The Top 11 Underground Systems

Virgin Vacations recently published a list of the Top 11 Underground systems from around the world. Berlin didn’t make it to the list – probably because our underground system does not cover the entire part of the city, even though it is replaced with a great system of metro trams and metro buses where it is not available.

In general the blog entry is really interesting because they manage to bring up all those cities where I have never been before and that’s kinda appealing.

What’s contradicting though is talking about an underground system and then general public transport, because there is a difference. And public transport is not just a subway.

I think in Berlin we can consider ourselves lucky to have the luxery of (a still affordable) public transportation with all lines covering a total distance of 2,104.4 kilometres and a virtually all-night-running-system. This is hard to match even for other metros.
Because for example, you find yourself in Paris after midnight with empty streets and nothing going anywhere.

In regard to the Top 11, made it to the #1 spot. I am not so sure I agree here. I’ve been there a few times and before being on time (oh, are they ever) London is so expensive. But then again, this is from a non-Londonian point of view. Everything is expensive there.

Then there is Paris for the number two. I Just have no idea why. Of course the stations are pretty, but there is not so much specialty involved. Also, labeling Paris to be the second oldest is not correct, because Budapest (even though it probably doesn’t match in size) has one of the oldest on the continent. I am not sure what is the oldest, but the opening of Budapest’s subway dates back to 18-hundred-something, whereas Paris’ is only roughly a 100 years old.

Moscow is in for the three – where I totally agree with the article – it is just huge. And some of the stations have this very touchy atmosphere: man with machine gun (“war against terror”) standing in the middle of the station which looks like a freaking ball room (can you say posh) – then homeless person – wearing 10 layers of clothes – in a corner. I think nowhere in the world do the oposites meet so close.

As far as Madrid is concerned. I don’t remember why they think it was so special. It sure comes on time, so much for the highlighting.

It’s not so surprising to see Tokyo on this list. Alas, I have never been there, but I sure know those scenes from documentaries where you have a packed train coming every two minutes or so.

Until now, I haven’t been to #6 – Seoul – either. (Note to myself: travel to Asia).

Then there is on the next spot. Where I toally agree. The system is affordable and trains come on time. You can go virtually go anywhere in the city. It’s surprising to see it rank only 7.

Then there is Montreal (didn’t even know they have a subway), Beijing, Hong Kong and São Paulo for the rest. All cities I have yet to visit.

Since I wrote about cities in general, here are some more links from around the network where people comment on what they think is best/better. A good read, especially for the Virgin folks.

5 Comments so far

  1. talk talk talk (unregistered) on March 14th, 2007 @ 4:14 pm

    Good analysis of the top 11 systems! You’re right in distinguishing between subways and public transit as a whole. Subways, for me, are part of the tourist attraction when I visit another city, whereas the public transit is just a cheap and easy way to get around…except for London’s double decker buses.

    Although Toronto has almost 1 million more people than Montréal, it’s not surprising that theirs was on the list but not ours, as Halai pointed out. Montréal has the benefit of governments that don’t withold funding out of jealousy (it’s chic for all Canadians to hate Toronto), a provincial government that funds public transit, and reasonable fares. Property taxes and fares have been the sole source of funds for Toronto’s system ever since the provincial government bailed out of the long-standing funding system over a decade ago. Fares are obscene here, and the subway is inadequate. It’s so bad, we’re squabbling over where the next subway line should go now that senior levels of government have discovered our need, sort of. Buses and streetcars also no longer cover the same number of km or at the same frequency as they once did. Still, unlike Paris, we do have all-night service, except for the subway.

  2. till (unregistered) on March 14th, 2007 @ 4:34 pm

    Didn’t know there is a rivalry between the two. But I guess that’s always the case between larger Metros in the same country.

    If you feel happy, I have been to Toronto and up on the tower (along when we went to Niagra Falls), but didn’t make it to Montreal or Vancouver…

    What strikes me though is, who gives a damn about virgin and why are we all commenting on their story? ;)

  3. Michael (unregistered) on March 14th, 2007 @ 9:42 pm

    Budapest’s line 1, or yellow line, was built around 1890, and is indeed the oldest underground line on the Continent. One of London’s lines is older, but as far as Hungarians are concerned at least, that doesn’t count as the Continent.

    So if you buy into that “continent” distinction, then Paris is the second oldest.

  4. till (unregistered) on March 15th, 2007 @ 12:27 am


    Thanks for clearing it up! I always thought Moscow’s was pretty old as well…

  5. Der Teilzeit-Berliner (unregistered) on March 16th, 2007 @ 8:50 am

    @Talk talk talk

    Montréal made it very likely because each of its 68 stations have its own style and because the metro runs on rubber tires as opposed to iron rail as on most other systems. This while Toronto constructed its own network on a “functionalist” perspective, including cars that were clones of the New York Subway instead of getting a unique design.

    The U-Bahn should have made it too though for its unique history of having been an international subway for 28 years, or if we prefer, from the moment the BVG was split in 1947.

    About the fares, it’s all about the level and quality of service. I gladly pay 70 euros for the BVG but the provide enough service for the price, whilst it’s not the case in many other cities.

    Also, nobody meant that buses stop running in Paris. It was just stated that contrary to our BVG, the RATP doesn’t run trains overnight on weekends.

    For pictures and more infos: (bilingual site)

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