Gov. Rick didn't invent transportation corridors

No one will be shocked to hear that women and men look at things differently. Nothing underscores that more than traveling somewhere neither husband nor wife has ever been and noting things each gender views.

This difference was obvious on a recent trip to France. Mind you, two couples visited everything together and enjoyed it all, but there were certain things that drew more attention from one sex than the other.

Women generally give more attention to things artistic and aesthetic while men tend to notice tangible items.

For me, French methods of moving people and things quickly and efficiently held great fascination.

French and American practices are affected by any number of factors, not the least of which are population density, land availability and history in terms of years/centuries. France seems far ahead of us in mobility and quick movement of people and freight.

Population density, particularly in Paris, dictates rapid mass transit. We learned that speed and economics necessitate rail travel for much of the country, although there is significant use of buses in the capital. In the city there is the Metro rail system with both subterranean and surface use. The Metro connects to the interurban high-speed rail system and both are electric-powered. Travel between cities is often accomplished via 200-mile-perhour trains.

Despite considerable street traffic, Parisians say vast numbers of people do not own an automobile. They walk or go by train. Autos tend to be both economical and durable but there are far more bicycles, motorized scooters and motorcycles than in America.

There is considerable foot traffic in Paris. People are courteous, even those in a hurry. Pets aren't running loose. Every dog (from the sheer number, the French love dogs) was on a leash.

Using Metro is economical and fairly easy to navigate. A day-pass allows transfers so citywide travel is easy. Maps are available plus there are maps/charts on the train walls showing each stop that particular train makes in addition to places to transfer to either a Metro rail going another direction or to connections with the fast trains between cities. From Paris to Versailles to see the castle complex built by Louis XIV requires a 30-minute ride. A trip to Claude Monet's home and incomparable gardens is less than an hour.

One particular drawback in the Metro system for an older gent is that there are far more stairs than escalators to all the levels within that inner city train system. It is particularly harrowing pulling large pieces of luggage up and down stairs while transferring trains on the ride into Paris from Charles de Gaulle Airport. And, nothing in Paris seems built for the "physically challenged" from those train system stairs to circular stairs and minute elevators in the small hotels. Plus, as often as not, all train seats are taken so standing and holding onto a pole is commonplace.

Except for van transport for a river barge tour and for an early morning plane departure, we didn't experience Paris street traffic except while walking. Traffic seems somewhat more orderly than in America. Older, narrower streets necessitate much more one-way traffic. One particularly fascinating aspect of Parisian traffic is what we call a traffic circle. The French term, translated to English, is "roundabout." There are no marked lanes but everyone understands how to use the roundabout.

Another significant aspect of travel in France, and in all of Europe, is by water — rivers and canals with locks. A segment of the trip involved a barge cruise on the Marne River. That necessitated significant time on canals and moving via the lock system. The barge owner and its captain explained that one could travel all over Europe via rivers and canals, even reaching the Mediterranean Sea.

Believe it or not, the concept of transportation corridors didn't originate in Texas w ith Gov. Rick Perry. Stretches in France abound where water, rail and expressway traffic run parallel. However, there is space between each type of conveyance that is in agricultural use either with crops or livestock pastureland.

France has other tangible assets noticeable to the male gender. More about those next week.

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2009-09-10 digital edition

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