I’ve only been on three of the eleven, but it seems right that London is at the top. Though it often gets a slagging, it really is excellent – simple to follow, relatively comfortable, and it covers just about all the important bits of the city. And best of all, it’s fully integrated in terms of fares and tickets with all other public transport in the city, so you don’t need two tickets to travel on two modes of transport.
It made me think about other urban transport systems I’ve experienced:
Sydney’s CityRail – I was well impressed with the CityRail when in Sydney in 2005. The routes and lines were dead easy to follow, trains were relatively spartan but regular, clean and perfectly comfortable, and the network was comprehensive in its coverage. The week pass I bought was very reasonably priced too.
Zagreb’s trams – a brilliant tram network that combines efficiency, value for money, and easy to follow routes and timetables (even in a foreign language) with the overground benefit of a nice view and the quaintness of trams. Trams rock.
Glasgow’s subway and rail – I’ve used the trains and subway in Glasgow a lot since moving here. While both are efficient, clean and reasonable in price, it’s still very annoying that you can’t tube into town and train out again on the same ticket (except for a roundabout which is a bit pricey and doesn’t cover buses). Oh yes and the subway stops at 6pm on a Sunday – what’s that all about!?
German bus networks – quite unnecessarily complicated. The ticket machines require a PhD to figure out and even German speakers have admitted to me that they’re difficult to use. As you’d expect, though, they run on time.
The Cairo airport bus – the 356, if I remember rightly (though my keyboard can’t do the Arabic numbers). It leaves (or at least it did in 2001) from underneath a noisy motorway underpass that can only be reached by crossing lots of dangerously busy roads. It’s a fairly long journey to the airport, but an exhilirating one due to the maniacal traffic and fascinating views of markets, mosques, crowds and the generally hectic city life of Egypt’s capital.
The Kirkwall airport bus – every time I took this (over the course of three and a half years) it was always the same driver. Rather like Groundhog Day, but in Orkney.