The quality of public transportation in your area can have an outsized influence on your quality of life.
You might visit the beach or a museum on the weekend, but your daily commute to work is unavoidable (unless you’re still mostly working from home, of course). The ideal city should have a public transport network that takes you anywhere you want to go with minimal wait times.
Sick of driving or waiting for a bus that never arrives? Then it’s time to download a trip planner and get ready to explore these 8 cities with the world’s most efficient and extensive public transit systems.
Tokyo’s dizzying public transport system consists of an extensive train, subway, bus and tram network.
The subway and train network is famously punctual – delay certificates are issued on the rare occasion a train is late so commuters can submit them to their bosses or teachers. In fact, an apology was issued by a Japanese rail company when one of its trains departed 20 seconds early! The level of cleanliness in trains is also exceptional due to the discipline of the local population as well as thorough cleaning procedures.
In spite of its efficiency and cleanliness, Tokyo’s train and subway system is fairly affordable, with a single Tokyo Metro ticket about costing 170 to 320 yen depending on distance travelled. For all these reasons, Toyko’s is definitely one of the best public transport networks around.
2. Hong Kong
The star of Hong Kong’s public transport system is its subway, the Mass Transit Railway (MTR). The MTR’s 10 lines, a light rail network and buses cover virtually all of Hong Kong’s urban sprawl, with one of the MTR lines taking passengers all the way to Shenzhen in Mainland China.
The MTR works like an exceptionally clean, well-oiled machine, with the average train frequency ranging from two to under four minutes, befitting the fast-paced lifestyle of this city that usually never sleeps. Best of all, a single trip costs only 4.80 to 27 HKD with an Octopus Card.
The London Underground, also known as the Tube, has become a bit of an icon, with its logo being a common feature on tourist trinkets and the familiar warning to “mind the gap” spawning an eponymous card game.
The Tube offers access to almost every corner of the city, with a dense network of 11 Tube lines and 270 stops. A 2014 report indicated that 94 percent of London homes were within 1,500 metres of a station.
While beloved, the Tube does have a few drawbacks. Trains are occasionally late, and lines close not infrequently for maintenance. Like most things in London, it is also quite pricey, with the starting price for single-trip tickets being about £2.40.
Much of the world has only become aware of South Korea in the last 15 years, and the excellent Seoul Metro is similarly underrated. This extensive subway system operates nine lines covering most of the city, as well as numerous special lines to selected destinations such as Incheon Airport.
Other than exceptional cleanliness and modern stations, the Seoul Metro can also add punctuality to its list of strong points – 99.9 percent of trains arrive on time. As an added perk, passengers get to enjoy free Wi-Fi as they travel. That’s a steal, considering single ticket base fares start from just 1,350 won (about $1.20 USD).
In 2020, Singapore’s public transport system saw an average daily ridership of 5.04 million – pretty impressive in a country with a population of just 5.8 million. The backbone of the system is the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), which currently consists of six lines as well as two smaller Light Rapid Transit lines serving suburban areas, with more stops and lines in the works.
If everything goes according to plan, 80 percent of homes should be within 10 minutes’ walking distance of a station by 2030. For those that aren’t, there are numerous bus services that connect to MRT stations.
Other than the extreme cleanliness of the MRT trains and stations, another shocker is the low prices, considering the notoriously steep cost of living in the island country – single ticket MRT fares are just $1.70 to $2.80 SGD.
6. New York City
New York City’s subway and bus system – run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) – has the most stations in the world. While the trains may have a sordid reputation for at times harbouring rats, unpleasant odours and the like, they connect every corner of the city. A real workhorse, New York’s public transport operating 24/7 and enabling late-night commuters to avoid forking out the cash for a cab.
Subway fares paid using a MetroCard cost $2.75 USD, while single ticket rides cost $3 USD. That’s pretty darned reasonable, considering the subway’s connectivity and the oft-astronomical cost of living in New York City.
Virtually every corner within the Paris’s periphery is within comfortable walking distance of a Metro station. In fact, Metro stations are so close together that walking between most neighbouring stations generally takes less than 15 minutes. The Metro system is complemented by the RER and bus lines, which connect to the suburbs.
Of course, nothing in life is perfect, and it is common to experience delays due to technical issues or strikes. On the bright side, the public transit network is so dense that you can usually walk to a station on the another line to avoid delays.
Berlin’s public transport system is as efficient as one might expect based on the stereotypes. The city is served by the S-Bahn and U-Bahn rapid transit systems, as well as tram, bus and ferry networks.
Unlike public transport networks in many major cities, Berlin’s remains relatively free of overloading during rush hour thanks to the popularity of bicycles, except during the occasional strike. Single ticket prices start from 1.90 EUR, which is on the pricey side but worth it considering how comfortable the ride is likely to be.
By Joanne Poh, June 2021