Do you know why someone who regularly spends a certain amount of time traveling back and forth between home and work is called a “commuter”? It’s because the first people so called were using commutation tickets, what we now call season tickets, that commuted (‘changed,’ from Latin commutare) a bunch of daily fares into a single payment. (If you check the foreign equivalents linked at the left of the Wikipedia article, you find that a number of languages use a word or phrase meaning ‘pendulum migration.’)


  1. Do Americans actually call them ‘season tickets’?

  2. That term is more commonly used in the context of sports, possibly also music and theater. I’d say that in transit systems this kind of thing is more likely to be called a “pass” than a “ticket”.

  3. Yeah, we bought season tickets to the (now bankrupt) Honolulu Symphony, but we buy bus passes every month to commute ourselves to work and back.

  4. I did know that, but it doesn’t make me sympathetic to public transport. My one experience of regularly using public transport to get to work was so dismal that I bought a motorbike.

  5. i once took public transport. It was awful.

  6. Public transport dismal? Awful?
    I would trade the occasional public inconvenience for my daily dose of agression, danger and delay in the high speed, congested world of the private car. And if you think high speed and congestion is a paradaox vist the M5 motorway near Bristol,at eight o’cock in the morning. The upside is, at least you get to work wide awake and fizzing with adrenalin.
    Oh for a train…

  7. Yes, I am very fond of public transit, like most New Yorkers. (I’ve left the city, but I’m still a New Yorker at heart.)
    And you’re right, I should have used “pass” rather than “ticket.” Mea culpa.

  8. In Boston you don’t call them “season tickets” because you can’t buy them for a season. We call them “monthly passes” or “T-passes.”

  9. Public transit in NYC is utterly normal and even classic. In many cities it’s an overflow backup system and has an unpleasant feeling about it. Portland Oregon is fine, but still not good enough to be the primary system for most people.

  10. The Japanese Wikipedia article for a “pass” is at 定期乗車券 teiki-jōsha-ken (meaning something like ‘set period travel ticket’) and it links to… (tra-la-la) “Season ticket” at English Wikipedia! Is this a British/American thing? (The German equivalent article is at Abonnement, Russian at Абонемент.)

  11. Honolulu has a pretty comprehensive and reliable bus system. My wife and I were able to live without a car for two decades, until our daughter needed something to learn to drive. Now she lives in Boston and rides the T. And now we have a car and are enjoying exploring parts of the island we rarely visited before.
    Re Abonnement: I believe symphonies and other seasonal performance orgs refer to their season ticket holders as subscribers.

  12. Abonnement is Norwegian too. Season ticket in England, in addition to Covent Garden and so on, is or was used for prepaid train and football-match passes, but not for cricket- or bus passes (as far as I know).
    I would trade the occasional public inconvenience for the occasional public convenience.

  13. mollymooly says

    In Cisatlantica, a “Symphony” can only ever be the thing that gets played. I can’t think offhand how we abbreviate “Symphony Orchestra”. If I ever went I might know. How do y’all abbreviate “Chamber Orchestra”?

  14. ignoramus says

    Do you need a proverbial penny ?
    I would trade the occasional public inconvenience for the occasional public convenience.
    I. The action or process of conveying.
    1. Convoying, escorting, or conducting; conduct. Obs.
    or convenience, n.
    2. The action of carrying or transporting; the carriage of persons or goods from one place to 3. Carrying away, removal, riddance. Obs.
    another. (Formerly used more widely.)
    1. a. Agreement, accordance; congruity of form, quality, or nature. Obs. gynandromorphous,
    4. Moral or ethical fitness; propriety. Obs.
    7. (with a and pl.) a. A convenient state or condition of matters; an advantage.
    d. A particular appliance; a utensil; formerly applied commonly to a conveyance; now often used euphemistically, spec. a (public) lavatory, a water-closet; esp. in public convenience.

  15. Public inconvenience — that would be when you must hold your water, or whatever, until you get home?

  16. marie-lucie says

    Abonnement: In France this is a subscription, either to a newspaper or magazine or to a season for the theatre, ballet, opera etc, but also to the telephone or other public utility. But I don’t think it can be used for public transportation. Bus or commuter train tickets can be bought either singly or, more economically, through weekly passes or sets of 10 tickets, but that is not considered an abonnement (Perhaps it is because of the short-term nature of buying such tickets, as opposed to the expectation of continuing delivery of magazines, plays, etc with the abonnement). I am not familiar with the world of spectator sports.

  17. J.W. Brewer says

    This for some reason reminds me of the old joke that the motto of Connecticut (“Qui transtulit sustinet”) should be Englished as “He who commutes, prospers.”

  18. In Brussels, you can buy either a monthly or a yearly abonnement for public transport, school children get an abonnement scolaire.

  19. J. Del Col says

    And addition and multiplication are commutative because they have tickets to go back and forth.
    Then there’s the electrical device, the commutator, which switches current back and forth in DC motor– all tickety boo, I suppose.

  20. David Marjanović says

    Abonnement? For public transport? In Berlin perhaps? I’ve only encountered Wochenkarte, Monatskarte, Jahreskarte and the like… and didn’t pay much attention in the one week I spent in Berlin.

  21. Jeremy Williams says

    Yeah, in Berlin, we usually call them “Monatskarten”, but if you “subscribe” to a year’s worth of “Monatskarten”, it’s called an “Abonnement”.

Speak Your Mind