program was based in Paris. There was a popular metro line I took almost every day in Paris that started to go under construction at the end of my trip. Everyone knows that traffic is a mess when I-75 goes under construction, but when the metro line in Paris went under construction other lines took people to the same destinations and no traffic backups arose allowing for convenient travel to be continued.

European cities such as Paris have efficient metro systems because they thought of transit first when building new neighborhoods instead of building highways first which is what, in part, increased the use of automobiles in the United States (English, 2018). Thus, Paris still operates as more of a commuter city while major cities in the United States are more automobile cities. Cities in the United States also use the concept of street hierarchy in their urban planning because all roads are paved to have multiple paths to reach major streets and eventually lead traffic to the highway (Carolan, 2017).

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In addition to being able to reach my destinations quicker in Paris, I believe my cost of transportation decreased while I was there. The metro passes our study abroad group provided costed 5 euros for the card itself and around 70 euros for the travel package which translates to roughly 77 U.S. dollars given the currency conversion rates. The metro passes were called Navigo Cards and they are intended mainly for Paris residents but can be purchased by anyone (Paris Métro, 2019). The Navigo cards can be reloaded, and the card is valid to be reloaded for ten years (Transilien). Thinking long term, my Navigo card’s long validity would have saved me a lot of money if I lived in Europe because I would never have to pay for parking passes or toll bridge fees or even a car in general which I have to here in the United States.

According to the Commute Cost & Carbon Emissions Calculator we used in class, the hidden costs of my transportation totaled $1,267.06 a year (Standford University, 2019). Although the calculator does not factor in the proper factors of my transportation in Paris, I assume my cost of transportation was less there given the fact that if I renewed the same Navigo package every month it would cost less than a thousand U.S. dollars. Using sustainable transportation, as I did in Europe, would also save me from producing 2,357 pounds of carbon emissions into the environment by driving myself to school and work most days of the week.

Another mode of sustainable transportation in Paris is trains. Cities in the United States use their rail lines mainly for freight trips, although they could be turned into mass commuter lines which is what many countries across Europe have done (English, 2018). These rail lines are known as “commuter rails” in Europe and they run all day and new carts come in every few minutes (English, 2018). Paris has even connected new tunnels to terminals to form an RER network (English, 2018). The RER network is a line of trains and its trips were also covered in my metro pass and served as a nothing mode of public transportation I could utilize.

Overall, the way transportation runs in Europe is more efficient for people and should serve as an example of how America conducts its transportation in the future. My suggestion runs into the problem of being technologically possible versus the sociologically probable. Becoming more like European cities in terms of enhancing the utilization of existing railroads and implementing the use of affordable metros may sound good, but this does not mean that it is socially or economically probable (Carolan, 2017). Given the commercialization and abundance of automobiles, a change in mass transportation seems unlikely. The way cities have been designed thus far may also make using railed roads and metro lines very expensive. Nevertheless, the United States could try to work on ways to become a supporter of mixed-use communities.

References

    1. English, Jonathan. (2018). Why Public Transportation Works Better Outside the U.S. Retrieved from https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2018/10/while-america-suffocated-transit-other-countries-embraced-it/572167/
    2. Standford University. (2019). Commute Cost & Carbon Emissions Calculator. Retrieved from https://transportation-forms.stanford.edu/cost/
    3. Carolan, M. S. (2017). Society and the Environment: Pragmatic Solutions to Ecological Issues.
    4. Paris Métro. (2019). Paris Métro Fares and Tickets (2020). Retrieved from https://europeforvisitors.com/paris/articles/paris-metro-tickets.htm
    5. Transilien. Using the Navigo Découverte card. Retrieved form https://www.transilien.com/en/page-editoriale/the-navigo-decouverte-card

 

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