Growing up in a big, cosmopolitan city I’ve always thought that public transportation is a civic right. It should be affordable, reliable, safe and accessible to everyone. When in top shape, a public transportation system does wonders for relieving city congestion and reducing the stresses of commuting to work. It is financially beneficial to the community and is so much more gentle on the environment than driving is. With an efficient network in place (and a government which sees the value in it), it can open the doors to more flexible working arrangements and happier people arriving, eventually, at the office.
As I’m travelling, I rely almost exclusively on public transportation. It has a huge impact on how I get a sense of a place. How long is the walk between the subway/tram/bus station and where I want to go? Is there a direct connection between the airport or train station and the city centre? How often are there trains or buses along the route? How easy are the connections? How complicated is the payment system? Will I feel safe? Will it be running late enough in the evening to get a train or bus home and if not, does this city use Uber or how expensive will a cab ride be?
Though there is undeniable freedom with owning or renting a car, often it’s cost-prohibitive, stressful in rush hour, and incredibly harsh on the environment. My recent time in Switzerland reinforced how getting around without cars is a priority there. For a reasonable price, you can simply get where you need to go. There is something impressive about a Swiss friend telling me that she actually works in the next city over, and getting to and from work just isn’t that big a deal for her. It’s a few minutes walk on either end of one train ride. Done.
No system is perfect. Costs may be rising, and commute times may actually be increasing, but according to Presence Switzerland (an organization which is part of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs), the Swiss still use trains the most compared to other European countries (Eda.admin.ch. (2019). Some companies are willing to count office work being done during the commute as regular work hours. (Swissinfo.ch. (2016, September 30). Working and commuting at the same time. Imagine, a commute pleasant enough to focus on e-mails or research without phone calls or other distractions… I can hardly imagine enough space on a street car during rush hour to open a laptop! This arrangement may only work for certain kinds of employers and employees but I think it’s an innovative way to make use of the inevitable limitations of work, time and place.
(Eda.admin.ch. (2019). Transport – Facts and Figures. Retrieved from https://www.eda.admin.ch/aboutswitzerland/en/home/wirtschaft/verkehr/verkehr—fakten-und-zahlen.html).
(Swissinfo.ch. (2016, September 30). Retrieved from https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/extra-time_working-and-commuting-at-the-same-time/42282134)
By Megan Katz
On a one-way ticket, Megan is taking time to follow her curiosity literally. Fortunate enough to be on unfamiliar soil, she is keeping her senses clear and her wit sharp. As a maker, dancer and enthusiastic conversationalist, she is seeking meaningful ways to move through new spaces. Endlessly fascinated by human behaviour, local food and cultural norms, stay tuned as Megan shares her thoughts navigating newfound perceptions and impressions