Published on January 31st, 2008 | by Gavin Hudson


Public Transportation Around The World

bus.jpgDear Readers,

Yesterday, Pem Charnley asked for less rhetoric and more investment in public transportation.

This week, we are featuring articles on public transportation around the world.

With the auto industry taking heat for emissions, it’s important to look to other feasable alternatives to personal transit.

How far has any country come toward achieving a high-tech, fully integrated transportation system? Where do we need to improve? These are some of the questions we will seek to answer.

Please join the conversation and continue to check back during the days that follow as we explore public transportation around the world.

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About the Author

Gavin blogs from Zurich, Switzerland. His day job is Digital Media Communications Manager for ABB. Previously, he lived and worked in South Korea, blogging, editing and freelance writing for Green Options and PV Magazine. Gavin's favorite environmental work has included: co-founding the grassroots Nature Conservation Club at about age 8; interning for the Jane Goodall Insitute's Roots & Shoots (R&S) program; representing R&S at the World Social Forum VI in Caracas, Venezuela; volunteering at the Marine Mammal Center of Sausalito; being a research assistant for a CAL lab studying climate change in Colorado; bicycling lots.

11 Responses to Public Transportation Around The World

  1. Tim says:

    I love the snazzy new layout. Very sharp!

  2. Gavin Hudson says:

    Thanks, Tim! Yes, we’re putting on our best. 🙂

  3. I know people like to complain about the UK’s public transport, but I think Ken Livingstone has done a great job on this. The Oyster card makes journeys easy (and cheaper) and there are more buses on the roads. (I know, I use them. A lot.) In my experience the Tube runs pretty well too. But the trains are a mess. The private companies are making profits, but increasing prices while service is pretty wretched. Poor commuters, who tried to fight back on one line this week, refusing to buy fares to protest at the bad service.

    We don’t own a car, but that’s easy when you live centrally in a large city near good transport links. But another option that’s growing in the UK is car clubs. We have joined one and use it for occasional trips. It is an option that might even work in the US. It’s simple (you book by phone or online and your smartcard unlocks the car) and it’s cheap. Ours is just five pounds an hour. So no car payments, road tax/registration or insurance payments and no charge for petrol (unless you’re driving long distances). It really makes sense.

    We just tried out an even greener version in Paris, with bikes instead of cars. Velib’ looks to be a big success (now if they could just get motorists to behave politely!) By the way, the Eurostar train is fab and the links and train service in France was brilliant! I think other European countries can show the UK (and US) a thing or two about civilised train travel.

  4. Gavin Hudson says:

    Thank you, Miranda, for these inspired and excellent insights into your experiences with public transit!

  5. Mark Seall says:

    Hi Miranda,

    I would agree with you – public transport in London is pretty good. But in the rest of the UK – where the majority of people live – it’s pretty miserable..

  6. Gavin Hudson says:

    Still… I always think (whenever I’m taking PT in the country, which is often slower and less efficient), the best way to make public transit better is by providing my ridership… activism on the go? 🙂

  7. Rachel M. says:

    Miranda, car sharing clubs are on the rise in the U.S. too. I belong to Zipcar in San Francisco and completely agree with all the nice things you said about those clubs as a transportation option.

    Gavin, is anyone going to be writing about the public transit system in Delhi? I had some friends there this winter who all came back with pictures of their CNG buses and the new Metro system — seems like it’s a city that’s made noticeable strides in public transit in the last ten years.

  8. Speaking for the USA… I live in New York but used to live in San Francisco, and visited there again in December. They do better than most cities – gasoline buses, lots of electric buses, trolleys, cable cars, computerized subway, jitneys (privately run vans for public use), and now I see from Rachel M. that they are doing well with car sharing. New York City has a little of that … still just the very beginning. Hats off to San Francisco.

  9. Thanks all. Mark – agree totally re public transport outside London. We holiday in the UK a lot (usually without a hire car) so have a lot of experience on this one (with young children, which can make long waits at bus stops etc more trying for everyone!)

    Recently our big problem has been ‘special bus replacement services’ at weekends on train lines. Let’s get real – they need to remove the word ‘special’ immediately. Nothing special about it, especially when a train comes in on the opposite platform, so you have to get children and luggage up a flight of stairs, down again, then wait for the ‘special’ bus, which has no luggage space (or help with it). Not particularly special and obviously adds loads of time and hassle to a journey.

    We were in the Isle of Wight for the recent half-term and the busses were okay, but you had to wait a bit. A lady staying in our hotel (who lived locally) said they were cancelling several of her bus services.

    We have used the bus in Surrey, which can be a pain as they’re so infrequent. Still it seems it would be easier for people to get a bus to Guildford (for instance) instead of driving then fighting to find a parking spot.

    The price for the bus outside London is shocking. No wonder people drive!

    Agree re San Fran. I went twice many years ago and took public transport, which worked very well.

    And Rachel, great news about your Zip Car in San Fran. Car clubs ROCK! SO easy and the more people who join, the easier for all (as there will be more cars in more locations). The only problem we have is our car club car is many blocks away and with children you have car seats (or booster seats). My husband usually cycles to pick it up and we bung the seats in once it’s just outside our door, rather than schlepping two car seats half a mile.

    Cheers everyone!

  10. Pingback: What Issues Matter to You? : EcoWorldly

  11. Sue in MD says:

    We just returned from Switzerland and I believe (so do they) that they have one of the best public transportation networks in the world. Every town is connected to the train system by bus. The Swiss Post runs the inter-city bus service (delivering people and mail!) Each town has its own intra-city system. The SBB is well run and efficient. Recently, it has taken on contracts to run train service in the Italian Alps and the ICE service in Germany.

    For a about $800, our family of four got a pass that enabled us to ride for free on trains, buses, ferries and trams. Adults paid half price on mountain gondolas and funiculars. If you factor in the cost of renting a car, parking fees and gasoline, taking public transit in Switzerland is definitely the way to go.

    And we didn’t just travel to cities. We went deep into the Berner Oberland, near the Jura foothills to visit a farm. We spent a day in the Alps. We went to Lake Biel and Lake Lucern. We used every mode of transportation…except a car!

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