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French Pressed: public vs. private transportation

Submitted by Pauline Mothu on October 8, 2014 – 5:38 pmNo Comment

For many foreigners, Americans are perceived as driving huge cars instead of walking or using public transportation. Unfortunately for them, who are often using public transportation, this turns out to be true. The U.S. is not the best when it comes to having a good public transportation system.

Not having a car while living in the U.S. is challenging, especially here in Little Rock where everything is spread out. Not having a car means being dependent on others for grocery shopping, school rides, going out. The list goes on and many Americans are not aware of how challenging it can be until their car has an issue and cannot run.

Being dependent for rides is frustrating, even for only a couple of days. Now imagine how difficult it would be for an international student without a car and whose country has a good public transportation system.

When I first came in the U.S., I did not have a car and had to rely on friends if I wanted to go somewhere. It was not easy because I am very independent and grew up using public transportation whenever I needed to go somewhere such as going downtown, going to school, and work.

France, like many other countries in Europe, has a good public transportation that includes trains, buses, subways, and tramways in most of the cities.

If you ever go to France, you will notice that, unlike here in Little Rock, many French people use public transportation instead of their own car. There are many reasons for this behavior.

First, gas is very expensive in France. Driving is more costly than public transportation as one gallon of gas can cost from five to eight dollars depending on the day and city whereas one bus ticket usually costs around two or three dollars.

Then, it can often take some time to find a parking spot, especially in the center of cities. Moreover, many parking areas in France are paid parking areas or in what we call a ‘Blue Zone’ area. When drivers park in a white area with the word Payant, a parking fee must be paid at the parking meters located along the street. The parking fee depends on how long the driver wants to stay, he can leave his car from fifteen minutes to two hours. Blue Zone areas are different. They are noticeable by blue line, and are free but time-limited. The blue zone areas are usually in the city centers and allow free parking for about one hour by using a disc parking issued by the city.

These are the main reasons why many French people use public transportation rather than cars. However, like cars, public transportation has its drawbacks. For instance, they are not 24/7; where I lived in Orleans, the last bus is around 9.30 p.m. and the last tram is around 1 a.m. Moreover, depending on the city, it is not always safe to use public transportation, especially at night.

Finally, one of the major drawbacks French using public transportation on a daily basis is strikes. French people are known for often going on strike, and the public transportation system is no exception. When it happens, people are notified via text or email and it is usually on the news as well.

Americans and French use different ways of transportation, each way has advantages and drawbacks and it can be somewhat difficult when an American goes to France or when the French goes to the U.S..

A bientot pour de nouvelles aventures!

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