Friday, December 29, 2017


It's called the métro for short, but was originally conceived as the chemin de fer métropolitain (metropolitan railway), then officially known as the CMP (compagnie du chemin de fer métropolitain de Paris, the Paris metropolitan railway company). Since 1949, it's been run by the RATP (Régie autonome des transports parisiens, the autonomous public transportation authority). I'm sure you were curious.

A southbound train pulls into the station early on a Friday afternoon. Not a very busy time of day for this station.

This station is on the number 12 line, which runs between Front Populaire on the north side of the city to the Mairie d'Issy on the south side. The northern endpoint used to be at Porte de la Chapelle, as many of us old-timers will remember, but the line was extended in 2012. Another extension is planned for 2019 further north to the Mairie d'Aubervilliers. This station, Assemblée Nationale, is right smack in the middle of the city on the left bank.

The system currently has 16 lines operating with four more planned, along with numerous line extensions. There are over 300 stations in the system. The métro is the central part of a sprawling regional transit network that includes suburban rail lines that connect to the center city (the RER), light rail lines in the inner suburbs (les tramways), and city buses (les autobus).

I got most of the technical information in this post from the Wikpedia entry for the métro. And, if you didn't know, I spent much of my professional career in public transportation and am somewhat of a transit nerd. I could go on (and on) about the métro system, but I will spare you that.


  1. Public transport is my job and my serious interest, so do go on. I thought chemin was an animal, but Google Translate says it means path. It must be a similar word to chemin.

  2. I remember taking the metro many times during my short visit to paris, and wondering why philly didn't have a nice quiet clean system like this...we still don't.

  3. It is the best system I have ever had to the pleasure of riding.

  4. Originally, Line 12 was known as le Nord-Sud, after the name of the company that built it, when it ran from Gare du Nord to Porte de Versailles. The letters N and S were embossed interlaced on the doors of the cars, and maybe other places I don't remember (cartouches at the street entrance of the stations?). Many new lines were built between the two World Wars, and it's probably after WWII that le Nord-Sud lost its name and began to be blandly known as Line 12. But for my grandparents who had lived close to one of its stations since the inception of the line, it was always le Nord-Sud.

    1. I was mistaken, the original Nord-Sud northern end wasn't Gare du Nord, but Porte de la Chapelle, as you said. Sorry.

      It appears the letters which were embossed on doors were those of the CMP and not those of the Nord-Sud. Age!!

  5. I just had a conversation with a friend in NY about this article, comparing subway construction costs there with such as Paris. Paris comes out far, far better.

  6. andrew, chemin does mean path or way. I've never heard of an animal with that name...

    anne marie, it's a very good system!

    travel, I think I could say the same.

    chm, the Nord-Sud line has quite a history! The CMP took the line over from the Nord-Sud company in 1930.

  7. I'm not a transit nerd, but I love trains. LBJ took the IRT down to 4th Street USA when he got there what did he see the youth of American on LSD.

  8. Since I can never remember, when in Paris, the numbers of the Metro lines, I always use the terminals to identify them (i.e. La Defense - Chateau de Vincennes), so extending the lines and losing Porte de la Chapelle and (in future) Mairie d'Issy is very annoying. Also saddening is the updating of rolling stock - no more throwing the handle over to open the doors - more practical I know, and announcements made partly in English! Roderick


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