I love subways. (I realize this whole blog is starting to sound like an ode to the crazy stuff I am into, and I feel like if you don’t know me personally you might think I’m pretty odd. Of course, if you know me personally, you know that’s straight up true.) If you have visited my homes in the grad school and professor-pre-Don days, you would have seen my giant NYC Subway map shower curtain (thanks, JSno!) and the matching decor of framed subway/metro/water bus [I’m talking about you, Venice]/other public transit maps from places I’ve been. Now that I’m married to Don, my public transit map collection has gone from framing the maps I’ve literally taken from the info booths in these subways to a set of design-y, artist-generated versions (mostly courtesy of Don – it’s how we compromise on this ridiculous collection of mine).
So of course there was always going to be a post about the Seoul subway system.
Seoul allegedly has the longest metro system by length (which seems crazy to me – longer than Tokyo’s, with its mixed up jumble of a million different rail lines?! Or what about NYC, with all those branches stretching up through Manhattan into the Bronx, or out to Queens and Brooklyn?) and also one of the world’s best.
World’s best did not surprise me. Trains were efficient, fast, clean, air-conditioned, incredibly well-signposted (I had no problems getting around on my own, whereas I always feel a little disoriented and lost going somewhere without my trusty-tourguide/translator Don for the first time in Tokyo).
Trains stop at the precise same spot, so you always know exactly where the doors will open, and those spaces are marked on floor of the platform. With the numbers of the car and the door marked on each spot, so you can plan to meet up in the same car with friends getting on at different stations. We did this when joining some additional family members for dinner, and it worked easily.
The signs also indicate whether the specific door leads to the priority seating (for elderly, pregnant women, parents with small children, or anyone with mobility issues) ends of the car, whether it’s bicycle-appropriate car, or wheelchair accessible.
And on most of that stations, including all the underground ones and any in central Seoul, there are glass walls along the tracks, with doors that only open once the train has come to a complete stop, as you can see in the photo above.
(Seriously, the various Tokyo lines might think about doing that. A few stations have it, but not all. Apparently, suicide by train is not uncommon in Tokyo. In an attempt to discourage it, the surviving family is fined (perhaps also for the disruption to train service, and – please excuse the graphic – but the maintenance required as well). However, some lines charge a greater fine than others – so apparently, the cheaper lines have become more popular for this act, to put less of a burden on the surviving family. Walls would be a much more reliable fix to the whole tragic thing.)
The information at each station is very helpful too: there are always clear signs indicating what station you are at (especially useful when you are ON the train and trying to remember if this is your stop or not), the station from which the train just came, and its next stop. (As well as an arrow to further clarify direction).
And of course there are the endless vending machines to provide nourishment and hydration while you wait.
There are also emergency kit booths scattered throughout the bigger, more central stations. Obviously, even with many of these in each station, there wouldn’t be enough supplies for everyone during rush hour, but it’s at least a start, and more than I’ve seen in any other subway (of course, being in CA, I don’t get a lot of public transportation these days, so maybe it’s standard in all big cities and I’ve just not noticed).
And a little love for our station!