17 June 2009

the best public transport

Ben Groundwater writes a brilliant travel 'blog' (column really) for the Sydney Morning Herald and has tackled the world's best (and worst) public transport

Most of the world's major cities have sorted out their public transport by now. Most have vast networks of underground trains, buses that seem to just materialise when you need them, and taxis that are affordable enough to qualify as public transport.

Sydney has none of those things.

It must bug the hell out of tourists. A public transport system can change the way you see the city your visiting - for the better, or worse.

Sydney's not alone. LA has next to no public transport that you'd ever want to set foot in - most locals will tell you that not having a car in LA is like not having a 4WD on the North Shore. You might as well not even be there.

Rome's not great either - for a huge city to only have two Metro lines is not ideal. Still, most things you'll want to see there are within walking distance of each other, which makes life a lot easier.

But enough of the bad news. Here are the cities around the world with the best public transport. It's cheap, it's fast, it's frequent, and it's easy to use. You listening, Clover? [Clover Moore is the Lord Mayor of Sydney and a member of the NSW state parliament - Daniel]

Seoul, Korea
Seoul's a nightmare of a place to walk around - the streets are badly signed, and the numbering system defies comprehension. But the city's Metro system is something else. Every trip, no matter how far, costs the equivalent of a dollar. A new train seems to arrive the minute the old one pulls out. All stations have maps of the surrounding area, and clearly numbered exits for you to get your bearings. Couldn't be easier.

Paris, France
It may not smell the best, but you can't fault the Paris Metro's frequency, and the areas of the city it manages to cover. Assuming no one's on strike, you can get around with ease. Admittedly, I haven't given the buses a whirl - anyone fill us in on that?

Shanghai, China
Like Seoul's system, the Shanghai Metro is cheap and easy to use, with plenty of signs in English, and maps around to help you out. The city also boasts the Maglev, the new train that whips you out to Pudong Airport from the city at 430km/h, and costs about 10 bucks. (Seriously, it really does go that fast.) Taxis are frightening, but cheap, and can even be paid for with the swipe card you get for the Metro.

New York, USA
I was freaked out by the subway at first. I'm not sure why - all those colours and dots I guess (I'm slightly colour blind, cut a brother some slack). But once you get the hang of things, the subway's a dream. There seems to be a station on just about every city block, and if you stand around looking confused for more than a few seconds, someone will offer to help you. Beats paying for cabs.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Most people learn about Amsterdam's public transport the hard way - by almost getting run over by it. The city's trams are notoriously silent killers, creeping up on you and warning you with a "Ding!" seconds before impact. On the bright side though, they're cheap and easy to use - as is the train system that connects the 'Dam with neighbouring cities like Haarlem and Zandvoort. Best way to get around, though, is to do like the Dutchies do, and ride a bike.

London, UK
The downside: London transport is damn expensive. If you don't have an Oyster card, a single trip through one zone on the Tube will cost you the equivalent of $10. That's insane. Plus, riding the Tube in summer is about as much fun as cancer. The upside is that the trains are frequent, easy to use, and once you have that Oyster card, you can use it to pay for pretty much everything. Buses run all night too, which is handy, given the outrageous price of catching taxis...

Metro (underground train) systems are awesome, even New York's Subway and the London Underground. The quaintest is the Budapest Metro. I love the Paris Metro - the trains run on rubber tyres.

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