Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Metro, pt. 2

After two weeks of constant Metro usage I thought I'd bring an update with a little bit more on the nuances of the Brussels Metro.  I think one of the most fun things about the metro so far is the unpredictability.  Sure, they have the timer showing when every train is coming in the near future.  You can even see exactly what stops trains are at before and after your stop.  I'm not entirely sure why you'd need to see trains that are beyond you... but you can.  The unpredictability comes in with train types and crowd.  I've been on 4 different train types so far.  I'm pretty sure you can measure their age by their colors, sea foam green is clearly 70's... white and beige: 90's.
The image to the right shows what I think is the newest train.  This is probably the coolest subway I've ever been on; they've got the neat tri-peel hand pole in the middle.  This means that those jerky lean-types who hog an entire pole with their love handles can be bypassed with a bifurcation (this sentence was very self indulgent, the rest of the post won't be like that).  That's not all folks, the cars are not separated and the image looking down the train corridor was not produced with smoke or mirrors.  If you've ever been on a double bus where they have the accordion thing in the middle so they stay attached... think of an entire train like that.  If you happen to get on the train near the end, you can actually walk up to the beginning (which is usually where the escalator exits are) while you are still ON the train.  Neat idea.  Now, the unpredictability of Brussels:  This is only ONE of the FOUR train types.  The older train actually has no doors between cars.  That means, when the oddly scented homeless guy wanders onto the train you can't easily pass to the next car.  I do have the luxury of being unable to understand his pan handling catch phrase, so I can completely ignore the homeless man anyway.  
Another interesting contrast between these two trains is seating.  The picture above shows parallel seating, in line with fitting more people.  The no-door cars have perpendicular seating, like an airplane.  This conceptually makes sense in a car that is based on lower transportation.  The similarities in the trains  are completely antithetical.  I have been on each of those trains at every time of day/night/weekend/whatever.  This means high traffic rush hour:  Big train = comfortable.  It also means high traffic rush hour: Small Train = dumb.  It is completely random which train type will come at which time.  I am completely baffled by the efficiency involved in running both train types during all times of the day.  Then again, I have yet to nail down the regularity of the traffic.  I have seen two busy mornings and they were not similar in time.  In New York I could, with some accuracy, predict how much available space there would be on a train at any given time in the morning.  Here... no such luck.
NEXT!  There is a button on the doors.  This doesn't sound too complicated, unless its your first time using the train.  The first or second time I used the metro I wasn't paying too much attention...  The third trip I stood outside the closed doors that no one was coming out of... then the train just left.  I didn't pull the handle (older trains have handles... newer ones have buttons) and tell the train I wanted to enter it.  The trains have become fickle and don't want to waste their time opening all their doors if no one is getting on or off.  I'd love to see the system implemented in NYC to stop all those late entries that block up the door.  There's no way you can run down stairs and jump through the closing doors if the doors haven't opened to begin with.
I think that's a pretty good representation of some of the fun facts about about the Belgian Metro.  I'd like to make a nice map of my route and the places I've visited in the surrounding area.  How about this, if I get outta work "early" tomorrow I'll make the map.  It may not be a part of the daily post and may go up later but I'd like for it to be ready for a nice long post about my walk to work.


  1. the newark light rail is a combination of those two train types, although the pole trifurcation is quite nice. how many cars are there in the new train?

    nice pics btw, and a big yes for the map.

  2. I was just thinking about the Newark Light Rail... Nice work with the picassa, when are you going to go for a walk in one of those neighborhoods that everyone tells you not to, do they even have those in europe?