7 of the Biggest Subway Transportation Systems from Around the World
I’m a sucker for public transit, specifically subway transportation.
Whenever I visit a city, I make a point of heading underground and riding the metro to a few different stops around town.
There is so much you can learn by simply experiencing the local way of getting around and there is a unique energy to how a transit system runs.
Subway transportation in some cities is slick and efficient while in others it is irritatingly difficult to use.
Here is a look at 6 different metros around the world that I had the chance to ride, and some brief thoughts on each.
To give an idea of what I’m basing my experience on – let’s start with my own city. The Toronto subway transportation system also known as the: Toronto Transit Commission or TTC for short, is shall we say…’sufficient’. While the above ground streetcars and buses are often slow and infrequent (enough make you bang your head against a wall, ask any Torontonian), the underground subway, as we call it, ain’t so bad.
There are two main lines: “Bloor-Danforth” that runs east to west and “Yonge-University” that runs north to south in a ‘U’ shape. The only downside is that they shut down at roughly 2 am. If you are still out and about, you find yourself on ‘the vomit comet’ – but that’s for a whole other post. Currently, a one way fare is $2.50, which is set to rise. Pretty steep if you ask me.
HONG KONG, HONG KONG
I recall the subway transportation in Hong Kong to be efficient and easy. The fare you pay is based on the distance you are travelling, unlike in Toronto where you pay one price no matter how far you are going. The trains are fast, easy to use and there’s a double glass door/barrier to prevent riders from falling onto the tracks while waiting for the train. The above ground trams are worth a ride too!
While the Berlin metro was pretty robust, allowing you to get to any district in the city, what I distinctly remember was the ticket enforcement. Riding & buying a ticket is on an honour system. In many metros you must purchase a ticket or token from a machine or person and show that before entering. In Berlin, you could ‘technically’ just walk in without paying.
Once you are on the subway though, you are often asked to show proof of purchase. I remember a man, dressed in a very punk outfit with many piercings, tattoos and a massive beard approached me and asked that I present my ticket. He was an undercover officer. Sneaky. This happened almost every time I road the metro. Trust me, you’ll wish you bought the ticket.
The London subway transportation network is known as ‘The Tube’ and it, is awesome. Also having a distance based fare scheme, you can criss cross throughout the massive city. Finding accommodation in London isn’t stressful because no matter where you stay, be it a hostel, hotel or an apartment downtown or not, the tube gives you access and lets you explore every nook and cranny you wish. Something that stood out was the flow of people. Londoners do not want to waste any time, so DO NOT get in their way. Rule of thumb, stick to the right on escalators. You will get yelled at if you block someone trying to walk up the escalator.
Also, don’t forget to get the Oyster Card to save mad cash!
NEW YORK, NEW YORK
Like London, New York subway transportation is pretty efficient. Though it may seem dark and dingy underground, many of the trains run 24 hours (though on reduced schedules in the wee hours of the morning). The metro will take your throughout the city and even has express trains if you need to cover a great distance quickly.
The real challenge of the NYC metro is that there will often be multiple trains on the same track and seem to be taking the exact same route however, the trains don’t stop at every station. Not only do you have to get on the right line but you must make sure you board the proper train. Many visitors do a lot of back tracking as a result.
I don’t have too much to say about Vienna’s subway transportation other then it was probably my favourite. The stations and train cars were clean, the price was reasonable and best of all, it was SO easy to use. The best word to decribe the Vienna underground would be: intuitive. When you transferred at a station, or had to find a specific direction, it just made sense. I never found myself standing, lost and confused. The flow of people was so natural which made it an overall relaxing, pleasant experience – something many transit systems can’t say they provide.
The Beijing subway transportation system makes this list for two reasons. First, they win the prize for the cheapest fare. When I rode it, a one way fare was RMB 2 (30 Canadian cents). Amazing! It also wins the prize for the most intense (and hilarious) rush hour experience. If you want to know how many people can squish onto a subway car, visit Beijing, at rush hour. Just when you think, not one more body can fit onto the train, someone pushes in. In fact, there were attendants on the platform PUSHING people onto the car. I put my arms up to take this photo, and couldn’t get them down again. Check out my Great Wall of China video to see what I mean.
Some of my most hilarious and best stories from travelling come from when I was riding public transportation. The experience of getting from one place to another is rarely a dull one and as someone who LOVES people watching, subway transportation systems are my heaven!
What subway transportation systems have you used? Do you have a favourite? Share your story in the comments below.