Lyon metro secret: Paying it forward

I used to live in the Croix Rousse neighborhood in Lyon. It’s up on a hill, bordered by Lyon’s two rivers, the Rhône and the Saône. (It doesn’t look like they should rhyme, but they pretty much do.) Anyone who lives in Croix Rousse will tell you it’s the best neighborhood of Lyon – I’ve met longtime residents who didn’t refer to themselves at Lyonnais, but Croix Roussian.  It’s also known as the fourth arrondissement, but no one but the post office calls it that.

This one is the Saône, and the hill with all those little red roofs is la Croix Rousse.
This one is the Saône, and the hill with all those little red roofs is Croix Rousse.

Croix Rousse is like it’s own little village up on the hill over Lyon. It’s known for its silk-weaving history, les canuts. A lot of apartments in Croix Rousse have high ceilings and mezzanines because when all the silk weavers were weaving their silk up on the hill, they needed high ceilings. I’ve also heard that they are the reason behind Lyon’s famous traboules, which are essentially little tunnels through buildings. They ultimately became important during WWII, but the silk weavers just used them to stay out of the rain. Rain is bad for silk, apparently.

Croix Rousse

Anyway, Croix Rousse is cool for lots of reasons, and if you visit Lyon, you definitely need to hike up that hill (it’s really not that bad) and wander around. Or if you’re lazy, you could take the metro, and maybe you’ll benefit from this tip I’m about to share with you.

In Lyon, your metro ticket is valid for an hour. That means if you take the metro somewhere, go run an errand or what have you, and then want to get back on the metro less than an hour after you first validated the ticket, you can use the same ticket to board the metro the second time. (I don’t think it works this way in Paris, and that is disappointing.)

Since Lyon is not a huge city, it usually doesn’t take more than 20-30 minutes to get most places on public transport. In the Croix Rousse metro stop, people leave their still-useable tickets at the entrance when they leave the station. Then when the next person comes along, they can grab the ticket and use it to get on the metro. How’s that for collaborative consumption?

Ever since I discovered this, I always leave my metro ticket when I get off the train, unless I’m planning to go somewhere else in the next hour. You can leave a ticket or look for a ticket at any metro station – I just happen to frequent the Croix Rousse metro, and I haven’t noticed tickets up for grabs at other metro stops.

I’m a supporter of the sharing economy so I love this kind of stuff, but for me the best (okay, second best after the free metro tickets) is that this a little thing that people do for their community, just to be nice. There’s no immediate payoff – they’re paying it forward.

And as minor as it is, I like to do little things like this to pay it forward. It reminds me to be more generous and less stingy. We’ll start with used metro tickets and work up from there, okay?