Top ten cities with best public transit systems

These ten public transportation systems, in random rather than top-to-bottom order, are among the world’s best. The transit systems profiled here include some of the most impressively massive as well as some of the best-scaled urban transportation systems. Today’s focus is on international public transit systems; as such, the better US public transit systems (New York, Chicago, and Portland, among others) are not included.

1. Curitiba, Brazil. The capital of Brazil’s southern Paraná province has a widely emulated public transportation system consisting exclusively of buses running on dedicated lanes, all of which utilize bus shelters (see above). The system prizes simplicity. There is a single price for tickets. The network is estimated to be used by a remarkable 85% of the population.

2. Moscow, Russia. If you take the metro to work in Moscow, you don’t really have an excuse for being late. The sheer reliability and frequency of Moscow’s metro system makes it among the world’s best. The city’s metro system also features a number of ornately beautiful stations. Some stand-out stations include Mayakovskaya, Kiyevskaya, and Kropotkinskaya.

3. Vienna, Austria. Vienna’s public transportation system is a favorite for tourists in part due to its iconic red streetcars, which have become a symbol of the city. The city’s five U-Bahn (subway) lines join 30 streetcar lines and over 80 bus lines in blanketing the city with transit options.

4. Hong Kong. The public transportation system in this crowded metropolis absorbs most of its residents’ transportation needs. Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway takes the lion’s share of traffic. Fares are paid via a smart card known as an Octopus Card, which can be used to charge transactions in all sorts of non-transit venues.

5. Munich, Germany. Bavaria’s biggest city boasts a very comprehensive multi-pronged public transportation system, which consists of an U-Bahn (subway), S-Bahn (commuter rail), an inner-city tram network, and buses. Munich’s transit systems is efficient and its range is broad.6. Seoul, South Korea. The famously user-friendly public transportation system is centered on an integrated metro-bus system. It’s very contemporary throughout and extremely useable for visitors, with English language announcements and Wi-Fi access soon to be rolled out on subway trains.

7. London, United Kingdom. The Tube is pilloried by many who ride it on a daily basis, and in fact has a number of structural problems that render certain lines slow and not particularly user-friendly. At the same time, it has an awe-inspiring range. London is also well-served by buses, a light rail, and ferries for cross-Thames travel.

8. Paris, France. Parisians benefit from a multi-level public transportation system: the Métro (subway), commuter train (RER), bus, and the tram system. The most recent addition to the transportation system is a tramway covering the city’s periphery. Paris boasts an incredible density of underground stations.

9. Copenhagen, Denmark. The Danish capital’s highly regarded public transportation system includes a driverless metro network. The metro’s two lines are fully automated and run 24 hours a day. A major metro extension is due to debut in 2018. Buses and commuter trains fill in the blanks.

10. Tokyo, Japan. Tokyo’s public transportation system includes a subway network, light rail lines, and bus lines. The system features enormous numbers of riders, high-tech displays, and remarkably user-friendly features throughout. The subway system is also incredibly clean, and as such stands apart from most other well-used public transportation systems.

(Image: xander76 / Flickr)

Toilet bomber fails in Denmark

A man has been detained in what’s being called a suicide bombing attempt. Injured in the blast, the suspect is believed to have tried to ignite the bomb in the Jorgensens Hotel in Copenhagen, with the toilet being the scene of the (alleged) crime. He sustained injuries on his face and arms. Police picked him up in a park, where he’s said to have run following the blast.

The low-cost hotel is on Israel’s Square, in the center of Copenhagen. It’s also located close to Norreport Station.

Little is known about the man’s identity, though he is said to have carried papers from two countries. Also, his intended target hasn’t been established conclusively yet, but the newspaper Ekstra Bladet, is believed to have been a possibility.

[photo by jemsweb via Flickr]

Top five cities for taxi drivers (and the bottom end, too)

When you step into a cab, you never know what you’re going to find. The driver could be knowledgeable, helpful, pleasant and safe. Or, he could lead you into a fender-bender in minutes. It’s a real roll of the dice, of course, though some cities’ cabbies are certainly better than others – at least that’s what found.

In a study of world’s taxi drivers, found that London’s are tops. But, you get what you pay for: London‘s taxis were also the most expensive. New York came in second, with 27 percent of the vote (compared to London’s overwhelming 59 percent). New York’s drivers ticked up 10 percentage points, but this still wasn’t enough to break the tie it scored with Paris for having the rudest cabbies. Rome picked up the dubious distinction of having the worst drivers.

Tokyo (26 percent), Berlin (17 percent) and Bangkok (14 percent) round out the world’s top five.

Madrid took sixth, followed by Copenhagen, Dublin, Frankfurt and Paris. So, Denmark may be happier, but Spain has better cab drivers.

Of course, there’s always one you should look out for …

[photo by Ben Fredericson via Flickr]

Weekend travel media top five: July 24-25, 2010

This weekend’s best travel stories include a run through Hungary’s Tokaj wine district, a pilgrimage to horsey Chincoteague, Virginia, a family vacation in England’s Isles of Scilly, a guide to Europe’s top cycling cities, and a tribute to the many charms of Saskatchewan.

1. In the New York Times, Evan Rail does an oenophile tour of Hungary’s Tokaj wine trail (see photo), with great dining and lodging notes.

2. In the Los Angeles Times, Jay Jones visits Chincoteague, Virginia to watch the annual Chincoteague pony migration. Misty’s smiling, somewhere.

3. In the Independent, actress Jane Horrocks sings the praises of the improbably subtropical English Isles of Scilly.

4. In the Guardian, there’s a useful team-authored piece on biking in Europe’s best biking cities: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Copenhagen, London, and Paris.

5. In the Globe and Mail, D. Grant Black emphasizes Saskatchewan’s sexy side in an entertaining article about the province’s many lures.

(Image: Flickr/urbanlegend)

Ghost Forest brings attention to rainforest threat

A Ghost Forest is stalking Europe.

Giant trees from Ghana have appeared in Copenhagen, Trafalgar Square in London, and now Oxford. It’s called the Ghost Forest Art Project, and it’s an innovative way to bring the plight of the world’s rainforests to public attention.

Artist Angela Palmer wanted to share her concern with the public about tropical rainforests, which are disappearing fast. An area the size of a football pitch vanishes every four seconds, and most are never replaced. Not only does this reduce biodiversity and nature’s way of absorbing atmospheric carbon, but it leads to soil erosion and long-term economic problems. Since Europe is a major consumer of rainforest wood, and there are no rainforests in Europe, Palmer decided to bring the rainforest to Europe.

She hauled a collection of stumps from the commercially logged Suhuma forest in western Ghana all the way to Europe. Ghana lost 90 percent of its forest due to overlogging before the government got serious about conservation. Now the remaining forest is being logged in a sustainable manner under strict supervision. The stumps mostly fell due to storms, but three were actually logged. To offset the carbon footprint of shipping these behemoths hundreds of miles, Palmer contributed to a project that distributes efficient stoves to Ghanaian villages. These stoves use less wood than traditional stoves and reduce the need for cutting.

First stop was Copenhagen, just in time for last year’s UN Climate Change conference. This was followed by a visit to Trafalgar Square before the trees were installed in front of Oxford University’s famous Museum of Natural History. A fitting display for 2010, which is the UN’s International Year of Biodiversity. Next year will be the Year of Forests.

I’ve seen this exhibit in person and I have to say the stumps are truly awe inspiring. Their sheer size, and the realization that they were once alive, made me think about our place in this world. My four-year-old was impressed too, and I hope that some of these giant trees will still be standing when he’s my age.

Image Courtesy Ghost Forest.