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The New York Times published an article today commemorating the 100th anniversary of the subway in New York. Although not the world's oldest subway, New York's is very efficient and the most reliable form of transportation in the city. (Don't bother driving a car in NYC)

Anyone have any memories of subway encounters or stories that they want to share? Also what do you think of the subways in various cities around the world?

1) London (first opened- 1863)

2) New York (first opened - 1904)

3) Tokyo (first opened - 1927)

4) Hong Kong (first opened - 1979)

I last rode Hong Kong's in 1983 and was quite impressed. Very clean. But that was then. Never rode Tokyo's, but heard its standards are slightly better than Hong Kong's.

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I am maybe a bit biased, but I think HK's subway is among the best in the world in terms of efficiency, prices, cleanliness, etc. I think we have been spoiled by its high standard of service and become very intolerant of even the slightest delays. Recently there have been frequent accidents / delays which probably were due to aging of the subway system. Hope it will maintain its standards.

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Subway experience:

(1) London:

You feel like going back to the age of Sherlock Holmes. Subway fare awfully expensive. Can't stand the kind of cushion material for seat. If a toddler shi-shi on it and you sit right after, guarantee that you got the stinky smell for the whole day. Not too safe owing to old age. But still safer than the British Railroad.

(2) NYC:

Graffiti all over everywhere. Very scary to ride during night time.

(3) Tokyo:

Small platform. Small stairway. No escalator and no elevator. Very user-unfriendly. Easily get confused since some lines are operated by the municipal government while some others by conglomerates which you have to pay for different tickets when you transfer. Extremely congested during rush hour.

(4) Seoul:

Good experience with a young pretty offfice lady yielding seat to me and offering to hold my shopping bags.

(5) Mexico City:

Greatest deal in the world. Ten pesoes per ride to everywhere when I rode in the '70s. After the Great Depreciation of the early '80s when Peso fell to 2,200:US$1, the ride still cost 10 Pesoes. Great scruplture on every station platform.

(6) Shanghai:

Very modern. But worry about those passengers from rural area who squat awfully close to the track during waiting.

(7) Hong Kong:

Still very modern after 20+ years in operation though there are now frequent minor technical hiccups. And it is the only Mass Transit System in the world that makes big profits while all others are losing big bucks.

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I like Tokyo's subway system very much. Of course this depends on which line you take and which stations you get on/off. The newer stations are very modern, clean, and bright.

I also like HK's subway system. It's not as widespread as Tokyo or London. But very efficient. I found most subway stations to be rather dark.

London, like Tokyo it is very massive. Yes, pricey. The downside is that it can be unreliable. Often lines will break down. Also they have way too many catwalk strikes, meaning they can happen anytime. But using the tube to get around in London is very convenient.

Shanghai is okay. Not so massive.

Beijing is okay. I used it a few times and it seems underutilized.

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Amsterdam: don't bother, network is way too small. Better take a bus or tram (dianche).

Beijing is ok, although also not that big, but they're planning to expand the network a lot before the Olympics.

Taipei: Often quite crowded, and they should build a circle line, that would save a lot of changing trains. But for the rest ok, not expensive, you never have to wait long, and I haven't encountered any delays so far.

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Technically speaking, Taipei's mass tranist system is not subway. It is elevated Light Rail.

In Hong Kong/Tokyo, as in contrary to London/NYC, the Railroad serves dual role: inter-city transportation as well as intra-city commuting. KCR and JR in the latter serve as supplementary or even dominant partner to the subway.

The JR Yamanote loop line in Tokyo covers the most important sections of the city.

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I´ve tried the following











Hong Kong



and enjoyed them all. Next month I´ll try the new Bangkok subway. :clap

Did the trans-siberian four times in the -80´s.

I´ve always loved to travel by train and undergrounds as well as skytrain systems (there´s one in Bangkok)

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Since this is a Chinese forum, I'll start with:

1) Shanghai. Had a funny experience the first time I rode it. I paused briefly at the fare gate because I didn't know if it was going to return the nice commemorative card or swallow it. Behind me in the queue was a couple, irritated by my indecision, and I heard the male half of the couple mutter "xiangxiaren". (I am a 6'+ laowai with a full red beard.) In 2002 I rode all three lines end to end for no particular reason. Modern and worked quite well in my experience.

2) Hong Kong. I also rode all the lines that existed there in 1997, and was one of the first few Octopus card users. Good coverage, and some of the longest pedestrian tunnels (usually leading to shopping malls) outside of airports. How far is the walk from Wan Chai (or is it Causeway Bay) to the Times Square mall? The transfer at Admiralty station is quite a sight to see, too.

3) New York. My first, and still my favorite, for its combination of coverage density and speed. My daughter lives in "suburban" Queens but it's under four minutes from her subway stop to Grand Central station.

4) Montreal. Rubber-tired vehicles, almost noiseless. Amazing underground pedestrianway network serving subterranean shopping malls (appreciated in the Arctic winter conditions).

5) Toronto. Just a skeletal, horseshoe-shaped system. Only a few decades old, but looking as worn as systems twice its age.

6) San Francisco (BART). Essentially designed to serve suburban commuters, but now provides a fast and convenient way to get from downtown to the San Francisco Airport.

7) Vancouver. (OK, it's elevated light rail, but interesting because it's a driverless system.) Essentially serves only one suburban commute corridor, plus Canada's second largest shopping mall.

8) Chicago. Elevated commuter rail, but serves some intra-city travel. I don't recall much about it, it's been 40 years+ since I rode it.

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Washington DC: Nice and clean, brings you to the tourist spots, not so cheap if you're a communter, occasional craziness (usually during the summer) like someone setting fire to something and trains being backed up for hours.

NYC. What a great system. You're not going to get robbed on it... It'll take you EVERYWHERE you need to be within like 3-4 blocks. If you know the system you can do amazing train switching things to cut travel times in half. not so clean.

Tokyo: nice and clean. Not cheap. If you're doing sightseeing you can easily blow through a bunch of cash. Transfers are hard at first (because you didn't buy the right kind of transfer ticket). Good coverage though.

HK: nice and clean. Quick. Got me where I wanted to go. I liked it.

Guangzhou. Not a huge system, but pretty decent.

Beijing: who called it underutilized? It's always packed. some lines aren't connected (line 13 to line 2) and there's such a swarm of people the experience is just not very good. relatively clean for beijing.

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Beijing - been on it a few times only. Was really impressed by the primitive paper tickets. I suppose it has improved/progressed?

Shanghai - relied on it whenever I was in Shanghai (either this or taxis). It is OK IMO, but one has to walk for at least 5 minutes for the connection between the two lines and it is usually 人山人海. Am not very happy with the trains' frequency and the ventilation in the stations.

Guangzhou - good system. The chip-like smart-card ticket is especially impressive. Also, I was surprised by the Cantonese announcements (I had thought that Cantonese was not used in the Mainland on official occasions).

Singapore - I suppose it is a good system. But I only remember the bad things about it - short running time even on new year eve, and a deposit is required for the smart-card ticket, and you have to get back the deposit by returning the ticket after the train ride. They really should learn from the Guangzhou system in this respect. Or perhaps it has improved?

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I suppose it has improved/progressed?


No. The new lines (well, the only one that's open) is using a little magnetic card which you put through the machine on the way in and out. The old ones are still using the little paper tickets - buy them from one blue-uniformed woman, then give it to another blue-uniformed woman 10 seconds later.

There isn't even any '10 trips in one ticket' or anything. There are monthly tickets, but you have to be able to prove your ancestors bones are in the Great Wall or something to get one. You aren't even meant to buy a load of tickets at once, but I do anyway.

The funny thing is that on the new line, they employ just as many people to show people how to use the 'automatic' barrier as they do to take your ticket off you on the old lines.


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(2) NYC:

Graffiti all over everywhere. Very scary to ride during night time.

They got rid of the graffiti years ago. I don't think I've ever seen a subway car with graffiti on it since 1997. The best thing about the system is that it runs 24 hours a day. There are certain neighborhoods where it might be scary at night, but on the whole, it's pretty good.

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Beijing: if it has a magnetic card system for the new line 13 now, then it has improved. Last year they had the uniformed women who took your ticket on line 13, too.

Taipei: true, it's not called subway but MRT, and part of it is elevated lightrail, but a lot is under the ground, which qualifies it for a subway, imho.

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Most people have already said what I have to say about the Chinese subways (Taipei, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong and Singapore) - but Hong Kong's is actually my favorite one in the entire world. I'd like Singapore more, but it just seems like there's too much time between trains (maybe the MTR has spoilt me).

So I'm going to mention Moscow's. Clean, huge stations which are works of art. In 1991, rides were 10 rubles - less than 1 US cent. I dropped about 10 tokens into a grate and just kept walking.

The stations were built really deep too because they were nuclear shelters.

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But there is only one problem with the subway (MTR) in Hong Kong -- there is no public restrooms in any of the stations (except the stations on the airport route).

It used not to be a big problem when the travel duration was much shorter. But after more new lines were constructed in recent years and the commuting time gets longer and longer, it becomes at least a problem for me after two cups of coffee.

Strangely for the railroad (KCR), there is restroom in every station.

I oppose the idea of the merger of the two mass transit systems because the new company management may abolish all the restrooms in the stations. :nono

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But there is only one problem with the subway (MTR) in Hong Kong -- there is no public restrooms in any of the stations (except the stations on the airport route).

I remember going to the restroom in one of hk's subway stations, I don't remember which station it was though.

No restrooms in most subway stations anyways.

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Here in Madrid we have an excellent subway system, no doubt one of the best ones in Europe. However, there's also the problem of the lack of toilets. Over the last few years the network has been expanded to include some distant suburbs, thus increasing the average time of a trip, and the local newspapers have expressed concerns about this absence of toilets. The local authorities say that maintaining toilets in the stations is expensive, and they don't seem very keen on the idea.

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Actually, there are toilets in every MTR station. If you ask the station attendants, they'll open them for you. I agree that they need public toilets in at least the big transit stations, though.

Somebody mentioned that Hong Kong's KCR and MTR both turn a profit. That is not really true for the MTR. The MTR Corporation is profitable only because they get a sort of subsidy from the government every time they build a new line or station. The government gives them development rights for the land above and around the stations. Many of the housing developments around MTR stations are owned and managed by the MTRC. If they weren't into property development, I doubt they could make a profit.

The KCR, on the other hand, makes a decent profit doing nothing but rail transport.

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