With its ever burgeoning transient population, the necessity for efficient public transportation is a constant in Paris. The 112 year-old mostly underground subway system transports 4.5 – 6 million passengers a day, boasts 14 major lines in the city proper, and operates over 140 hours per week.
Many stations still bear some remnants of the 1900 original architecture with a streamlined consistency of French Art Nouveau, with modern amenities added over the past century to expedite service.
Though it is the second largest subway system in Europe after Moscow, the speed of the trains are sub par to many systems across the globe. The trains also carry relatively lower numbers of passengers, with capacities of 560-720 passengers. During rush hour there is a relaxed crowdedness that encompasses subway travel, but on off-peak hours, the ride is usually leisurely, with most trains running every 4-10 minutes.
There is an abundant opportunity for people watching on the Metro. Due to the vast variety of the Paris population and its copious amount of tourists, there are many different personalities on the train, marked by distinguishable fashions. Of special note is the abrupt change in the denizens the further you travel south or north out of the city center. Here you see the augmenting numbers of the lower class, and the maintenance of the subway stations mirror the less fortunate stature of the passengers. Though this is a commonality amongst all public transportation systems that service major cities, in Paris, the great divide is extreme.
Metro service is currently undergoing technological developments including automatic doors on newer trains to facilitate heavy traffic, installation of on-board TV monitors, and there is an effort to transform Line 1 into a “driverless” system that will be maintained by video control.
Movement gestures that were indicative of the Paris Metro involved the sometimes difficult latch system to open the doors at station stops. There were innumerable amounts of stairs though some stations had escalators and I don’t remember seeing a lot of lifts. Most thoroughfares are lined with white ceramic tiles, a technical decision to help improve lighting, but most of the lighting in the stations is garish and fluorescent. Directional signage is concise and there are very helpful maps that point out what exits to take for city destinations (they are also clearly marked on the walls, the specified exits). Many of the trains have a step up or step down entry, that is adjacent but not totally alined with the platform, so a constant shift of the vertebrae is likely due to the amount of stairs and the platform differential. The legs and lower back get the most work here, and the shakiness on some train lines provide an efficient work out for the upper body muscles.
Here is the visual research video for Paris Metro: