Metros I have Used

[I realize that I start every post with an apology for being neglectful…Marta has been extremely prolific on the blog, and it’s inspired me to tack at the keyboard once more! Here’s a simple image post while I finish my other one :3 A comparison between three major cities in East Asia and home.]

Tokyo

 

Seoul

 

Hong Kong

 

Montreal


9 thoughts on “Metros I have Used

  1. OMG I can send the Hong Kong map to my brother-in-law when he moves there this year. Thanks Andrea. I don’t know ’bout you but le Metro à Montréal looks like a child’s board game in comparison. Now that you’ve probably rode on 3 out of 4 systems has any subway ticket taker asked (told) you to speak the local language when you communicate with them ? Just asking. And which one is 1) quieter 2) cheaper to ride 3) prettier 4) stays open past 12:30 in the morning 5) cleaner 6) keeps operating normally 7) ______________ fill in the blank .
    Just asking.

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    1. Oh wow! You’re brother is moving to HK? That’s awesome! Maybe you can go over for a visit and Marta and I can meet you there 😉

      Here’s a general breakdown of each of these metro systems:

      TOKYO
      Complexity:
      Very high
      Difficulty of Orienting Yourself:
      Rather low. Each station is labeled in both English and Japanese and numbered. The sheer number of subway lines can be daunting (add on top of that the JR train lines, which are above-ground trains criss-crossing in their own travel network), but with English announcements, tons of free metro maps, and a very efficient and organized system (metro comes often and punctually!), I was riding this subway all over Tokyo within the first day. Very easy once you get into it! (With the exception of Shinjuku Station…very busy and confusing place)
      Payment Method:
      Individual ticket, day pass, refillable debit card (PASMO or SUICA…they are interchangeable)
      Travel cost:
      I got a PASMO card, which cost $5, but you can get a refund for this deposit when you return the card at an appropriate ATM. The PASMO was very simple: just fill it with an amount of money, scan as you enter and exit the subway, and it will calculate the fare according to your route. You can also use this pass on the JR Trains and some shops. Depending on the length of the journey, trips cost me anything from $1.30 (metro from Asakusabashi to Otemachi) to $6 (Asakusabashi to Shinjuku by JR Train). You are also charged every time you transfer to another line, so cost will vary.
      Cleanliness:
      Spotless. Wow! I’ve never seen such a clean subway station. Not a single piece of litter on the tracks. The bathrooms are also very clean. Smaller stations will have squat toilets (a little scuzzy), whereas Roppongi Hills and other fancy neighbourhoods will have granite floors and automatic, electronic toilets.
      Noise Level:
      Somewhat noisy on the platform if people are talkative, and there are a lot of them. The metro cart itself rides very smoothly and quietly, and Japanese commuters tend not to speak at all, or very quietly, but be prepared to be squished at peak hours. No stinky homeless people on the metro, from what I saw.
      Hours:
      Last metro is usually around midnight, which can be inconvenient at times. Taxis are also quite expensive.

      SEOUL
      Complexity:
      Moderate
      Difficulty of Orienting Yourself:
      Low. The stations in Seoul are quadrilingual (Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, and English), including station placards, announcements, and electronic ticker boards in the metro cart. I haven’t seen any free paper maps in distribution, but there are plenty of maps posted on the mall, and they’re very clear. Because there are less lines, the Seoul Metro is a but more straightforward than in Tokyo.
      Payment Method:
      Individual ticket, day pass, refillable debit card (T-Money card, also available as a cellphone charm, which I bought after losing two cards…)
      Travel cost:
      Like the Tokyo PASMO card, just fill it with an amount of money, scan as you enter and exit the subway, and it will calculate the fare according to your route. You can also use this pass on the bus and some shops. Because it’s so simple getting in and out, I just mindlessly scan without paying much attention to the price…The bus in Wonju is $1.10 each ride, roughly, and the metro isn’t much more than that. Like in Tokyo, prices vary according to your trip.
      Cleanliness:
      Quite clean. Not as brand spanking new as the Tokyo metros seem to be, and there will be some litter here and there, but the tracks are clean (sliding glass doors keep passengers out until the train arrives), as is the platform. It looks like as clean and well-maintained as a metro can be with regular cleaning after a decade or so. So…not shiny and new, not dirty and old. Some stations are newer than others. They almost always have toilets, which have both squat toilets and Western toilet seats (sometimes only squat, though). They are average cleanliness, though squat toilets are always kind of gnarly…
      Noise Level:
      The metro cart itself runs really smoothly and quietly. You hardly need to hold the handles! But, there isn’t the same passenger orderliness as there is in Tokyo…generally people will let riders off before coming on, but don’t be surprised if they don’t and simply rush on instead. The passengers are generally quiet during the ride, but people talk more openly in Korea, especially on the phone. Something like a New York subway ride, but cleaner and with less shady people.
      Hours:
      Last metro is usually around midnight, I think. Taxis in Seoul are expensive by Korean standards ($4 for a short trip in Wonju, something like $10 for the same trip in Seoul), but that being said, it’s still much cheaper than in Montreal!

      HONG KONG
      Complexity:
      Low-Moderate
      Difficulty of Orienting Yourself:
      Unfortunately, I was last here 10 years ago, so things must have changed since then. My memory is also very hazy…I do remember one time getting an error while scanning my card, effectively trapping me in the station (it was on my way out), and when I asked a clerk for assistance, he did not know English at all. In contrast, in Tokyo I was in the exact same situation, and while the clerk in the booth couldn’t converse with me in English, he seemed to understand the words I was saying and, very straight to the point, took my card and rectified the error. I’ve also been helped in Tokyo by clerks who spoke some English and explained things to me. I imagine that by now, Hong Kong will have services at a similar level. I’d be disappointed if they didn’t! I do remember the announcements being in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English, with English signs.
      Payment Method:
      Individual ticket, day pass (?), refillable debit card (Octopus card, also available in a huge range of cool gadgets like watches, key chains, cellphone charms, cellphone cases, bracelets, etc!)
      Travel cost:
      I don’t remember the fares at all, and they must have changed by now, but the Octopus system was pretty much exactly like the Japanese PASMO/SUICA and Korean T-Money: just fill it with an amount of money, scan as you enter and exit the subway, and it will calculate the fare according to your route. You can also use this pass on the bus and certain shops and restaurants (perhaps also the ferry?). I don’t think it was that expensive, from what I recall…
      Cleanliness:
      Hmmm…don’t remember it being very dirty. Like in Korea, tracks are enclosed with glass doors, and some even had flatscreen TVs on the tunnel walls for passengers to occupy themselves as they waited. Train arrivals were announced and came very frequently, every few minutes.
      Noise Level:
      I don’t remember at all, but if Cantonese-speakers are as they’ve always been, they will talk very loudly and emphatically. About everything. They’re a lively bunch!
      Hours:
      Not quite sure…the taxis here were not too expensive from what I remember. Not as cheap as mainland China or Wonju, but probably not as expensive as Tokyo.

      MONTREAL
      Complexity:
      Low
      Difficulty of Orienting Yourself:
      Given how simple the metro system is, very easy…if you know French well enough to understand the metro announcements. Even if you know French, they’re too garbled to make out anyway. At least the stations all have visible name signs…even if tourists don’t always know how to pronounce them.
      Payment Method:
      Individual ticket, day pass, ticket bundles, Opus Card (worst card ever!)
      Travel cost:
      Taking the train is about $5 a ticket for a student. I think it was maybe $87 a month for a Zone 2 train/bus/metro pass (student rate)? Anyway, the Opus card is stupid. You can put tickets on it, and monthly/weekly/daily passes…but it doesn’t differentiate between tickets. I once had both bus/metro and train tickets on it, used it on the metro, and it instead deducted the (much more expensive) train ticket instead of the STM ticket…Also, you apparently can’t mix public transit agencies on it, even though the Opus card covers all of Montreal and its surrounding areas. Would never let me add bus tickets for Chambly because I already had a West Island pass on it…so I would have to buy a second Opus card. Wtf?! Also need to re-issue your student card every year. What a hassle.
      Cleanliness:
      Montreal metro stations are filthy. Tracks like landfills. Pungent urine smells, drunken homeless people. Abandoned McDonald’s bags and half empty cups of soda rolling all around the cart, making everything sticky. These stations are decades old and look, feel, and smell it. Also, bathrooms? What bathrooms? The metro is the bathroom.
      Noise Level:
      Noisy, ear-piercing shriek whenever the metro car pulls up. Loud in the cart, steep braking, passengers who can be very loud and drunk/screechy/angry/pervy depending on the crowd.
      Hours:
      Last metro is around midnight, same with the train. Taxis are expensive as hell, especially after moving to Korea. A taxi from Downtown Montreal to the West Island is roughly $80, and the same distance from Wonju to Munmak is $18!

      If Montreal does have one thing above all the others, it’s that no other metro system has such beautiful art in it. Tile mosaics, astonishing stain glass, bizarre hanging lights, fantastic musicians filling the grimy cavernous tunnels with rich music…I miss buskers, I really, really do! I’ll always remember slide-guitar guy at Guy-Concordia station.

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      1. Love slide guitar guy. So bluesy. Also I miss stumpy (for non-Montrealers: the topless, belligerent, one-armed veteran of the Guy-Concordia metro who often told students off and used the up escalators as his urinal…while there were people in front of and behind him. Almost like a warning of what happens to Concordia Arts kids).

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  2. I’ve been lucky to have used some of the major ones- London, NYC, Paris, shanghai, HK etc, as well as some minor ones eg Rennes. London remains my absolute favorite, and Tokyo is the most complex

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