New Bus, New Métro

photo: cafe vancouver
A quiet bistro between the Hôtel de Ville and Beaubourg.

Social Engineering Takes a Hit

Paris:- Sunday, 11. October 1998:- The week's partial public transport strike dribbled to an end yesterday, as most SNCF-run trains resumed normal service.

The Gare du Nord and the RER lines 'B' and 'D' were still experiencing some delays today, which may persist on Monday.

The immediate cause of the strikes was operating personnel's concern with aggression by passengers; mostly of a hooligan nature. Many long suburban trains operate with only a driver and can carry up to 1,500 passengers. Many end-of-line stations are remote and the trains are vulnerable to random attacks.

The spark that set off the labor action, was the stickup of the extra-remote Saint-Nom-la-Bretèche station, locatedphoto: centre pompidou teepee in the Marly forest, which was reported last week in this column.

The trainmen and women did not like the management's attitude about the situation, so some of them stopped work. This lead to commuters scrambling for alternate routes to get to work, and for some there was no choice but to take a couple of days' holiday.

Beaubourg's multimedia Info Centre - is open daily from 12:00 to 18:00, except Tuesdays. It looks like a tepee because it is one.

Except for a partial strike of RATP buses in Paris on Wednesday, the city itself was little affected. The east-west cross-region RER line 'A' from Marne-la-Vallée to Saint-Germain- en-Laye ran all week.

The striken areas were mainly the northeast to northwest, the southeast to southwest, and their links north-south through Paris - they were running from 25 to zero percent of their normal services.

Neither airport is served by Paris' métro service; but both are by the 'RER' and have shuttle-bus services. RER strikes usually result in a lot more cars on the roads, and this slows the buses down.

Both airports were probably affected. Charles-de-Gaulle by RER line 'B' and Orly by RER line 'C,' as both lines had reduced services. How much reduced, I don't know. These lines have different branches and parts of these lines are operated by both the RATP - not on strike - and the SNCF - on strike.

Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, speaking on TV-news on Thursday evening, promised increased security forces - to ride on the trains if necessary. He also promised that swift justice would be dealt to lawbreakers, citing some recent examples of charges, trials and immediate detentions. I think he mentioned the phrase, 'zero tolerance' as well.

On Friday, some SNCF trains outside of the Paris area were affected for the first time, but by yesterday schedules were returning to normal.

And Now the Good News

For the first time since 1945, the RATP has introduced a completely new bus line - the 88. Well, maybe the first since the Vanves- Austerlitz bus 89 started in 1961.

The new line is part of a RATP 'Project 2001,' which is intended to save Paris from the automobile - byphoto: carrousel du louvre thickening the bus network. The idea also it to increase the buses' average speed from a pokey 10 kph to a blazing 13 kph in Paris.

The Info Centre for the Ile-de-France is located in the Carrousel du Louvre.

Occasional travellers outnumber those who commute by bus, and more of these are expected to be attracted by the speed increase. Another plan in the works is to designate 15 routes as 'high-speed' lines.

These are ambitious plans for which there is little money available. Despite the rapid sound of the 'Project 2001' phrase, the plan is moving at a snail's pace, according to users' associations, which are increasing in numbers as well as noise.

The line 88 starts at the Quai André Citroën in the 15th arrondissement and runs to the Gare Montparnasse and down through the 14th to the Cité Universitaire.

One aspect to this line, and all lines, that users don't like is the 'noodle.' This is the result of one-way streets that force buses to use alternate streets on their return journeys; which sometime make it impossible for occasional passengers to find the 'return' busstop.

And Some More Good News

Next Wednesday, 14. October, the RATP will unveil its brand-new Météor line, which will be none other than its 14th métro line. It will run from the Madeleine to Tolbiac, to the new François- Mitterrand library.

For this opening, which coincides with the 100th anniversary of the métro itself, the RATP will have open-house on this line next weekend.

There will be something to see too because the trains are all new and fully automatic. While they have no driver, they do have the pneumatic tires that make a couple of the other lines more comfortable. 'No driver' presumeably means 'no strikes' too.

Why Tolbiac?

The new a colossal library at Tolbiac, opened its final section on Friday. The space reserved for researchers, on the ground-level of the interior garden, had individual seats ready for 2,000, divided into 14 reading rooms.

This completes the new Bibliothèque Nationale de France at the Tolbiac location. This started out ten years ago as the 'Trés Grand Bibliothèque' - which I believe is now officially named either 'Bibliothèque François-Mitterrand' or 'Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Quai François-Mauriac.'

The part of the library open to the general public opened in December 1996. The task of moving the vast number of volumes and documents - tens of millions - from the Richelieu site is finally complete, and now the researchers who haunted the old library will find very comfortable and well-lit seats in the new.

As a reminder, here is the Web URL for the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

Social Reform Takes a Beating from the Right

As probably everybody knows by now, France currently has a Socialist government. It is one with ambitious social engineering plans - such as the 35-hour work week, and another one called 'PACS.'.

'PACS' stands for Civil Solidarity Pact. It is a project for a law designed to fill the legal grey areas which are generated by unconventional unions. At present, laws recognize that one can be single, or a couple can be married or divorced.

'Married' means one man married to one woman. For this, there is a set of laws that govern taxes, children, inheritances, andposter: 1989 auto salon work, to mention but a few items - all dating back to the dawn of the legal system - which was a large carryover from church 'law.'

The Paris Auto Salon's first poster - from 1898.

In today's complex society there are many other possibilities - quite a few of them in practice - and the unions resulting from these have no legal basis, no legal rights. The 'PACS' are intended to fix all this up.

Other countries in Europe have already made steps in this direction; most notably Holland and Sweden. These are well-known social-engineering labs and their experiments are watched closely.

Basically, a 'PACS' is a civil contract between any two consenting adults; and is sort of a new form of marriage. It extends many of the legal aspects of traditional marriage to what - conservatives and the church think - unconventional unions.

This is in recognition that people will do want they want, law or no law, and is a way of extending traditional protections - to children, for example.

It seems that a lot of couples in France have not bothered to get married for one reason of another. This causes all sorts of problems. A father may not be able to pick up his kid after school, because his name is not the same as the mother's, is one tiny example.

Generally speaking, 'PACS' is a benefit to a lot of people in less than usual situations. It is not, in contrast, a reduction of benefits to couples in completely traditional circumstances.

Debate about the new law has been fairly muted because it seems to be one of the sort that fallsphoto: pedal cars into the area of common sense. The Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, said as much on Thursday night's TV-news. 'Nobody loses anything from this; a lot of people gain from it,' to paraphrase him.

For small motor-sports fans, small cars without motors.

So yesterday, every conservative that could be rounded up, showed up in the National Assembly, and out-voted the Socialist deputies who hadn't bothered to attend the session.

Actually the vote was on a procedural issue. A majority of conservative deputies voted to declare that the text of the new law is unconstitutional.

This means that the text has to be rewritten. The new wording will be presented to the parliament again on 24. and 25. October, and will again be voted on Tuesday, 27. October.

About the Other 23 Items of News

None of these are pressing, but a lot of them are sufficiently interesting; enough so that I think I'll write some of it up for next week's issue. If I have time. Oh - one final note: attendance of the Auto Salon was about 1.25 million over ten days. So many people showed up for it yesterday that the entrances had to be closed several times. The salon organizers are said to be looking for a bigger location, for 5. October 2000.

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