Gallery: Maps and Photos Show Asia Does Mass Transit Bigger, Faster, Better

New York City commuters were treated to a subway fare increase this weekend by the debt-laden Metropolitan Transit Authority, thanks to, among other things, a botched interest rate swap deal that cost the MTA millions after the 2008 financial crisis. The fare hikes are causing an expected amount of outrage as they occur amidst a perceived decrease in quality of service and increase in the number of dirty stations. Add this news to several recent high-profile incidents in which people were pushed or fell onto the tracks, and you have a pretty gloomy picture of the state of public transportation in what is supposed to be one of America's best systems today.

However, if you want to read some actual good news about public transportation development for a change, look no further than Asia — where cities are rapidly expanding their subway systems and equipping them with state-of-the-art features that are sure to spark the envy of any New York commuter.

Asia Blog has compiled a gallery of subway maps from the past and present that demonstrate just how rapid and expansive development of public transportation has been in Asian cities over the past few decades. The development of the Beijing and Shanghai systems are particularly impressive, as their numbers of lines have more than quintupled in the 2000s, with more lines and stations opening each year.

This influx of investment in infrastructure has focused on both quantity and quality. More than half of the subway systems in a recent CNN list of the world's best were located in Asia thanks to levels of speed, reliability, energy efficiency and cleanliness that are superior to many systems in other parts of the world. Travelers in many Asian cities enjoy such luxuries as free WiFi, cellphone service, and even heated seats in the winter. In Seoul, South Korea, commuters can flash their smartphone at photos of items in the world's first virtual marketplace inside the Seollung Station to have them later delivered straight to their home. It would obviously be hard to say that any system is perfect, but the transformations these cities have undergone is impressive.

What has been your experience with public transportation in Asia? Tell us in the comments field below.

About the Author

Profile picture for user Liz Flora
Liz Flora is a contributor to Asia Blog. She has a master's degree in East Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University.