This Video Comparing NYC's Subway to Seoul's Might Ruin Your Commute
Seoul's subway is much more advanced than NYC's, but it's also much younger.
New York City's subway system is often the target of criticism for late trains and dirty stations, but it remains one of the most efficient ways to get around town. Yet, when compared to a few other subways around the world, efficiency might not be the first term that comes to mind.
A widely shared video recently drew comparisons between the NYC subway system and that of Seoul, South Korea, and New Yorkers who watched it are probably already crying in front of the screen (myself included).
One of the main things the video highlights is the ratio between cost and budgets versus actual quality of the systems. Seoul's annual subway budget is about $1.68 billion, while NYC's was $5.2 billion in 2019. It's worth noting that the video's creator misstates this fact. Instead, she cites the $17 billion budget of the entire Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which also operates bus and commuter rail systems.
Still, the NYC subway operates with over three times Seoul's annual budget but doesn't exactly offer the same customer experience. In Seoul, every station is equipped with platform doors, which help improve air quality and prevent passenger accidents. There are also bathrooms in every single station, and the system flaunts 856 elevators in 292 stations.
Trains get there on time, too. They have a 99.9% punctuality rate, and once aboard, passengers can find almost any comfort. There are heated seats in the winter, and plenty of space and seats are reserved for pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Of course, tickets are incredibly cheap. One ticket is only the equivalent of $1.02 for a base fare, while children pay $0.34. People over 65 ride for free.
While Seoul's subway system is clearly more advanced than NYC's, there are a few details to keep in mind. There are only nine numbered lines in the Seoul subway system, while NYC flaunts 36 lines. That means more mileage in terms of tracks (about 203 miles in Seoul versus over 660 miles in New York) and more stations, and a naturally higher budget needed to manage and maintain the system. Additionally, the NYC subway is much older than Seoul's. The first line opened in 1904, while the latter began operations in 1974. Service time is also important. The NYC subway operates on a 24-hour basis, while Seoul's runs from 5:30 am to midnight.
Watch the video below to learn more about the Seoul subway system: