on the métro…

June 27, 2007

all cities have given names to their rapid transit lines. sometimes, they are somewhat fancy names, like london’s jubilee line. other times, they are very utilitarian, such as new york city’s subway, with letters and numbers being the order.

paris decided to go with the very simple method of using numbered lines, which makes for an easy-to-navigate system.

there are 14 “regular” lines, 2 “shuttle” lines and 5 “suburban” lines. within the city limits, all of these services operate under the same fare structure and with roughly the same frequency of service. average speed will vary across the lines; lines 2 and 6, for example, are unconscionably slow (seriously, sometimes stations are two blocks apart from each other), whereas line “A” is miraculously fast – crossing the entire city from east to west in 12-15 minutes.

but still, these lines all have their characteristics, sadly lost to the logic of numbering.

i therefore present the following, a list of alternative names for some of paris’ métro lines:

  • line 1 – the tourist line. connecting the arc de triomphe, the champs élysées and châtelet, this line manages to get a lot of tourists (of the worst variety). when it’s raining, this line becomes the sardine line, as flocks of tourists will seem to use the métro as an instant shelter, riding for an hour at a time just so that they don’t have to give up their seat or brave the outside world.
  • line 2 – the pickpocket line. this line runs from the arc de triomphe to nation via montmartre and barbès-rochechouart. a lot of tourists on this line too. however, since this line passes through some rougher neighbourhoods too, it’s a great place for dumb tourists to get their affairs liberated from them. it’s also wonderful looking at horrified faces when people realize that paris isn’t as cookie-cutter-clean as they may have thought it to be.
  • line 3 – the backpacker line. this line links paris with the international bus station. since there is no domestic intercity bus network (the TGV largely made non-chartered buses obsolete), this line gets a lot of budget travelers from abroad. alternate name: the hipster line, as it passes right through the working-class-trendy district of oberkampf.
  • line 4 – the maghreb express. if you’ve never been to morocco, algeria or tunisia, you will have felt like it when you take this line, particularly around château d’eau station.
  • line 6 – the édith piaf line. this line spans the seine between the trocadéro palace and the eiffel tower, which means a lot of tourists. you would not believe how many time i’ve heard accordion players grind out la vie en rose for tips on this line. alternate name: la ligne des feuilles mortes.
  • line 7 – the line of french bureaucracy. an extremely slow line, but very thorough. it connects with every other line; no other line does this.
  • line 10 – the super-fantastic line of mystery! until i started taking this line on a near daily basis to go get abused by the préfecture office, i had no idea how many hidden and/or closed métro stations there were. i intend to see if i can’t break into one of these ghost stations one day.
  • line 11 – the urine line. well, okay. not just urine, but pretty much every kind of unpleasant odour you could possibly imagine can be found in the trains and stations of line 11. thankfully, it’s fast, so your ride is likely to be short. but still, sometimes it’s near overwhelming (no wonder the RATP drew the line in brown on the métro map).
  • line 13 – the why-do-we-even-bother? line. talk about overcrowding; who’d have thought that you would have to fight for a seat at 9 pm on sunday evening?
  • line 14 – the météor. an acronym for “MÉTro Est Ouest Rapide”. it stands apart by being efficient, fast and clean. unfortunately, this is offset by parisians oohing and aahing over it every time it’s mentioned by a foreigner. y’see, it’s an automatic line; god forbid any other city has an automatic line.

there are other fun things about the métro. like how nobody pays (except for me, it seems), how you can’t bring your bike on the trains and how it closes way too early (12:30 am sometimes). but still, monsieur le métro works with astounding regularity, and, from what i have heard, kicks the ass of its londonian counterpart.

it’s something that i will surely miss when i return to vancouver.


One Response to “on the métro…”

  1. rémi Says:

    et fait attention quand tu penches la tête pour voir si la rame arrive : le RER est un train qui roule à gauche (invention anglaise) et le métro circule à droite (invention française?).

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