Cities with the best public transport for travellers

Posted by Athenkosi Matyalana on 17 September 2013

There’s nothing as exciting as travelling in a city that has a working public transport system. It makes going from A to B easier, and whets your appetite to explore the city. It’s cheaper than hiring a car, and in some places the public transport can be a tourist attraction in its own right (read: a 1930s steam train to Simons Town.) With that said, let’s take a look at cities with the best public transport in the world.

1. London, England



The London Underground

Photo by Qsimple


In July 2005, London’s underground transit system, the London Underground, went through a chaotic phase after a series of terrorist bombings. Seven years later, the public transport system re-emerged more efficient than ever. During the Olympic Games in August 2012, the London Underground broke its record by transporting 4.4 million passengers on August 3. The overland  transit system, London Overland also pulled its weight as it recorded 7.7 million passengers during the Games. Only a well-organised transport system can achieve that level of  efficiency.  To maximise safety and improve service, more CCTV cameras and WiFi were installed on trains recently.

The city’s transit system is supported by an organised taxi system. ‘Black cab drivers‘ in London have to undergo an examination known as the “Knowledge Test” before they are granted permission to operate in the city. The test involves learning 320 routes, 25 000 streets and 20,000 landmarks within a six mile radius of Charing Cross. The city’s bus system does not disappoint either. 90 percent of the London’s residents live within 400 metres of one of 19,500 bus stops in the city. With a well co-ordinated system of taxi cabs, airliners, transit system and ferries on the Thames, London has the ideal transport system for travellers.

2. Seoul, South Korea



Seoul has one of the busiest and effecient subway systems in the world.

Photo by LarimdaME


At 508 km, Seoul’s subway track, the longest subway in the world, carries eight million passengers everyday. The subway reaches all 25 districts within the city making it convenient for passengers. There are LED screens and robots that help provide real time information, maps and tourist information. The transit system is not the only super-organised transport, the bus system has also proved to be quite successful. With colour-coded buses, WiFi and an efficient transportation card system, the bus system is a well-oiled machine.

3. Munich, Germany



The R2.2 type trams in Munich, Germany built by Adtranz between 1994 & 1997.

Image by OliverN5


Germany has a fully integrated transport system, meaning that the underground (the U-Bahn) is well-connected with the bus system. The U Bahn has more than 720,000 passengers every day while the overland transit system, the S-Bahn, has a daily ridership of 990 000.

With multi-transport tickets available for passengers, the city’s transport authority partnered with Munich Transport and Tariff Union to create an integrated electric timetable for U-Bahn, S-Bahn, bus and tram passengers. There’s even an app for iPhone and Android, which has maps, timetables and a route planner, as well as information about delays and congestion. Munich’s well-run transport makes the city easier for tourists to explore the city.


Public transport in Africa (Cape Town and Lagos)

The public transport system in Africa has not reached the level of efficiency as its European and Asian counterparts. Most of the transport service is not organised, and the lack of infrastructure has not made things easier. Various public transport service providers exist without any organisation regulating the system. This has led to conflict in the past, and slowed down progress. Although overcrowded trains and overloaded minibus taxis are still a common sight, some cities like Johannesburg, Lagos and Cape Town have tried to keep up with other major cities in the world. Lagos and Cape Town provide the best examples of progress in African public transport. (8 tips for travelling on public transport in Africa)

Cape Town, South Africa



The MyCiTi bus service has improved Cape Town’s public transport.

Image by warrenski


Over the last few years, the City of Cape Town has intensified its efforts to improve public transport. The introduction of the MyCiTi bus service has made it easier to travel in the city. MyCiTi has provided a safer and affordable alternative to the city’s railway, bus, cab and minibus taxi service. To make it easier for passengers, the bus service has a card system. Known as myconnect card, the system allows passengers to load money onto their cards without having to queue at the ticket kiosk.

The MyCiTi bus services is assisted by the Metrorail train service. Although the train service is not highly efficient, it does contribute to the public transport in the city. The railway transport provides cheap transport  to areas outside Cape Town, from the tourist attractions of Simonstown and Boulders Beach (read: ten things to do for under R50 in Cape Town), to the quaint town of Stellenbosch (where we’ve found 10 of the best things to do in the Stellenbosch winelands). You can have a look at the complete route map here.

Like other major cities such as Johannesburg and Durban, the Mother City relies heavily on taxis. The city’s taxi service  is dominated by the minibus and cab taxis. Although there are a few organisations that oversee the running of minibus taxis, the service remain chaotic. Minibus taxi drivers are notorious for reckless driving and most of them are overloaded with passengers. There is also fighting between the drivers putting passengers in danger. The mini cab, on the other hand, is a safer and convenient option, especially at night. The taxis can be ordered by phone any time of day and drop passengers at their doorsteps. Although the hired cab service is expensive, it contributes to making travel easier in Cape Town.

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Lagos, Nigeria

Lagos public transport, like other African countries, is still plagued by chaos.

Image by Wayan Vota

  Although it has not reached most objectives, the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) has improved the city’s public transport. Established in 2002, the transport authority was put into place to build stronger infrastructure in Lagos. With a population of over 21 million people, Lagos public transport services is constantly under pressure. The high population has increased traffic congestion, illegal minibus taxis and high fares. To remedy this situation, LAMATA introduced the Bus Rapid Transit System. The affordable BRT buses which transport 180,000 passengers per day, run on a segregated lane providing  faster and reliable option. Recently, the bus introduced LagosConnect Card, a system similar to Cape Town’s MyCiTi myconnectcard.

LAMATA is also planning to expand into the cable car market. The transport authority is planning to start work on the The Lagos Cable Car Project in November this year. However, Lagos still has a long way to before it reaches the standard of cities such as London.

Main image by Isc21


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