I'm on a @#&! Tram

Thursday, May 03, 2012 - 12:48 PM

When traveling I like to use public transit as much as possible, and Leipzig's tram system does not disappoint.

A tram arrives in Leipzig (photo by Kate Hinds)

I couldn't help but think of the semi-profane Saturday Night Live digital short "I'm on a Boat" with a group of overenthusiastic guys parading around in costumes rapping about how hot it is that they're on a yacht. I avoided both the rapping and the regatta wear, but I found myself almost unreasonably happy to be riding the tram. It's quick, it's clean, and it's predictable: monitors on the platform tell you exactly when the next tram will arrive.

First, to ride: you buy your ticket either on the platform -- or, prepare to be shocked, New Yorkers -- on the actual tram itself. (How many times have you wished for a MetroCard machine inside the turnstile?)

A ticket machine on a tram (photo by Kate Hinds)

Once on the tram, you validate your ticket. There are no turnstiles or barriers to entry -- it basically works on the honor system. So why pay at all? Because Germany has roaming undercover ticket police who will board a tram and call out "Fahrkarten, Fahrausweise, bitte," at which point everyone is obligated to hold up their validated tickets. If you fail to show one, the fine is somewhere in the 30 to €50 range. According to a Berliner I spoke to, the Fahrkartenkontrolleur are not amused by your excuses.

Note too in the following picture --on the top center -- you'll see a pair of television monitors. These are on every tram car I rode on. The one on the right runs ads. The one on the left provides a rolling, visual station stop list.

(photo by Kate Hinds)

The only unnerving thing about trams, at least if you're used to city subway systems, is that since their tracks are laid into the street, you must often cross them. OF COURSE THE TRACKS ARE NOT ELECTRIFIED. But a healthy respect for the third rail is part of my DNA and I couldn't bring myself to actually step ON a rail, choosing instead to advertise my out-of-townness by casually hopping over them.

(photo by Kate Hinds)

And because they run on the street, they have their own traffic lights.

Tram traffic light (photo by Kate Hinds)

I'm sure the average German commuter is jaded. But as a transit tourist, the tram was a trip.

The 16 Tram in Leipzig (photo by Kate Hinds)




Comments [6]


Buy a ticket via a mobile app? Has the MTA examined the logistics of this for their select bus service (since people can't figure out the off-board payment machines anyway)? I have gotten so used to paying for parking in DC using the park mobile app that I am genuinely surprised, caught off guard, and unprepared when I am somewhere that requires me to stick quarters into a machine.

May. 11 2012 10:59 PM

and @Benjamin,
you may also buy your tickets in the bus (at the drivers or via a machine) or via mobile app. (see easy.go)

May. 04 2012 03:01 AM

First, nice to hear that you've liked our tram system. One remark: there is no excuse having no ticket, the controll people won't buy any. At least I've never seen one of them doing so. The fine will always be 40 €, and if you are found without a ticket to often you may be jailed for constant fraud. In German this is called "Erschleichung einer Beförderungsleistung" :)

Hope you have fun in Leipzig :)

May. 04 2012 03:00 AM
Benjamin Kabak

"(How many times have you wished for a MetroCard machine inside the turnstile?)"

Can't say I ever have nor can I figured out why we would need it. I think the better NYC equivalent is the ability to purchase a MetroCard on a bus.

May. 03 2012 05:36 PM

Hmm, a number of those things (trains running in the middle of the street, special stop lights) exist in the US too. Have you ever taken the train outside of NYC before? :)

May. 03 2012 02:01 PM
Mike Hicks

Rather than an "honor system", that is actually a proof of payment system.

May. 03 2012 01:48 PM

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