sabato 4 ottobre 2008

A Very Sad Post

Before my nearest and dearest start to get worried, I should say that this post is “sad” in the sense of “totally uncool”. Nothing tragic has happened to me.

While you may all have the impression that I spend my life meeting the rich and famous and enjoying the style culture of Italy's fashion capital, the truth is that I spend many of my evenings sitting at home drinking cups of Sogni d'Oro (“Sweet Dreams”) herbal tea and reading expat blogs on the internet.

(Slight tangent: it's amazing how many expatriates seem to think that that they are “expatriots”. In my experience, living in another country has the exact opposite effect: my national pride swells every time somebody tells me my country is beautiful and tears well up in my eyes whenever I hear “Scotland the Brave” used as a ringtone on somebody's mobile phone).

Anyway, one common topic in these blogs is the frustrations of using local public transport. While these frustrations can be many, so far in Milan I have experienced nothing but joy as I hop on and off buses and trams and no longer have to read the map every time I take the metro. So here's a post in celebration of public transport in Milan.

The first good thing about it is that it's frequent. Trams run past the end of my road every seven minutes at peak times and every 15 minutes on Sundays, and they go from 6am to about 1 in the morning. They even travel the whole route after seven in the evening, unlike buses in my dear home city. Metros come as often as every 2 minutes and, although I live on the less-frequented half of a fork in the line, they always seem to be going in my direction.

The second great thing is that it's cheap. In a city where renting a one bedroom flat costs 900 euros a month, a ticket, valid for 75 minutes on every kind of transport, costs one euro. For the price of a single ticket on the London underground, you can travel for two days in Milan.
So, in a country with a reputation for tax evasion, a poor economy and corrupt politicians, how do they do this?

Well, in my opinion, it may have something to do with the fact that many of the trams look like this:

If the people at ATM need to make a bit of cash, these historic vehicles may be painted to look like this:

The powers -that-were in Milan never removed their tramlines or overhead wires. The money isn't being spent on digging up the roads and putting back tracks that were there to be used a few decades ago. They haven't used their taxpayers' hard-earned cash to replace all the old trams with vehicles that look like bullet trains but still get stuck in traffic jams. Instead, they use older vehicles and run them cheaply and frequently.

Citizens of Edinburgh, read this and weep :-)

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