Friday Fun: All aboard the love train

The Prague metro announces a new car, just for singles. Photo by Is Katz.

Here’s one way to lure people out of their cars and onto public transport:

ROPID, the organization responsible for Prague’s public transport system, announced in May the creation of a “love train.” More accurately, it plans to designate specific cars on non-rush hour trains as “singles” cars, where lonely hearts can hope to meet other lonely hearts while riding the metro line.

Unsurprisingly, this creative new twist to public transport has met with its fair share of criticism. Ariel Schwartz at Co.Exist argued, “It’s a silly idea, but if it gets more people out of their cars and into trains, why not?” Some commented that these cars were likely to attract stalkers and voyeurs, while others worried that they might be judged for riding the line. The International Business Times chose to focus on another goal of the “love trains” – encouraging young citizens to marry. They describe the plan as a response to declining birthrates and a high population of single people.

Despite these critiques, the main purpose of the “love train” seems to be to encourage ridership, and to draw attention to the many advantages of riding public transport. “We want to emphasize that public transport is not only a means of travel but that you can do things there that you cannot do in your car,” ROPID spokesman Filip Drapal told Reuters. “This idea is just part of a new long-term campaign whose aim is to show what activities you can do in public transport that you cannot do inside your car –like reading, studying, listening to music, playing e-games and checking emails.”

And what a great point this is – you can dance, or chat, or read a book, look at the passing scenery, or take a nap. The advantages of public transport are many, and ROPID has certainly chosen an interesting way to highlight them.

The first “singles cars” are expected to open sometime this fall. Only then will critics and proponents of the plan alike see whether people are eager to board these cars and strike up a conversation.

If metro match-making proves too daunting a task, perhaps ROPID should consider other types of designated cars: a social car, for example, where passengers, single or not, are encouraged to unplug and strike up a conversation. Or a music car, where passengers could listen to music or play an instrument. Or a library car, similar to Sao Paulo, Brazil’s “Bookstop” program, where passengers could lend or borrow books for others to read during the commute.

The list of things you can do on public transport that you can’t do while driving a car is long. This fall, we will see if speed dating is one of them.

In the immortal words of The O’Jays, “People all over the world, join hands, start a love train, love train.”

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