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Subway (mass transit) systems

Subway (mass transit) systems

Old Dec 6, 19, 7:27 am
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Subway (mass transit) systems

There are many threads about subway systems and stations in various FT destination forums, but think a universal thread could be potentially useful. I say "potentially useful" because this topic is admittedly quite broad. In order to slightly offset this, I suggest that we attempt to use city names (instead of 3-letter airport codes) in our posts.

I'm using a template with specific points to get the ball rolling. Others are free to either use it if they like.

What is your favorite subway system, and why?
Washington DC is my favorite because it's usually possible to get seats, the stations are convenient (apart from no Georgetown), and transfers are well designed. Hong Kong is a close second.

What are some of the most enormous subway stations that you know of? How do you deal with them.
People's Square here in Shanghai is the largest (~20 exits) subway station I've ever experienced. And, when I was in Nanning two weeks ago, I learned that they have underground malls that bridge multiple stations. After knowing about such places, I typically put them on the "don't transfer there" list. That having been said, some transfers work better than others, even at big stations.

What is your favorite airport for subway access to the downtown area it serves?
PDX gets my vote on this point. Sure, the Max isn't super fast, but it is cheap, and actually goes through the heart of the city. I also like the Silver Line in Boston because it is free, and provides access to the entire T network

Do you have any general tips to offer on the systems you know best?
In Shanghai, avoid Line 2 during anytime close to rush hour. The same goes for Lines 10 and 1 in Beijing.

What's your protocol for identifying optimal station exits?
Google Maps is typically my initial weapon of choice for this mission, but when I'm hauling luggage, I take 2 minutes to do more research (often on the transit company websites themselves). After I experience a station, I simply take a picture of the station map, and save it to my phone.

Last edited by moondog; Dec 8, 19 at 4:35 pm
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Old Dec 6, 19, 9:54 am
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Whenever I visit somewhere with a metro/subway that I havenít yet boarded, that becomes a priority.

Sadly, China has been leading the way for a while now; I say sadly because they are truly unpleasant and often asinine constructions.

Example 1- most of the Chinese systems require a plastic token (which theoretically should be able to used at any station, no matter where you buy them. Alas, itís not the case.). Plus, they expire after a few hours of not having been used.

Example 2- sometimes, you have to queue up just get change, in order to then queue up to buy the token. And queues in China are a lot like portion control in the US.

Example 3- have fun entering a Chinese metro with luggage, and going through the rigmarole of security theater, and escalators where no one moves.

Example 4- mobile phone service is allowed, and equally irritating, tvs with loud ads.

Example 5- because even China has trouble controlling its own people, many stations corral passengers with serpentine gates, which IMO slows things down, also insert brick in the wall reference here.

Example 6- pay when you leave. The NYer in me hates this, and backlogs seem worst in East Asia, where people are staring at their phones more than anywhere else...and itís not because they all use wechat pay/alipay/octopus on their watches/whatever to exit.

Example 7- China is very lipstick on a pig. From afar, buildings and infrastructure look good...until you approach them. Not to mention, cigarette butts.

ó-

As for my metro strategy, download a map pdf to FoxIt pdf (offline, of course), and voilŠ.
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Old Dec 6, 19, 12:55 pm
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what are some of the metro systems that have the best coverage? I liked paris and tokyo where I didn't have to ever take the bus.
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Old Dec 6, 19, 1:20 pm
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This is my go to website for subways and metros. I use it whenever I plan to visit a city. Its great to understand the overview in each city, but not so convenient when you are actually needing a map while you are trying to find the subway. But this website is amazingly comprehensive:

urbanrail.net > metro - subway - light rail

You can get lost in the web site. Just pick a continent, and then find just about any city with mass transit.
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Old Dec 6, 19, 1:24 pm
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I think Berlin has an amazingly comprehensive transit system of S Bahn, U Bahn, Trams, etc,

Tokyo was intimidating to figure out at first, but I found it a wonderful system. But I needed something like Google Maps to figure it out.

Its a puzzle to me, and I have to try to get around by subway/tram no matter the city. Amsterdam has my favorite tram system. Vienna has fun trams, Budapest has some of the steepest deepest escalators I have ever been on. They make me dizzy.
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Old Dec 6, 19, 5:08 pm
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Originally Posted by moondog View Post
What is your favorite subway system, and why?
Washington DC is my favorite because it's usually possible to get seats, the stations are convenient (apart from no Georgetown), and transfers are well designed.
What is wrong with you?! Clearly you have never been stuck on the red line due to single tracking while packed into a sardine can with 60 other human beings in the middle of July heat.
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Old Dec 6, 19, 5:51 pm
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Originally Posted by Polytonic View Post
What is wrong with you?! Clearly you have never been stuck on the red line due to single tracking while packed into a sardine can with 60 other human beings in the middle of July heat.
61 (you + 60) in a car isn’t bad at all, considering that they actually seat 64
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Old Dec 6, 19, 6:28 pm
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Originally Posted by jrl767 View Post
61 (you + 60) in a car isnít bad at all, considering that they actually seat 64
I didn't consider Polytonic's point about the single track issue when I extolled the Washington Metro in my OP, but this definitely comprises a chink in the armor.

Moving on, following is a comparison between the DC Red Line and Shanghai Line 2:
-3 minute intervals (Shanghai) are preferable to 15 minute intervals (DC during non peak times)
-forward facing seats (DC) are luxurious; this will never happen in China
-Metro Center is leaps and bounds better than People's Square or Nanjing West Road for transfers; the latter actually requires people to walk as much as 1000 meters above ground!
-Shanghai Line 2 has stations at both PVG and SHA; this is a pretty big carrot for HBO people who don't mind being VERY close to strangers
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Old Dec 6, 19, 7:23 pm
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Originally Posted by moondog View Post
I didn't consider Polytonic's point about the single track issue when I extolled the Washington Metro in my OP, but this definitely comprises a chink in the armor.

Moving on, following is a comparison between the DC Red Line and Shanghai Line 2:
-3 minute intervals (Shanghai) are preferable to 15 minute intervals (DC during non peak times)
-forward facing seats (DC) are luxurious; this will never happen in China
-Metro Center is leaps and bounds better than People's Square or Nanjing West Road for transfers; the latter actually requires people to walk as much as 1000 meters above ground!
-Shanghai Line 2 has stations at both PVG and SHA; this is a pretty big carrot for HBO people who don't mind being VERY close to strangers
Red line train intervals actually get worse than 15 minutes (closer to every half hour on weekends, depending on whether you are going to a terminus station).

Forward facing seats are great if you're a tourist. Not so great for commuters. I think the new cars being used on the silver line are much better, with the seating parallel to the train car (more standing/suitcase capacity).

I actually don't know anyone that transfers through Metro Center -- if you're going Red <-> Orange/Blue coming from NW, most people I know end up taking the hike between Farragut North/Farragut West. So you end up walking a couple blocks above ground in that case as well.

Anyway, I digress. I did not mean to derail this thread discussing the numerous faults I have with WMATA.
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Old Dec 6, 19, 8:15 pm
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Can't say I'm super well versed in metro systems across the globe, but I loved the train system in Japan, including the Tokyo metro.

The trains go everywhere. They're frequent, on time, and clean. And!! Suica / Pasmo / whatever cards. Amazingness. They work on the subway. They work on above-ground trains. They work all over the country in different metro areas. They work at vending machines. They work at convenience stores. Even some restaurants in the train stations. Don't have to worry about carrying around change or credit card acceptance or anything like that. Super practical.
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Old Dec 6, 19, 9:25 pm
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I enjoy seeing the mass transit in different locations I visit and will take the train/metro/subway whenever possible as I usually pack very light and have no troubles navigating the stations. I have quite the collection of contactless transit payment cards, hopefully contactless credit cards will become more accepted.

As OP mentioned the light rail at PDX is cheap and convenient. I also like the train to/from SEA as it can be faster than driving when traffic is heavy thought the hike across the parking structure is longer than I'd like.

Stockholm gets my vote for most impressive stations, Berlin for efficiency and connectivity to inter-city rail.
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Old Dec 6, 19, 10:26 pm
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Metro systems that have stood out in my experience:

Moscow- I could explore that system for days, marveling at the Socialist Realism and uniqueness of some of the older stations. Quite efficient system, too, though not terribly welcoming for non-Cyrillic readers. I picked up basic Cyrillic specifically for this metro system...ok, and for menus.

Pyongyang- stations are named after ideals, and also have beautiful artwork.

Mexico City- at every other station, it seems a new vendor/busker boards...not that I like it, but watching people's reactions can be entertaining. Practical icons representing individual stations, too (also in Guadalajara).

Hong Kong- the most overrated system. Rude locals, unnecessary tvs, always a logjam at the narrow gates, can't add just any amount to Octopus cards (at least with cash), ridiculous eating/drinking policy, etc.
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Old Dec 6, 19, 10:28 pm
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I like:
New York. They have express trains that bypass stations. Most subway systems don't have this. On the other hand, New York's subway looks very old.

Santiago de Chile. Very smooth ride on rubber tires but not the only subway with rubber tires (Paris, Montreal, Mexico City, and others have it, too)
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Old Dec 6, 19, 10:30 pm
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I don't know how anything can beat Paris (when they're not on strike, that is). The Paris Metro covers the city like a spiderweb. Inside the Blvd. Peripherique, you're never more than 10 minutes walk from a stop, at most. A lot of other cities have big holes in their rail coverage (e.g., London, DC, many other places). I also love their labyrinthine stations.
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Old Dec 6, 19, 11:52 pm
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Regarding tools, Citymapper is often the best if youíre in a city that they cover and you have internet (it works offline during the trip, but not otherwise). They actually send people to scout the walking distance between platforms, exits etc and take that into account when suggesting routes, as well as telling you which part of the train to board in order to be closest to your transfer/exit at the other end. As a result of the work involved in that level of detail, they only cover certain cities. Google Maps (or Apple Maps in China!) sorts out the rest.

For fully-offline Iíve found maps.me to be quite good, again, where it has public transit coverage.
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