All the cities I’ve ever visited have had one thing in common: public transport systems.
Quite often, they’re seen as lifelines of the cities and their people: whether it is Dubai’s famous driverless metro, or Mumbai’s local trains, each of these systems has something useful and unique, making each of them a must-experience for the tourist, traveller and resident alike. These systems are not just about saving the environment, but so much more.
The Great Equaliser
Public transport is a great equaliser: it cuts clean through economic and social status. Almost everyone else uses public transport at some point in their lives; through my many years of travel on the Dubai Metro, I have seen everyone from construction workers to well-to-do businessmen in suits use the metro. Dubai is not alone in this regard: around the world, films, TV shows and novels place almost everyone across the economic spectrum in public transit systems.
These systems, whether they are buses, trains or metros cut across all social barriers. Wealth and power have little influence down inside the trains and buses, making them a clear and true expression of democracy.
A Thousand Tales
Another key reason to use public transport is to listen to the others on board. Indians especially are no stranger to this: long train journeys often bring about temporary friendships and shared stories unlike any others heard around the world. I have often overheard conversations not just about politics, cricket and the stock exchange but also life experiences. Friendships formed on long journeys, short and quickly pushed to the back of the mind are often the sweetest and most engaging.
I make it a habit to talk as much as possible to my taxi drivers: finding out about their stories often serves as a great inspiration and source of reflection for me. Their tales of pain, struggle and achievement, while swept under the carpet of the big city, are as important as those of any other person. This ability, to connect with complete strangers, is almost completely sustained by journeying on public transport. Any writer can vouch for that.
A New View
The sheer length of most modern public transport networks allows for a new way to experience city life which simply can’t be had while driving your own vehicle. Even when taking an Uber, the individual can truly experience the city and its chaos. Most metro stations are decorated to reflect the cities, and just by spending five minutes in front of them one can learn more about the city than from Wikipedia. I love how Dubai has themed certain stations and reflects, in some places, the rise of the city from the desert.
Public transport is a truly personal, humbling and inspiring experience in ways that often go unnoticed. Next time you travel by public transport, try to enjoy and take in the experience as much as possible. You might begin to understand something new about the city and appreciate its sheer expanse.