November 5, 2013
We all want to get places faster, cheaper...and cleaner. Travel and commuting are parts of busy lifestyles and some cities have taken measures to make it much easier, and the journey more enjoyable, for their passengers.
Whether it’s WiFi on the subway so you can check your emails, smartcards so queues don’t back up, or eco-friendly designs, all these measures on public transport make a difference in people’s lives. Here’s a look at 7 cities where smart decisions are keeping a better life on track.
SAN FRANCISCO — Public transport in the city famed for its cable cars is being modernized after more trains and buses were added, with brand new railcars to be up and running in 2015.
The city has developed no less than 60 apps to make getting around very easily; these include help for the visually impaired to navigate through traffic, as well as tips for bikers and pedestrians for choosing the best route. Since 2008, the district has been adding Library-a-Go-Go vending machines to stations, allowing passengers to borrow and return books on their commute.
SEOUL — The Seoul subway has been voted consistently as one of the best in the world for its ease of use, cleanliness, and frequency of service. Trains run non-stop approximately from 5:30 am until midnight every day.
Seoul subway also introduced the world's first commercially used contactless smart card, called Upass, and advanced technology such as 4G and WiFi among others accessible in all stations and subway cars. Most trains have digital TV screens and all of them have climate-controlled seats installed that are automatically heated in winter.
In order to cope with all of these transportation modes, Seoul's metropolitan government employs several mathematicians to coordinate the subway, bus, and traffic schedules into one timetable.
RIYADH — The Saudi capital is set to begin construction early in 2014 of a new metro network that will encompass over 176 kilometers of train lines and 85 stations, linking the city center to universities, the airport, a newly built financial district and commercial areas.
The first trains are slated to be up and running in 2019, , reports CNN. The public transport project will be the world's biggest, employing tens of thousands of people for its construction, according to developers.
Zaha Hadid Architects will build the King Abdullah Financial District station, one of the flagship interchange stops along Line 1. With six platforms spread over four floors, and linking three of the new lines, the architects hope it will provide a multifunctional public space.
According to the architectural firm, the white facade of the station will reduce heat from the punishing desert sun, while the undulating lines of the building are meant to resemble the patterns generated by desert winds on sand dunes.
Photo by Mariordo
CURITIBA — The first bus rapid transit system (BRT) in the world was the Integrated Transportation Network in this Brazilian city, back in 1974. Initially consisting of dedicated bus lanes ("carriles de buses") in the center of major arterial roads, in 1980 the Curitiba system added a feeder bus network and inter-zone connections — before introducing off board fare collection, enclosed stations, and platform level boarding in 1992.
Other Brazilian cities’ systems made further innovations, including the platooning of buses (having three buses entering and leaving bus stops and traffic signals at once) in Porto Alegre, and the introduction of passing lanes and express service in São Paulo.
MEDELLIN — The Metro de Medellín is a network of clean and efficient metro cars that serves over half a million people every day in Colombia’s second biggest city. This system saves the city 175,000 tons of CO2, $1.5 billion in respiratory health costs and $4 billion in reduced traffic accidents and congestion annually.
Part of the system is the cable system which brings passengers up steep mountainsides that line the Valley of Medellín. Before these cable cars, the residents of the favelas along the mountainside had to brave going down the mountainside by either infrequent and unreliable buses or spending hours going by foot.
This new transport system in the city Pablo Escobar once ruled over has revitalized some communities that had been terrorized by narcos and civil unrest.
LANZHOU — Lanzhou implemented several sustainable transport measures in 2013. The Lanzhou bus system opened in January, and already carries 150,000 passengers daily. The system has been nominated for the ITDP Sustainable Transport Award in 2014.
It features a revolutionary new station design, with buses in the same direction stopping on both sides of a platform. This offers roughly the same capacity as that of a traditional offset BRT station, but with half the station length and only around one extra meter in width. Parking reforms, bike sharing, and Transit-oriented development are also featured.
PARIS — The Paris Metro is both the second-most heavily trafficked subway system in the world, carrying 4.5 million people daily, and the one with more stations closer to one another than any other system: 245 stations in only 41 square kilometers.
It also uses a contactless smartcard system called Navigo, which incorporates rail, bus, metro and tram, integrated in 2001. The whole region becomes de-zoned at the weekend, meaning anyone with a valid Navigo pass can travel within the five zones without extra charges.