The Prague transport system has always been a two-sided coin of positive and negative. It has spoiled me to the point where I never want to own a car again.
The classlessness of the trams and metro is also impressive; nearly everyone takes public transport, from businessmen in suits reading the newspaper to kindergartners out for a school trip. The trams are also romantic. Looking at a bridge with a red tram crossing it, you think it should be there.
While many historic aspects of the country were neglected under communism, Prague’s transportation system underwent important developments. The metro system began to be designed and built in the 1960s and, while at first it seemed trams were going to be phased out, planners saw the importance of above ground people movement as well. In the 1980s new cars were ordered and new tracks were laid – work which slowed down significantly after the Velvet Revolution. Modernizing both tracks and equipment is the priority now.
The Prague Transport Company has tried to capture that sense of romance at its Prague Transport Museum. A depot at Vozovna Střešovice is home to about 50 vehicles; lined up on the rails, appearing itchy to get out and ride. Historic photos, old ticket booths and former schedules show Prague’s trams are as much a part of her romantic vibe as the Charles Bridge. You can see the progression from the more square style to the rounder ones; all in bright red and somehow more proud-looking than their road-weary descendants plying the streets today.
Advertisements are slapped on the sides of today’s trams; some are even entirely wrapped in the ad – like a moving billboard. This is not a new phenomenon; back in the 1920s, trams had metal signs atop the roof regally advertising coffee and chocolate. There is even a replica 22 from 1948 and its schedule appears to be much the same as today; with Bílá Hora as one end station but ending a bit sooner than today, at Vršovické Náměstí.