I was riding the Metro in Singapore, and I experienced what can only be described as extreme cognitive dissonance.
This was for a few reasons:
1. The car I was riding in was not rocking or shaking, or coming to a screeching halt. I could comfortably stand without holding onto anything at all, as long as I shifted my weight occasionally.
2. The Singaporean metro car was spotlessly clean, and had little TVs playing advertisements and movie trailers at pleasingly low volumes inside of it.
3. No one was: eating, making out, swinging from the rafters, fighting, or screaming about the ceaseless onslaught of Lizard People on our finest cultural institutions during my ride.
If you have lived in Washington DC, this likely would feel as exotic to you as it did to me.
OK, I know: Singapore is an exceptionally wealthy city-state that has much more ability to put together an organized, attractive metro system than that which exists in Washington DC. Further, the Singapore MRT opened in 1987, whereas the Washington DC version has been around since 1976. (Though the general decency of London’s Tube indicates this isn’t really a great excuse, either).
There is evidence the DC Metro can be pretty good. A recent thread on Unsuck DC Metro dealt with readers memories of the system in the past. The general consensus is that was quite excellent, a real improvement on the New York City system—and then sometime in the mid-2000s, it began to go a bit pear-shaped.
And now DC residents are stuck with an undependable and expensive Metro system that adds even more stress to the lives of already exceptionally strung-out Beltway types. This is not an optimal situation.
We live in what is supposedly the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world. Why can’t we get public transportation right? You might be able to persuade me to give up Trident and flagrant public littering for that—although I will cede that Singapore’s record on executions is….not the greatest.
Don’t even get me started on the extremely awkward nature of explaining all the homeless folks in the nations’ capitol to my friends from poorer nations, who came to the US under the impression that the gold-paved streets certainly didn’t harbor any scraping, desperate souls. (They do! Surprise!)
The New York Metro is fine. I don’t really have an issue with the BART. I can’t say I’m very familiar with the systems elsewhere in the USA—unless you count the New Orleans trolley system which…you probably shouldn’t.
I will cede that Singapore is boring. This is something of a feat, considering the city-state’s remarkable diversity and its tropical location. Sometimes one almost wishes for a dread pirate attack, or a Godzilla incursion, or something that wasn’t aggressively pleasant to take place. (Let’s leave out Japanese invasion by bicycle. That was bad).
About the only negative aspect of Singapore is that one becomes extremely sweaty, no matter what you do, all the time. And things are expensive (though having come off DC – it’s not really THAT bad).
I might trade boring for a functioning public transport system, even. We’ll see.