BERLIN: The Joy of In-City Mass Trans

I come to Germany every summer or two to practice German, and one of my favorite “first things” is to reacquaint myself with public transportation. It’s part of learning the culture. In Berlin, light rail, subway, streetcars (trams), buses and even ferries are coordinated by an association of the transit-system owners in Berlin and surrounding Brandenburg state. To the end-user, it’s seamless. I bought one monthly pass and can use any of them as much as I want.

This screen shot is from the app by the BVG, the association that coordinates public transportation in Berlin. I took the TXL bus from Tegel airport (direction Alexanderplatz) to Beusselstrasse. Then switched to the S41 light rail (direction Ringbahn) to Gesundbrunnen. A tool like this plus GPS on the street makes visiting a strange city an utterly different experience from that of even five years ago.
Getting on bus 2
Bus was the first leg of the trip from Tegel airport to my room.
Inside bus
Inside the bus, a screen overhead tells passengers what stop is coming up. Press a button to tell the driver you want off there. The green-and-yellow device at right is where you start a ticket’s validity. If you don’t validate, you’re riding “black” (schwarz fahren). Tickets are checked at random, and it’s expensive if you’re cheating.
Light rail
This is what light/urban rail looks like in Berlin.
Inside a light-rail car. The sign says my stop (Bornholmer Straße) is coming up.
I’ll throw in a photo of the subway, even though I don’t use it much. The subway is arguably the easiest transport system to navigate, but light rail and buses run above ground. Much more fun to watch Berliner life as you ride.
This streetcar, which I use to get to school, stops right in the street! That’s across a couple of busy traffic lanes from the sidewalk where people wait. Luckily other people were there my first time.  I watched and learned that you just step into the street to get on. Apparently, the trams are synchronized with streetlights because no traffic in that area moved while we crossed.
Inside tram car
This is inside a streetcar. Electronic signs show upcoming stations as they do in buses. But the trams typically stop at every stop.
Electronic tram timetable at Haltestelle
Busy streetcar stops have a sign like this that tells you how many minutes ’til your ride arrives.
Bike lanes still surprise me from time to time. That’s the sidewalk on the left, then the bike lane, then parked cars, then multiple lanes of street traffic and, as you saw earlier, the possibility of a couple of sets of streetcar tracks. I’m learning to check for bikes before I step to the curb to cross the street.
All of which make it wise to heed this little guy. He’s the Ampelmann (traffic light man), apparently beloved by Berliners. A referendum stopped officials from replacing the little green men, and the Ampelmann has his own store, where you can buy all sorts of clothes and toys with his image on it.

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