Metros around the World
Public transportation is important for someone who doesn’t drive (me!). But it’s also very important when visiting other countries. The best type of public transportation within a city (for me anyway) is the metro/subway/underground systems. And it’s always interesting to see the different kinds of underground systems each city has. When I was in LA, the metro was always kind of freaky for me. Not so well lit, and there was no ticket check for entry, so anybody could go on the metro hoping nobody comes around to check for tickets. Of course being the law-abiding risk-aversive person I am, I always bought a ticket, but in all the times I rode the metro there, I was never checked once for a ticket.
Then there’s New York City. When I was younger and the family was living in D.C. still, we would go to NYC for vacation sometimes. The impression I had of NYC subway was dirty, scary, and not well-lit. This past spring when I went to visit a friend in NYC, the same impression of the subway system remained. Their ticketing system was unlike LA, though. You had to have a ticket to get through into the platforms, but the trains were old and squeaky.
The metro in D.C. was a bit better. The stations were still pretty dark and depressing, but generally it was cleaner than the NYC subway. Their entry system was the same as NYC in that you had to have a ticket to get onto the platform. The trains were well-lit, but for some reason, I would always get motion-sickness when taking the D.C. metro. I think it’s because it tends to shake a lot, and after a while, the tummy is not happy. It didn’t help that a metro ride from D.C. to Rockville or White Flint took quite some time, so by the time I got out of the train and onto the platform, I’d always feel queasy. Not particularly fun.
One of my favorite metros that I’ve been on, though, is the one in Taipei (possibly biased choice, I know). But there’s a reason for that! It’s really clean considering how no food or drinks or gum chewing is allowed inside the station. If you get caught, they do fine you. Also it’s very well lit and has air conditioning, which is a blessing in the humid Taiwan summers. Entry into the station also requires tickets, and it’s pretty easy to figure out how to buy tickets. Side note: that was another complaint with the D.C. metro. The machines were … interesting. To get to the correct amount of money for the ticket (after you figure out if it’s rush hour or not), you have to use these buttons to add or subtract the cents. Yah. Touch screen machines are definitely easier for buying tickets. Anyway, back to Taipei MRT, the train rides are pretty smooth. You can stand without having to hold onto anything, which is good when there’s a bajillion people in the train and motion sickness isn’t a problem for me (phew).
Next! We have Brussels metro system. Different ticket entry system. You buy ticket, validate it when you’re going on the metro, and sometimes a controller comes around checking the tickets. The times I’ve been on, though, never saw a controller. But of course I still bought tickets. When I first got to Brussels, they were putting in new trains and renovating some parts, so it has a more updated and newish feel nowadays. Also, the interesting thing with the trains is that to open the doors when you get to a stop, you have to either push a button or pull on the door handles. In all the other metros, the doors open automatically. So when I first took the metro in Brussels and reached my stop, I was like, why isn’t the door opening?! Heh. Interesting first experience. But the metro in Brussels is also one that gives me motion sickness, possibly because the distance I used to take it was quite long. Also, no air conditioning, so it can be quite suffocating when it’s one of those rare hot days in Belgium.
Now I’m in Greece, and the other day took the Athens metro for the first time. It’s also got the same entry system as Brussels … ticket validation. The stations we were at were clean and well-lit and the trains, too. There was surprisingly very few people on the metro, though, especially when we got to the Acropolis stop. I mean, the stop in D.C. where the Smithsonian was located as always full of tourists. But at the Acropolis stop, there was maybe four or five people who got off. ‘Twas interesting.
And that is all the underground systems I can remember. Also went on the London Underground, but that was too long ago and have completely forgotten what it was like. Oh, and the Hong Kong metro. Can’t remember much as well, but the one thing that really struck me was the flow of the people walking through the stations. In Taipei, everyone is walking in all different directions causing absolute chaos, especially during rush hour, but in Hong Kong, even during rush hour, everything was so organized. One side for people going in one direction, and another side for the opposite direction the tourists ruining the flow. Heh. At least that was the impression I got at one station.
But yah, it’s fun exploring the different kinds of metro a city has to offer and maybe how it reflects the culture of the city to which it belongs.