For over a decade one question has haunted Ticket to Ride fans everywhere:
Are you building routes or riding them?
Why am I doing this? Because I'm a bit miffed at the people who look at official and custom maps an nitpick that a certain route doesn't exist. As a custom map creator I'd like to have this bit of knowledge reinforcing me as I come up with map ideas. I'll accord one point to either side when a bit in the USA rules mentions something in their favor. For each map I'll accord two points for the theme and additional rules. Let's start!
The Lore: Now at the dawn of the century it was time for a new impossible journey. The stakes: $1 Million in a winner-takes-all competition. The objective: to see which of them could travel by rail to the most cities in North America — in just 7 days. The journey would begin immediately… This points to the riding side of the issue. The lore of the game gives Riding +1.
Destination Tickets: When would you have to ride from city to city, and then from a completely different city to a completely different city? I think the destination tickets are more like contracts from different companies who rely on your rail network to deliver merchandise. You will lose the contracts if you don't complete their needs, losing you credibility. Destination tickets are in favor of building routes. Building +1
Placing routes: You can build routes in any order in Ticket to Ride. If you were riding trains, you probably couldn't do that. Building +1
Double routes: Is there any reason why numerous people can't ride New York to Boston? If you were building rail lines, 2 might be the limit without hurting the supply and demand of all the railways involved! Building +1
Route Scoring: People are going to be more likely to drive from Atlanta to Nashville then Helena to Duluth. Therefore, more people would ride the latter. Building once again takes the lead. Building +1
End Game tiebreaker: The railroad with the most successful contracts is the better one. Simple as that! Building +1
USA recap: Building:5 Riding:1
Let's start with the maps!
Europe: Theoretically, if you were riding trains it would kind of be against the point to ride with your opponent. However a station is more a point where 2 railroads make a deal (in many ways in favor of the guy who blocked the other) to have one transport the others goods. When riding tunnels, theres a pretty low risk for DYING! When building tunnels, however, there's a bit of a higher risk. Since tunnels have over a 70% chance of popping up at least one bad card, tunnels suggest building. Ferries are more of a problem for the railroad, not the passengers. Building +2
Note: I will not repeat rules for maps. For example, I won't mention ferries in Pennsylvania.
Switzerland: As a rail line, going to "somewhere in Austria would make sense if you were working with Austrian Railways across the border. As a passenger, going from "somewhere in Austria" to "somewhere in Italy" makes no sense. Building +2
Nordic: Nothing different from Switzerland other than the quirky locomotives. Building +0, Riding +0
Marklin and Deutschland 1902 If your a passenger why are there rules involving MORE passengers? Building +4
Team Asia: The team element could either be cooperating passengers or cooperating companies. Building +1, Riding +1
Legendary Asia: How could it be good for the company or the passengers to lose a car in the middle of the mountains? Although the spidery nature of Legendary Asia makes more sense as a railroad, since as a passenger you'd be riding a bunch of round trips from the Main Line to Singapore or Mecca. I'll give building a slight advantage for that one. Building +1
India: All the British "Tour" stuff and the bit in Ian's Designer Diary about leaving out Indur to Raipur makes it clear that Vincent supports Riding. Riding +2
The Heart of Africa: The "exploring Africa" theme of the map suggests riding, and Terrain cards could be thought of like a bit of a "frequent traveler bonus". Riding +2
Nederland: The railroad should have to pay for the bridge tolls, not the passengers! Building +2
United Kingdom: What does railroad technology have to do with the average commuter? To a railroad though, it's very important. +2 for Building
Pennsylvania: I got nothin'
Rails and Sails: A passenger doesn't care whether or not his end point has a big harbor, but a railroad tycoon might enjoy the ease of unloading cargo. On the other hand, not a lot of rail companies owned many ships. Building +2, Riding +2
Final score: Building: 21 Riding: 8
And excluding maps not made by Alan: Building: 20 Riding: 6
By a considerable margin, building wins! We can safely assume that Ticket to Ride is a game where you build up your rail network. Thanks for reading!