Athens Metro: Will Greek Politicians Prove to Germany the Bailout will be different than the Metro?

Posted on November 13, 2011

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Athens Metro

         The legendary subway systems of cities like New York, San Francisco and London indicate the technological advances of modern public transportation. One subway system, to my surprise, which can compete with the best, is the Athens Metro. The Athens Metro works flawlessly and is completely clean, unlike many other municipalities transit systems, it is used often by a majority of its citizens. There is one thing that all the legendary subways have in common that Athens refuses to do, regulate that every person who uses it buys a ticket. I just spent a week in Athens with college students from all over the city and I was appalled at the lack of security and laws specifically pertaining to the metro system. We walked up to the ticket booth, which was a machine, and the machine had a sign that said “Out of Order” in both Greek and English. We, all the Americans, turned to the Greeks in a panic thinking “How are we going to get on the train?” They laughed at us and told us “It doesn’t matter, nobody checks. Everyone is on strike anyway because it’s the end of the week.” As each of us sat in our seats looking over our shoulder to avoid any cop so we didn’t get caught I realized that this was their daily life. This is the norm in Athens. I thought about San Francisco where it is virtually impossible to even get on BART without paying, let alone once you are on make it all the way to your destination if you didn’t have a ticket. We spent the entire week, going from the Monastiraki stop to the Akropoli stop to the Ocean and back to the Syntagma Square stop without ever buying a ticket and without ever being questioned about not buying a ticket.

Ironically, we went to the Syntagma Square metro stop and walked around the Parliament Building watching the Greeks camping out against government corruption and insane debts. Throughout the whole time we were there my mind could not get the question, “Why are they not regulating the metro, a simple and guaranteed money maker, in order to maybe pay some of the debt back?”

Greece needs to get its act together and the simplest way to start the reforms is to make sure people pay to use its public transportation. The irony blows me away that Germany built Athens a beautiful Metro system that runs flawlessly but Greece refuses to regulate it, yet Greece depends on billions of dollars of bailout money from Germany to even keep its economy going.

Greece’s government needs figure things out and start acting like a responsible state, which can be trusted for future economic endeavors. The key to starting the reforms lies in the obvious… start with the METRO and prove to Germany that its investment in the Greek economy will not go to waste like its investment in the Metro.

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