37° 59′ 46.1868″ N, 127° 15′ 56.25″ E
Seoul has worked hard to organize their transit systems so that they are easy for people to use and the subway is actually pretty easy to navigate. The buses are more complicated, but with the invention of smart phones it is much easier to figure out what bus you need to take and when it will get there. Something I found really cool about Seoul’s subway is that at every station there are two doors. One opens to the track and the other opens into the subway car. That way no one can accidentally fall onto the tracks! Even though it can be complicated to use public transportation it has been much easier than I thought it would be!
Millions of people in Seoul take the bus or subway to get around everyday! According to the Seoul Metropolitan Government about four million people ride the subway every single day! That is a lot of people! People also use cars and taxis, and traffic can get busy during the times when people are going to and from work.
People tend to walk if they are only going short distances, but it is also very common to see people riding scooters. Many food delivery people ride scooters. They do not tend to drive as carefully, and often drive fast in order to make their delivery on time. They also commonly drive on the sidewalk, which is something I am still getting used to.
I wait on the crowded bus platform, transportation card in hand. As it is early in the morning many of the people waiting around me are on their way to work or school. I’m waiting for the 707 bus to take me to Gwang-hwa-moon, which is one of Seoul’s business districts. It also happens to be the location of Kyobo bookstore, one of the cities largest bookstores. As my bus arrives, people on the platform crowed towards it and I am required to push a little as I make my way on.
Pushing in Seoul is expected, and often done without an “excuse me” or an “I’m sorry”. This was strange at first, but most people are polite when they do it. They tend to push gently. Sometimes they will physically move you with their hands if you are in a crowded place and not paying attention, but this is always done in a considerate manner.
As I push my way onto the bus I press my transportation card, also called a T-Money card, onto the machine at the front of the bus. It charges my card around 1,150 Won, do you remember about how much that would be in U.S. dollars? That’s right, about $1.15! My T-Money card works on buses, subways and taxis. I can also use it at many convenience stores! I put money on it, either at a machine in the subway station, or at a convenience store, and I’m good to go!
Once I get on the bus I notice how full it is and realize I am going to have to stand. It was very strange standing so close to so many people. Back in Vermont, very few people use the bus, and I have never experienced a bus so crowded before! The bus drivers in Seoul also tend to be a little impatient. They start and stop very suddenly making the ride interesting, especially if you happen to be standing! I have to hold on tight to the bar so I don’t lose my balance. It can be kind of fun though if you pretend it’s a rollercoaster ride!
After getting on the bus at my university I travel four stops until I find myself in the middle of Gwang-hwa-moon. I get off, tapping my card once again on the T-Money reader. This allows the bus to relay real-time information to passengers’ smart phones so they know when the bus will be arriving. Since they can use their smart phones to see when the bus is coming, it is easier for people to catch the bus on time!
The Seoul bus system did not always work this way. According to the Korean Transport Institute, Seoul’s government decided to make the bus systems work better starting in 2004. During this process of changing the bus systems they created the T-Money card. They also changed the bus routes so that buses travel faster and people can take the buses more easily! From what I have seen so far I think they did a pretty good job.
When Seoul’s government decided to reform the transit system their biggest goal was to encourage more people to use it. With this in mind they made it cheaper to ride buses and subways and they also make the buses run better so people could easily be on time. Part of the reason they wanted to increase the number of people using public transportation was to reduce the number of people using cars. If they accomplished this they would reduce the amount of pollution that comes from people using personal cars to drive everywhere. Through improving the transit system throughout the country South Korea is hoping to reduce the amount of Greenhouse Gases that they release into the atmosphere.