Vancouver's SkyTrain is one of 9 global train systems NYC's subway can learn from

Feb 14 2019, 8:25 am

As impressive as the NYC subway may be —  as one of the world’s original underground train systems, one of the most extensive networks, and one of the few that runs 24/7 — the system that Big Apple commuters depend on is highly antiquated.

To put it in one way, “the subway is a nice working museum,” according to a recent reader impression published in The New York Times.

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“The subway gets you there. That’s about it. It was slow and broken, with lots of trash and decay. I felt like I was in an underworld,” said another submission.

(Cue the subway pizza rat gif.)

A “state of emergency” was declared on the subway system by the state governor in 2017; after decades of delaying maintenance and rehabilitation, it is estimated the NYC subway will require a $40 billion overhaul over the coming decade or else it will fall into deep disrepair.

While it may be a Metro Vancouver pastime to disparage TransLink, especially during the past week of poor service levels due to foul weather, the region’s SkyTrain system made it to the publication’s list of one of nine international subway systems the much-plagued NYC subway could learn from.

As emphasized in the article, the main standout advantage of all three SkyTrain lines is its pioneering usage of automation at scale. The completely computer-driven operations of SkyTrain allows for high train frequencies at lower costs, and it puts more money into maintenance and expansion. In the North American context, Metro Vancouver’s transit system punches above its weight thanks to SkyTrain.

But on the flip side, the other eight subway systems highlighted are also systems that SkyTrain can learn from.

For instance, Tokyo’s system, amongst many positive attributes, is quick to communicate with riders on service delays, and its staff at stations are helpful and friendly.

Systems in Moscow and Istanbul are super clean, and the architecture of Stockholm’s stations have made that system into the “world’s longest art gallery”.

Here is the full list and the main takeaway of each system’s positive attributes (this is certainly not an exhaustive description of each system, but just the main attributes highlighted in the article):

  • Moscow: high standard of cleanliness
  • Tokyo: good communication with passengers; cleanliness; helpful and friendly staff; polite passenger culture
  • Amsterdam: diverse modes of transit services; free transit for low-income seniors; reliable on-time service
  • Stockholm: safe; reliable on-time service; affordable
  • Berlin: systems are consistent across platforms and stations; smooth travel; honour system of fare payment actually works
  • Istanbul: on-time reliable service; good maintenance; onboard amenities such as TV screens that play entertainment; cleanliness
  • Vancouver: automation
  • Zurich: dedicated right-of-ways for trams and even bus lines create reliable on-time service; a high-level of accessibility; late-night transit network; sense of safety
  • London: comprehensive network creating widespread coverage; highly efficient and frequent


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Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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