RER vs. Metro

Old Feb 10th, 2008, 04:39 PM
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RER vs. Metro

Can anyone help me understand the difference(s) between the RER and Metro. I understand that RER (or is it The RER) is a railroad that travels outside of Central Paris and that within Central Paris it can be used as part of the Metro system using the same ticket/pass.

What I don't know is what the difference is and does it matter? For example, is there a difference between the types of trains, stations? Do both go underground? Do the RER trains run as frequently? Is there an advantage/disadvantage to taking a train from and RER or Metro station?

Just curious. Thanks in advance.

P.S. How does one pronounce RER when saying it out loud? Is it pronounced like a word or spelled out R - E - R.
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 04:55 PM
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Hi J,

Within Paris the RER and the Metro are interchangeable. Take whichever is most convenient.

It is Air (as in hair) Aye (as in bay) Air.

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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 05:13 PM
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Actually, it's more like "air - euh - air."
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 05:15 PM
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The RER is an abbreviation for Réseau Express Régional (Regional Express Network). And it is precisely that an express network. There are 5 lines (A, B, C, D, and E). Essentially it is a hybrid of a regional Paris rail network and within the "center" of the city an express like subway system.

In the city for the most part both the Metro and RER trains are underground. The significant difference between the RER and the metro is the frequency of stations. By comparison, the Paris metro has 14 lines to the RER's 5. Each metro line on average has stations approximately every 2-3 blocks.

The RER stations within the city itself are generally much further apart than metro stations. RER lines also operate trains on the same lines that will stop at different stops as opposed to the Metro trains stopping at every station. Generally there is at least one train on an RER line that will only stop at the larger stations.

If you are traveling significant distances in Paris, the RER can be advantageous because of the "Express" aspect. The metro system obviously has the advantage of more lines and more stations within the city.

There are differences in trains, (there are differences in trains from one metro line to another as well). As tourists, the RER and Metro should be thought of as interchangeable. Use whichever one gets you to where you need to go.
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 05:19 PM
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In terms of visual experience, the RER comes from the wrong direction (from the right when facing the tracks)for Americans whereas the métro comes from the left.
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 05:30 PM
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The RER is much more useful as a commuter system for residents of the outlying areas than it is for tourists within Paris, particularly central Paris. There are only a few lines and each of those has only a few stops within the central city. Like most of the Metro system it is underground, often farther underground than the Metro tunnels.

The Metro system has stations placed relatively close together in many parts of Paris, and lines cross each other so one can transfer from one to the other to get as close as possible to one's destination. In most of central Paris you are rarely more than a 10 minute walk to a Metro station.

Personally, I do all I can to avoid the RER; I find the stations grim and the signage confusing. I have been left waiting as trains fail to come and I have taken the wrong train because trains going to different destinations use the same tracks and I didn't understand the system of lights that indicates which stations the train will stop at.

Maybe others find it easier to deal with, but my transportation preferences are (1) the bus, if there's time and a convenient line; (2) the Metro, if I'm in a hurry or taking the bus is too inconvenient; and (3) the RER, if there's no other choice.
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 05:44 PM
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The RER is a regional commuter train. It shares certain stations with the metro, but you don't have to use it.

I agree with Shellio. I don't like the RER. I find it confusing. If I'm going to take a day trip to Versailles or Auvers-sur-Oise or Ile des Impressionistes or something, I'll do my researchand brave the RER, but within Paris I just ignore it.

You'll find yourself in stations where metro and RER share territory. Just ignore the RER in that case.
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 06:10 PM
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I'm curious as to what is confusing about the RER? I'll give you that it isn't a straightforward as the metro. That being said, most if not all RER stations in the city have boards that update the name of the next train, either outright display the stops, or have a board with lights next to the stops the train will be making. Many also have monitors displaying estimated arrivals at the stations.

The metro system is so extensive that using the RER can be completely avoided, but it can be advantageous to tourists as well.
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 06:11 PM
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Within Paris, the same tickets are valid on the RER and the Metro...the RER tends to be much deeper under the metro tracks although there is one line (I thnk RER C that runs pretty close to the surface say from the Eiffel Tower to St. Michel....as noted, being more part of the national railroad (SNCF) than the Paris local transport (RATP) although they seem to have joint responsibility within Paris, the RER like SNCF trains runs to the left much like the London Underground while the Metro runs to the right say like the NYC subway and the rest of the Metro.

Be aware that when using the Metro, you do not need your ticket to exit the system (although they do spot checks and if you're caught without ticket, they can fine you and I've been asked for my ticket...although I see many locals throw their metro tickets away after entering the system...in any event to exit the RER, even if you've only been within Paris, you have to insert your ticket in the exit turnstile (to enter the RER even from within the Metro you also insert your ticket even though it was already validated when entering the metro)...the trains on the RER seem to be dirtier than the metro trains all full of grafiti but yes, they are much quicker from station to station than the metro.
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 06:23 PM
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I think what confuses me about the RER most is that certain lines parallel each other for awhile, stopping at the same stops, but then one will veer off from the other and go in another direction, so you have to be careful. If you're going to Stop Y, you might be able to take Line A or B, but if you're going to Stop X, you might only be able to take Line B.

I realize this is probably the case for metro lines in some cases, but I've more than once gotten on an RER line and had to backtrack and change to another line. Probably because I think I've been to Paris enough times I don't need to do a lot of research and just made a stupid mistake. I've actually done the same or similar thing in NYC - gotten on an express train and needed to backtrack to get where I wanted to go. I'm no genius with subway systems, but I'm really good at navigating through amazingly remote places in the countryside. We all have our navigational strengths, I guess.
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 06:29 PM
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At all RER stations to the best of my knowledge there is an indicator board which lights up the stations where the next train will be stopping...for example I know I need the RER A line to get to Disneyland Paris but there are two branches in the direction of Disneyland on RER A....I need the train marked to the Parc Disneyland stop (Marie Cheesy or something like that); every other trains doesn't go there and diverges but the lights clearly show which trains go where!
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 06:33 PM
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Sometimes those indicator boards aren't working. And even a genius can't always tell, even when they are working, whether a particular train will take you to the intermediary stop you want to get off at, for reasons I have already elaborated (two lines converge for awhile and then split up, e.g.)
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 06:33 PM
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With the RER, you need to:

1. know the end point name of the line you want to take.
Ex. if you want to go to Disney you need the A4 line which ends at Marne la Vallee, not the A2 line which ends at Boissy St Leger. (some metro lines are split off this way as well).

2. see that your desired station is "lit up" on the sign over the quai (if it is NOT lit up, then the next train is not going where you want, don't get on).

3. as someone above mentioned, the oncoming RER train comes upon you at your right as you face the tracks.

The RER stations feel more like a train station than the subways do. Both the RER and the metro travel both above and below ground. You may need your ticket to EXIT the RER, but you don't when leaving the metro.
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 08:36 PM
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I agree with StCirq, the RER is confusing. It sounds easy, I'm very good with directions and I don't get lost easily. I have been to Paris I think eight times now and I've never had a problem with the metro, although I have been very confused at times by the RER. One of the last times was early in the morning at the Invalides station, I was trying to catch a train to CDG for an early morning flight (via St Michel), so of course a mistake would have possibly made me miss my flight. Fortunately there was a Parisian woman there in the station with me - it was very early in the morning and almost empty - so she and I tried to figure it out together in Italian, our common language (I an American who could speak a bit of Italian and she French with about the same amount of Italian). She was a school teacher and a complete sweetheart!

Anyway not only did this experience totally bond us (she gave me her address afterward and invited me to come see her in Paris next time I was there), it was also an eye-opener as she was a Parisian who was also confused! She had lived near La Tour Mabourg for quite some time and she said that every time she took it, it was never easy.

So I avoid the RER whenever possible. This is just me, some people may have no problem with it whatsoever but I'm just saying that as a person who has used the Paris metro, the London tube, the Boston T and the Washington subway quite extensively with no problems but can't figure out the dang RER, I avoid it! Plus they completely hide the RER station at CDG and it's also been my experience that it's even hard the find the station there! What's up with that?
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 10:07 PM
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I can't fathom the RER system being confusing to anyone. The rules are the same as the Métro: find the line your destination is on, look at the overhead board to see whether the next train stops there, and get on if it does.

The fact that lines split outside of town doesn't affect the rules: if your destination isn't illuminated, you don't get on.

Map: http://www.ratp.info/orienter/f_plan...secteur&fm=pdf
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 10:22 PM
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LunaBell,
What terminal are you referring to? I typically fly in and out of T2 and always find it fairly well marked.

As for the RER the other thing that I forgot to mention is the first letter of the train name tells you the terminus. For example here are two train names from RER line B: EVEN and IRMA Each Terminus has it own letter and the first letter in the train name corresponds to the terminus. E is CDG T2 so EVEN goes North on the B3 spur. I is Mitry-Claye so Irma takes the B5 spur. You wouldn't want to get on Irma to go to CDG.

The second letter in the name tells you where the train stops, but off the top of my head I don't remember how to determine that. The last two letters are insignificant and are only used to form rememorable names.

The only additional step needed for riding the RER is to make sure you get on the right train. Like the metro you still need to know the terminus of the line in order to go the right direction and you need to know where to get off.
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 11:52 PM
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A lot of metros or transit systems in many cities use that system of sharing one central section, and the splitting up into branches, i.e. BART in SF, MARTA in Atlanta, or the subway in Munich.
I don't see any major difficulty in checking on the map if you can take any train from that platform, or if your destination is on a branch and you will have to wait for a train to a specific destinantion.
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Old Feb 11th, 2008, 01:14 AM
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I agree with Robespierre--the RER is not this monstrous confusing thing. Actually, a lot of guidebooks diss the RER too, saying it's "dangerous." Um, OK, if it were dangerous, then why do zillions of commuters use it each day?

I admit, my first RER ride I was nervous as heck, and I didn't understand the system either, but once you see how it works, it just clicks (at least for me). I took my mom on the RER when she came to visit and we had no problems--she thought it was really cool! I agree--sometimes when I'm at Gare du Nord buying tickets or whatever I just take the RER E for the heck of it, justifying that Gare Saint-Lazare is on my line home, anyway .

The last two times I went to the airport I took the RER B up there. Also according to guidebooks, this line is supposedly crawling with pickpockets just waiting to steal your luggage, etc. Right. It was full of very blasé commuters, families, etc. Yeah, there were a few of those beggars who give out the little pieces of paper with a sob story on them, but those people aren't intimidating. Actually, there was this adorable little boy sitting across from me and my mom--he had me smiling the whole way. I had cut up my finger pretty bad and it was wrapped up in this huge bandage, and he says Maman, she has a BOOBOO! Why does she have a booboo? Awww. Once you get out of Paris, for example on this line, you're no longer underground.

However, I actually use the RER a lot in Paris, but this may have to do with me living in the 20th and being very impatient with my line (3) which is slooooow. For example: I've found that line 1 can actually be pretty slow at times, and always crowded, so I'll go down to Nation, catch the RER A, and ride it all the way up to Charles de Gaulle-Etoile (where the arc de triomphe is) if I fancy a stroll down the Champs (I know, overrated, but still fun! I LOVE people-watching). There are I think four stops to get there, and you zing up there in minutes. Also, the RER C, which others have mentioned, is great for the Left Bank sites like the Orsay and Cluny (which is free for awhile! Yay!) because you pop out right next to them, as opposed to transferring in and out in the metro and then walking a ways from a metro stop.

Some tips: When you go in, check the little map provided to see which direction you need to go for your stop. There should be like a television screen mounted that shows the terminus i.e. Marne-la-Vallée and then a quai (platform) number. Take the escalator down, down, down and go to that quai. Recheck the light-up board: if there is a light next to the stop you want to get off at, you are good to go. That means the train stops there. Within central Paris, you can pretty much take any train regardless of its final destination-they don't split until outside the city.

Hope that made sense--I'm still a bit sleepy, so. Good luck and have fun!
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Old Feb 11th, 2008, 07:14 AM
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People. It's just a freakin' train!

Two rules:

1. Get to the right platform, depending on your destination (guided by the "terminus" signs all the way). LIke this:

http://www.retaworks.com/random_walk...aulle/Sign.jpg

2. Get on the right train, using the overhead board (the next train takes the CDG branch, not Mitry-Claye):

http://tinyurl.com/26kd7b

That is all ye know on Earth, and all you need to know...
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Old Feb 11th, 2008, 07:43 AM
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Thanks everyone for clearing this up. Didn't realize it would open up such a 'can of worms', but I definitely got the info I need.

Jane
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