52 States in 8 Months

My “Seasonal Holiday Trip” starts with Public Transport

Posted in East coast trip by Ulf on January 26, 2009

As it took me a bit longer than expected to write about our Hawaii vacation, I can immediatly jump over to the next trip: We spent two weeks on the roads along the east coast. On Christmas Eve I was on a plane from Philly to Atlanta where I had kind-of a white Christmas. What I did not mention so far was how I got to the Philly Airport. This was my first ride on an American train. We have a local train station here in Newark which is connected to the SEPTA train service. SEPTA stands for “South Eastern Pennsylvania Anything”.

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What is different here in the US compared to Germany’s local trains?

  • The windows are smaller. You might think that this is negligible, but it really changes the atmosphere in the cabin. It’s more… well… it just does not feel like in a German RegionalExpress.
  • Much more work is done by humans: Even in Newark there was a lady sitting at the counter for selling tickets. Newark is the final station of our SEPTA R2 train with as little as 10-15 passengers on that Christmas Eve (all students). In Germany they use ticket vending machines for this job.
  • Much more work is done by humas: There are no automatic stairs near the entrance doors. In Germany trains, the stairs will automatically fold down on low station platforms. In the US, there is an Afro-American next to each door who will manually open a cover to make the stairs accessible.
  • The same man or lady who opened the doors will also announce the name of each station where the trains stops, and he or she will check all the tickets. It’s nice that they annouce every station although the train conductor does the same job again through his intercom. It’s just much easier for me to understand someone who is next to me than someone on the loudspeakers.
  • There is one remarkable thing about the tickets. It did not happen in the SEPTA trains, but in those from the NJ Transit (which we took later on to get to New York City). They did not just check all the tickets, they even replaced them. Every passanger got a new ticket saying to which station he would go. That’s a waste of money, isn’t it?

Anyway, I really liked the SEPTA trains. The coaches were nice (but slow), everyone was friendly and the prices were absolutely cheap. I guess I’ll never take the Delaware Express Shuttle service again. On some routes, public transit works even in the US!

What did not work, however, was some display panel in the Philadelphia 30th street station. Luckily my connection train to the airport would depart from Track 6 and not from Track 5:

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(Did you notice that one train is both on time and 10 minutes late?)

So, I finally flew to Atlanta. This was the flight when I managed to carry both a bottle of water and my shaver in my carry-on luggage. So I was happy :-). We spent the evening of December 24th cooking our Christmas dinner and watching TV (at least a bit).

Two more pictures from Atlanta. The first one shows the prices for firewood. Wow! Now I do understand why they use so much gasoline, it’s just so much cheaper! The second one shows Chinese stainless steel.

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LEO translates stainless to “makellos”, “fleckenfrei” and “nichtrostend”. “Stainless steel” is supposed to be “Edelstahl”. Well, no.


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