I know that’s not much of a subject line, but I’m not sure what else to call this post.
I grew up in the Chicago area, so I was surrounded by public transportation, trains in particular, growing up. Chicago has what was originally a lot of different commuter rail lines. In 1974, these different lines joined into the Regional Transportation Authority (“RTA”). In 1984, the RTA was put under the control of the Commuter Rail Service Board, which was rebranded as “the Metropolitan Rail Corporation” (“Metra” for short). For just about as long as I can remember, every time my mom and I went into the city together, we took the train. It took longer for this to catch on with my dad, who drove on all of our trips into the city until I was a teenager.
Once I reached adulthood, the only time I drove into the city was when I had to go someplace that required a car either before or directly afterwards. And since I worked in the city five days a week for two years, that’s a lot of train trips.
And yet, I have not tired of it yet. I know people who feel that a car gives them some kind of freedom, but that has never made sense to me, except when it comes to places that are “car dependent,” like my neighborhood in San Antonio. Being trapped behind the wheel of a car, unable to get anything else done, or even really enjoy the place I am in because I’m too busy watching my speed and where I’m going, has never really felt like freedom to me. Being stuck in traffic has definitely never felt like freedom to me.
The first time my family and I took public transportation on a vacation was probably our trip to Washington DC. We stayed in the suburbs and took the Metro into the city proper to do our sightseeing. The next year, we followed that up with the Metro of Montreal, Canada, and then eight years after that, we went to New York City, though we only took the bus once or twice on that trip. All of our other trips were to car-dependent places, and so that was the total of our public transportation travel during the years before my marriage.
My now-ex-inlaws were not big on public transportation; they drove into the city every time they went (which, if I recall, was not nearly as often as my family and I went). My now-ex was dubious at first, but soon saw how much more convenient the train was when it came to going into the city. When traveling, however, we still rented a car on most trips even if public transportation was plentiful at our destination. The only trip I can recall where we did not rent a car was our long weekend in Toronto. We took a shuttle between the airport and the hotel and got around on our feet or by trolley (and, on one occasion, by subway) the rest of the time.
Our 2002 trip to the UK was both a rental car trip and a public transportation trip. We used a rental car for the first week and a half of the trip, but when we arrived in London, we parked the car and just left it in the garage until we were ready to go back to the airport. While we were in London, we took the London Underground anywhere that was too far to walk and then we took a day trip to Paris on the Eurostar train through the Chunnel.
Once my now-ex and I split up, my son and I started planning trips. Together, my son and I have taken Metra in Chicago, the Metro in Washington DC, four different kinds of trains in Italy, and Amtrak between, and the subways of, both New York City and Philadelphia. For our Italy and New York/Philadelphia trips, we didn’t even rent a car at all.
I will, of course, go into more detail on the systems we traveled on (to the extent I remember the Montreal Metro; fortunately, I have done most of the rest of it (sometimes again) as an adult and can remember the others better) in future posts. This is just, on some level, me trying to remember all of the different transportation systems I have used in my life so that they are fresher in my mind when I get to those trips under My Travel Memories. At the rate I am going, I may well end up recapping my 2014 rail experiences in Italy and then following up almost immediately with recaps of my 2017 experiences with rail travel in Germany.