Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Metro Etiquette

This post is directly inspired by my cousin Megan's blog on the metro in Singapore. I think everyone who regularly takes public transportation in a big city must have the same kinds of problems so I thought I'd do a post on how Paris' transportation system tries to handle some of them. Personally I find their signs rather entertaining, although not as good as the Singaporean rap video.

Their most recent campaign for train safety and comfort has involved these little conversation bubbles:

From the top clockwise: "Holding open the doors holds up the train." "The doors open; I let people get out." "Preparing to exit makes getting off the train easier." They are not very popular among the French who have complained about having huge guilt trips because of them. Not a problem for me or Gaby.

On one occasion we were trying to make a connection to get home to Poissy. As we pulled into the station in our first train, we could see our connecting train already stationed across the quai and getting ready to leave. Knowing the next one wouldn't arrive for 30 minutes, we ran like crazy to catch it, but Gaby still had to hold open the doors for me to get in which caused the train to have to wait a few seconds longer. Right in front of us on the doors just opposite was this sign:

"One second lost in the station = delays on the whole line." We laughed. Other people don't take it so well:
(A power outage = delays on the whole line)

I don't think those little bubbles will ever make people think twice about holding the doors open. But I don't mind; it seems to be a very small issue compared to the problem of getting out of the train. Letting others descend before getting on the train seems to be so hard for people to understand, that RATP has tried regular signs like the little one above but has also resorted to this:

Sometimes instead of arrows, they even use little footprints. I think it actually works pretty well!

Finally, the most famous sign in the Paris metro is this little pink rabbit.
The picture on the left is the original, and it's located on the doors of every metro in Paris. It says: Watch out!! Don't put your hands on the door or you risk getting pinched very hard!"

On the right is a picture making fun of the fact that the rabbit doesn't seem to have a right arm (which must have gotten cut off in the metro doors). "Obviously it's not the first time this has happened!"

There are other parodies that have nothing to do with the metro: "Watch out!! Don't look at ads: you risk getting manipulated!"
The pink rabbit warning is so famous that it even reached that stupid show Jackass.

I honestly have no idea how effective these little signs are, and of course such signs don't cover every metro offense--how could they? After all, if there were a sign for everything, (it's rush hour and a thin lady takes up 2 seats or a businessman leans against an entire pole so he can work his crossword or a teenage girl stays seated in her fold-down seat near the doors and has the gall to scowl at people when they trip over her) the trains would simply be covered in warning stickers. So I grin and bear it and remind myself that despite any inconveniences, taking the train is still much better than sitting in a car in rush hour traffic in Paris (or anywhere).


Megan said...

Oh my gosh! Our train stations are eerily similar. Our picture isn't a rabbit, but a cartoon man getting his fingers smashed. Also, the arrows marking where to stand when entering and departing, could be from the same stencil. How strange. Singapore is probably a giant copycat.

Heather said...

I love these signs! :)