“Tourists can find our public transport system difficult”.
I wasn’t going to write about this until the friendly women at the tourist information office said the above line. But since she did, I thought I’d have a random rant as I haven’t done that for a long time.
Difficult certainly matches my experience, so here’s my random complaint about Turin’s public transport for tourists. Since most buses and trams look busy, GTT (who operate the network) are obviously doing something right.
Anyway, in every European city I’ve been to over the last few years (and there have been a lot) customers can buy tickets in at least one of these methods:
(i) On the bus with a credit card
(ii) On the bus with cash
(iii) At machines along bus routes
Turin hasn’t burdened itself with such ticketing advances. They’re still doing what Warsaw Pact countries often did 20 years ago and require customers to find a shop that sells the tickets which must then be presented on a bus. To make this ultra easy GTT have put on their web-site a PDF list of the locations, making it more exciting for visitors to have to work out where an outlet might be, rather than putting it on a handy map.
Anyway, I could have worked this out and I know where there is a shop nearby as I saw the sticker in the window. But, the system is ridiculous in my mind (and likely just mine), so I thought I’d use the metro system. The city only has one line, which makes planning easier, which was built for when Turin held the Winter Olympics.
I thought this was a marvellous idea as there are ticket machines at metro stations, so that would mean I didn’t have to walk into the city centre. This excellent idea of mine was ruined when it transpired both ticket machines at the metro station were broken. And, to save themselves employing anyone, there is neither a ticket desk or indeed any staff members before the ticket barriers at the station. This certainly saved money, although I noticed other customers looking confused and lost, so I’m not sure that GTT are doing much for the city’s reputation.
However, all was not lost, as on the wall there was an advert for GTT’s new app. So, I find a GTT app on the Play Store and it doesn’t appear to have any ticketing capability. After some delving, it transpires there’s a second app for that, so I go to download it. I then get the message “this app is not available in your country”, which perhaps shows just a little lack of ambition on GTT’s behalf of how many tourists they might get wanting to use the app. Quite why GTT had bothered to translate the poster into English recommending customers get the app is also a mystery to me. But perhaps it’s not blocked on the US Play Store.
So, for the first time in what must now be hundreds of cities, I gave up and walked. I’ve no doubt I could have spent 20 minutes finding a shop that sold a metro ticket, but it was only a 50-minute walk into the centre and I was already being rather lazy not doing that.
Incidentally, GTT also run the mess of the bus service (mess being defined by my sole experience of the operation) that runs from the airport to the city centre. The sole ticket machine at the airport had broken (there’s a theme here) and customers had to work out where instead they could buy their tickets, and as an extra bonus, the bus then turned up late.
For tourists who want to use public transport, it’s possible to buy the Turin card and then get a transport add-on. This would have been a simple option, so tourists are unlikely to get too stuck, but it was at this point that the tourist information staff member made her comment about GTT’s operations so it seems that I’m not the only visitor who has been defeated by the city’s public transport operator.