Unique Public Transportation: Taipei, Seoul and Tokyo

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Previously visiting a new country required a lot of planning; but thanks to the internet, things have gotten a lot easier and faster. You can quickly find reputable and cheap accommodation, taxis and places to sightsee.

Traveling alone or without a guide has become the best option, as it is less expensive and more flexible. However, despite the presence of the worldwide network, it would still be inconvenient when you travel in a city or country that does not have proper public transportation.

So far, the places that I have enjoyed the most for solo traveling are Taipei, Tokyo, and Seoul. In these three counties, tourists can easily find their way around without having to pay extra fees . The subway and bus services are very well-explained in English, and the people who staff them are always ready and willing to help with the English they have learned in school.

In my home country Tunisia, it is really hard for tourists to use public transportation, as there is no clear bus or subway schedule. Residents would generally know their itinerary out of habit. But if you wish to go sightseeing or have fun, it becomes inconvenient; it’s simply better to take a taxi or use your own personal car.

Having a great public transportation infrastructure is not just convenient for tourists, but it is a unique asset for residents, whether to commute to work or go out to have fun. I felt safe taking a train or subway in Taiwan to hang out with friends in Shilin night market. I also appreciated how I could go out late at night with my Korean friend and not feel unsafe waiting for the bus on the street. In Japan, I couldn’t be more grateful for the clear instructions of the subway and the generosity of Japanese passengers who were always ready to help me despite how rushed they were.

Another important component that made my experience even more enjoyable was the service. The service in public transportation was simply mind-blowing. You can clearly see how every scenario was well-thought-out. People with special needs can independently commute and travel in all of these three countries: the buildings are all equipped with elevators and brail on the walkways, on the floors inside, and on the streets. Special agents are always ready to escort those in a wheelchair to the bus or train,  and those passengers would immediately be welcomed by another agent at their arrival station. There is even music playing on the waiting platforms and in the vehicles themselves.

Looking at the density of Taipei, Seoul and Tokyo, you would expect a huge chaos every now and then. To my surprise that never happened, even in critical moments or crisis. I never saw an agent being rude to anyone while trying to enforce the rules. On the other hand, rare were the people who tried to break the policies. This organized, respectful, clean and safe environment is crucial to the success of public transportation, and I hope that more countries will look to these cities as examples.

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About Author

Mariem Bchir '20 is a Belk Scholar and Chidsey Leadership Fellow at Davidson College. She will pursue a master’s degree in global affairs at Tsinghua University as a Schwarzman Scholar.

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