Mistakes were made

New York City meets Munich

It’s not you, MVG, it’s me

October 11th, 2011 · No Comments · Germany, Transportation

Registering of residency is a practice here in Germany that doesn’t exist in the United States. When we moved to Munich, both Conny View definition in a new window and I had to visit the Public Service Bureau to register that we now live here. You need to provide some documentation, such as a lease, and in our case our proof of marriage (since I am not an EU citizen.) It’s a simple process, and it makes sense. For any other agency or institution that wants “proof of residency” there is now a single, legal document we can give. This is unlike the United States, where everyone has a different list of what is considered acceptable documentation that you live somewhere. This also provides the municipal governments with useful information for services like schools and knowing the size of the general population.

About a week after we registered there was a huge piece of mail addressed to me jammed into the mailbox slot. The postman could not put the envelope in the mailbox because it was so wide, and so stiff. Turns out it was a “Welcome Package” from MVG, the Munich Transit Authority. This glossy, full color marketing binder contained a greeting from MVG, extolling the virtues of Munich mass transit, and providing a bunch of useful information on tariffs, routes and contact information. The thing looked more like what a cruise line would send me, not the bus and subway people. It has cutouts on the dividers, and pull out maps with stickers you can use. This thing isn’t cheap.

The Weclome Package.My first thought on flipping through this expensive piece of marketing material was that the people of Munich are paying way too much on their transit fares.

We tucked the binder away for reference, and I didn’t think too much more about it.

A week after that I got another letter from my new best friend in Munich, MVG. At least this time it was in a normal-sized envelope. Inside was an offer for a free weekly pass for the entire transit system as their gift to me, a new Munich citizen. I just had to go on the web site and log in with the provided account and password, and they’d mail me the pass to activate starting on any day I want.

These people really want me to use the transit system. In fairness, Munich has great public transportation which includes buses, trams, surface trains and subways. We’ve been using it when we need to, so this offer was a nice freebie. But seeing that I had to go online and wait to get the pass in the mail, there didn’t seem to be any urgency. I procrastinated and put the offer aside to use later, with Conny’s help.

A week after that, my obsessive pen-pal MVG wrote me again. This new letter told me about the previous offer from a week earlier, and expressed concern because I had not logged on to the web site. They speculated that maybe I misplaced the earlier letter as I unpacked from the move, or perhaps I didn’t receive it in the first place. In any case, they provided me again with the account and password, and let me know my free weekly pass is waiting for me.

(Not the real MVG mascot.)At this point I expect someone in an MVG mascot outfit to break my door down, drag me to Ostbahnhof, and force me to ride all over the city until I profess my undying love and commitment to transit in all its forms. How can a transit authority be so needy? I feel like MVG is stalking me. I almost want to insist on walking everywhere now, just out of spite.

I don’t understand why the municipal transit authority has to engage in such a hard sell. There are no other mass transit options. Unless I drive or walk, they are the only game in town. Do they think new residents move here from caves, having never seen transit of any kind? That the buses, trams, subway entrances and train stations mystify people who move here? Did someone at MVG imagine people are shuffling slowly down the sidewalk thinking “Gosh, I wonder what those things are with all those people riding on them. I guess I’ll never know.”

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