Earlier this week, France's transit workers went on strike. Guess what? Not much happened in terms of traffic and congestion. The Washington Post speculates that it's because most people took the day off.
While the strike virtually immobilized public transportation -- only 10 percent of the Paris Metro system was running, and only 46 of France's 700 high-speed trains were in operation -- the country escaped the mass chaos that many had predicted. Some city residents speculated that Parisians, warned of the possibility of huge commuting delays and virtually no public transportation, simply decided to take the day off.
Perhaps another reason is that most Parisian's don't use transit! They drive.
Wendell Cox has put together a nice summary of the demographics, economics, and transport of the Paris region, and its available at http://www.demographia.com as part of his rental car tours.
Wendell points out that transit is crucial to transport in the city center, where population densities rival Manhattan's at 53,000 people per square mile. The Ville de Paris (our equivalent of a central city) houses about 20% of the region's population.
But, outside the Ville de Paris, development is lower density and suburban in character. Inner ring suburbs average about 17,500 people per sqare mile, enough to support good bus service by not high quality rail service. In the outer ring suburbs (the most recently developed), densities average 4,500 people were square mile. These densities are comparable to America's newer suburbs in the West and Southwest, and the automobile rules.
Indeed, Wendell notes, Parisians may have access to the most well developed system of roads and freeways in Europe. Overall, about three-quarters of travel in the Paris region is by car.