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July 2001

Squander Lust

Sending the MVV to buy staples and ending up with candy

In last month's issue of Munich Found, we reported on the Filmmuseum's need for new seats. Those with a bit of cash to spare are being asked to purchase a new chair for the co-op art film house as a donation. After reading of the Munich transit system's (MVV) plans to--in some cases considerably--raise the cost of public transportation yet again, I mused that I have already purchased a good many subway, tram and bus seats over the years. But, unlike the Filmmuseum, the MVV will not attach a plaque bearing my name to any of those.
I have followed the various upgrades of Munich's public transport vehicles since my arrival in the city seven years ago. At that time, clanky old beige trams were slowly being replaced by the softly purring, blue and white "next generation." Upholstered seats, sleek design and a sultry, recorded voice that announced the stops made riding the rails stylish. It was all so exciting then. I embarrassed myself on more than one occasion by exclaiming "A new one!" whenever I saw my cushy ride heading for the platform. Munich's bus fleet was, and still is, going through a strange transformation. Buses from the 1960s to 2000 carry car-eschewing MŸnchner from here to there. Today you may ride to Schwabing in a groovy orange plastic bucket seat, your foot room invaded by an inconveniently placed wheel cover--kiss your knees hello--hoping the driver feels like announcing the next stop. Tomorrow you will be whisked to Hohenzollernplatz on a fluffy, respectable blue throne, with a view of the digital station indicator.
Last year a local newspaper ran several big spreads on the MVV's purchase of 20 new trams. "Again?" I thought. It would be wonderful, I was informed. These glistening new trams would provide more seating and the ride of my life. I inspected the articles' accompanying photographs, trying to find the recliners and the martini cart. Aside from arched hand grips and faux-marble-patterned linoleum flooring, I did not notice much of a difference. Incidentally, the article continued, Munich already has one of these new luxury liners in use, but the company that made them went out of business and the city hoped that the remaining 19 would be delivered. Upon seeing the real thing, I realized we, the people reliant upon public transportation and pressed to pay whatever is charged, had been had. The "new, new tram," with the same clumsy seat organization found in the "new tram"--even a contortionist might have trouble finding a place for those pesky feet--has absolutely nothing new to offer.
A few months ago, in the same publication that had touted the benefits of the MVV's latest acquisition, I read another big splash. It seems that the city hadn't had its finger on the pulse of modern tram decor. New, new tram passengers, the article said, have indicated that upholstery is "out" and exposed wood is "in." Unashamed, clutching the paper to my chest from my seat in the "old, new tram," I guffawed out loud. Could it be that the trams delivered from the defunct manufacturer were unfinished, had not been upholstered yet? Can we silly consumers spell p-r-o-p-a-g-a-n-d-a?
I have had the opportunity to ride the new, new tram on a number of occasions. The very special one, with the molded, hard plastic, wood grain seats--that curiously have the same shape as those covered in fuzzy indigo material on the line's earlier arrivals--offers a hairy ride. Without the cloth buffer, the passenger must buckle down, dig in heels and hold on tight to the vehicle's fancy, curved anchors to keep from careening off the "fashionably correct," "wooden" seats onto the woman in the second car with the chihuahua on her lap. As someone who enjoys saving on car payments, I appreciate, and pay dearly for the use of, Munich's transportation network. But the MVV has to set priorities. Why, for instance, did the city need "new, new trams" when subway trains--besides the few shiny new red wagons--remain graffiti-covered eyesores? Perhaps it is time more residents put their hard-earned cash into bicycle seats. There will certainly be enough left over for the engraved name plate. <<<

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