Today I want to tell you about something important to the life of every single Parisian: Public Transportation!! In big cities like Paris, Washington DC, and New York it’s very important to have an effective system of public transportation so that people don’t have to drive everywhere. More than 2.2 million people live in Paris; can you imagine if all of them drove to work every single day?!
Luckily, Paris has one of the best Metro systems in the world!
Have you ever ridden the Metro in Washington DC? What was it like? Can you remember what the inside of the station looked like? What about the trains or your ticket? Paris has a lot of similarities to the DC Metro, but also a lot of differences. Maybe you can make a Venn Diagram or another type of chart as you’re reading!
The first thing you must have when you go into the Metro in Paris is your ticket! In Paris, there are several options. The one that I use (and that is pictured on the right) is called a Passe Navigo. It’s an electronic card that you swipe at the station entry terminals to enter each station. You can buy a pass that will let you have unlimited swipes for a week, a month, or a whole year. If you ride the Metro several times every day, like I do, it’s a really smart idea to have a pass like this! I like that I can pay all at once at the beginning of the month and then I don’t have to worry about adding more money depending on how many times I ride the metro. When I use a SmarTrip card in DC, this option is not available.
The other option besides the Navigo card is to purchase single-ride tickets. I bet you can figure out what those are for: the name says it all! You can buy these tickets one at a time, or in a group of 10, called a carnet (pronounced car-nay). If one ticket costs €1.70 and a carnet costs €12.70, can I save any money by choosing the carnet instead of 10 individual tickets? How much?
The next thing you have to look at is the Map of all the stations. Here are pictures of the Paris Metro map and the DC Metro map:
What do you notice? Add your observations to the Venn Diagram!
Something really important that you have to figure out, is which direction you’re going. Each direction on every line is named after the terminal stop on that line. So, for example if I want to take the metro from my apartment at Lourmel on line 8 and go to Opéra, then I have to take line 8 towards Créteil (instead of towards Balard). What if I wanted to go on line 4 from Porte d’Orléans to see the Notre Dame Cathedral at the Cité stop?
If the stop that you want to go to isn’t on the same line, you have to make a transfer. Every day when I go to work, I take line 8 towards Créteil and make a transfer at the stop Invalides. At Invalides, I switch to line 13 and go towards Saint-Denis-Université until I get off at Miromesnil. Can you trace that route on the map?
Let’s say that it takes 1 minute to travel between stops that are on the same line, and that every time you transfer, you have to wait 6 minutes for a train. How long do you think it takes me to get to work every morning? What time do I have to get on the metro if I have to be at work at 9:00am?
If I want to visit the famous Arc de Triomphe at the stop Charles de Gaulle-Etoile what do you think is the best route? How many different options do you see? How many times will I have to transfer and how many different lines will I have to take?
Once you’ve bought your tickets and figured out what route you’re taking, it’s time to enter the station! Paris Metro stations are famous for their decorations and architecture. Many stations like the ones in the pictures below, feature entrance decorations designed in the “art nouveau” style. This is a style of art that is heavily influenced by flowers, animals and other things in nature. A lot of people say that the Metro decorations are inspired by bugs. Looking at the pictures, what parts of nature do you think the entrances were inspired by?
Look at these pictures of the interior of the Metro stations in Paris and in DC. What do you notice? Add your observations to the Venn Diagram! (click on each picture for a larger view)
Now all that’s left is to get on the train!! This can sometimes be more complicated that you think, however. While in DC, all the train doors open automatically at every stop, many of the train doors in Paris have to be opened manually either by pushing a button on the door or lifting up a lever.
I hope you enjoyed learning about the Paris Metro! Next time you ride the Metro in DC or any other big city, you’ll know what to look for!