My Love for Transportation
One day I will travel to Hong Kong. Though most people are attracted by the city’s tourist sites, I want to enjoy Hong Kong’s extensive subway system, large double-decker busses, tiny shuttle busses, and the famous double-decker streetcars that have climbed the hills of this city for over a century. Studying and experiencing various
transportation systems has provided me with great insight.
When I was a baby, the first word out of my mouth was “car.” As a preschooler, I played with toy cars, parking them everywhere around the house. I received toy cars and trains every Christmas. By the time I was in grade school, I preferred riding the subways underneath the streets of Boston and New York. Throughout high school I have spent my spare time researching the history of Paris’ two hundred bus routes or the Tokyo Metro on the Internet.
When my family took a vacation to London, my mother was anxious to see the stores, my father wanted to see the art museums, and my sisters were excited to visit the Tower Bridge. I wanted to experience London’s huge, 150-year-old subway system. Some portions of the London Underground were dug before machines were able to move dirt out from under the ground. This part of the subway was built by digging trenches, laying track down, and covering up the trench. Inside the subway train, the sound of the wheels grinding against the rails is very loud, yet people remain silent, and rarely do riders of the London Underground chat with one another.
When I was younger, other adults would always comment that I would grow out of my love for transportation, noting that all six-year-olds love playing with toy cars and trains. I never did. To this day, my bedroom is filled with subway maps and model cars. While other teens enjoy slaughtering each other while playing Halo 3, I would rather be playing Flight Simulator, landing an airplane on a foggy morning in Seattle.
Before my family and I left home for San Francisco, I researched the transportation in that city. Not only did San Francisco have cable cars, but they also had streetcars from the 1930s that ran through the busiest parts of the city, as well as a driverless light-rail system. The cable cars operate the same way as they did a hundred years ago, grabbing a cable that runs under the street that pulls the cars along. Whenever I boarded the cable cars during the trip, I stood near the “gripman,” who operated the vehicle by pulling an old, rusted lever. The old PCC streetcars, however, were just as interesting as the cable cars. My father and I rode these streetcars all day, leaving my mother and sisters to explore Chinatown. These streetcars are not only a story of San Francisco’s history, but they also used to operate in more than two dozen North American cities. The rounded, streamlined look of the PCC streetcars was reflected on the inside and out, a style that reminded me of stainless steel diners and black-and-white movies.
My love for transportation is part of my love for history and cities. Los Angeles’ sprawl of automobile-filled streets is a story of the 1930s when it was determined that residents in the area preferred the car over public transportation. Germany’s trams have been part of the country’s many cities for over a hundred years. One day I will make it to Hong Kong and ride in a double-decker streetcar through the congested streets. Until then, I will continue to feed my love for urban transportation through the Internet, trips to large cities, and imagining what it must be like to travel on some of our planet’s most unique ways to get around.