Gallery: TRANSPORTATION TUESDAY: Top 5 Cities For Public Transit


So far at transportation Tuesdays, we’ve brought you the Top 5 Greenest Sports Cars and the Top 6 Sexiest Bicycles. Now, in the spirit of green civic pride, we’d like to focus on public transportation. Good public transportation can mean a number of things, but it is generally defined as being easy to use, efficient, clean, and get you where you want to go with as little fuss as possible. A tall order indeed. Here are our top five cities…

5. Moscow, Russia
There are few things by which you can set your watch to, the sun, the wavelength of an atomic clock, and the Moscow Metro. Said to be the most precise subway in the world, the Moscow Metro is a marvel of efficiency, speed, and beauty. On an average weekday, the metro carries over 8.2 million passengers, making it one of the busiest in the world. And as if that wasn’t enough, every station in the subway system features beautiful ornate architecture worthy of being featured in a museum. So in Moscow, the subway trains run, and they run well.

4. Paris, France
Ah Paris, the city of love, beauty and metro stations everywhere. The Paris Métro is the second oldest subway system in the world, it is also the one with the best coverage, as you are pretty much only going to be about 500 meters from a station if you ever need to get anywhere. And just in case that you cannot get to where you want to go via metro? just take a bike!

3. London, England
Not content with being able to brag about having the oldest subway system in the world, by almost 40 years, the city of London also distinguishes itself from every other thanks to their iconic red double decker buses. So what can you expect if you were to travel to London? Well, there’s the Tube, as it is affectionately known, which carries over 3 million people a day. Then there’s the DLR which is an automated light rail system covering the docklands, and a suburban tram system. Add to all this the infamous double decker buses and you end up with one of the best public transport systems in the world. There are a few things which detract from making London the best transportation system in the world, namely, the fact that once it gets past midnight, it gets sort of hard to move around, as the subway system shuts down. Having said that, the fact that you can easily see when the train is coming next with digital signs, and the cushy interior design (by NYC and Paris standards), can help mitigate that little fact.

2. New York, United States
Remarkable for having the largest subway system in the world track wise, transportation in NYC is a combination of ferries, buses, trains, subways and pedestrian and bicycle pathways. It is the only city in the United Stated in which more people use public transportation that private transportation, and the only locality where more than half of the population has no cars. If you can make it here in New York, you probably made it through public transportation. Now unlike London, and most of the public transport systems in the world, you can travel at any time that you want in NYC, even after midnight. Unfortunately, unlike London as well, NYC subway stations are dirty, generally unkept, could use some serious maintenance and work. You also have to guess as to whether or not the train that you are getting is the one that you want, as there is no indication of when the next train will be coming next. And if you get on it, do hope that it doesn’t change course.

1. Tokyo, Japan
Probably one of the most complex transit systems in the world, the public transportation system in Tokyo can only be describe as massive. The public transportation system in Tokyo is bases on a combination of light rail, ferry, bus, and the famous, and privately owned, subway lines of Tokyo. To put the sheer magnitude of the Tokyo public transportation lines in perspective, if you were to combine the entire number of trips done in the city (all 10.6 billion of them), you would get the same number of trips from all the transportation of the continental United Stated and Canada combined. Needless to say, if you want to get anywhere in Tokyo, you can do it via public transport. You might just have to shuffle from line to line, to do so.


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  1. OK December 5, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    Hong Kong has the highest public transit rate in the world.

  2. Carine November 14, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    I think public transport efficiency should not just depend largely on how efficient the actual subway system in place is–it must also consider above all how well linked the main system is to other modes of public transport like buses, trains, and trams. Also cost! Anyway I think Melbourne honestly and Singapore should be included in this list.

  3. BERNIE OAKAR November 6, 2010 at 10:08 am


  4. KKate October 27, 2010 at 1:20 am

    OK after reading all the posts I think the official list should be

    5 – Copenhagen
    4 – Hong Kong
    3 – Seoul
    2 – Singapore
    1 – Tokyo!

    p.s. The Octopus/Oyster/Ezycard/T-money card ticketing system is actually Australian technology, but Australian public transport is a joke so they decided to sell it rather than implement it!

  5. ko March 7, 2010 at 9:54 am

    Where is Shanghai on your list? This is one of the largest and rapidly expanding systems in the world and will be the largest by 2015. It has significantly improved quality of life here overcoming the problems of our narrow and complkex street layout by a combination of circular and grid lines that eanablw crossing town in almost any direction in less than 45 min.

    Also worth mentioning:

    Hong Kong
    Kyoto (nince small city sustem)

    BTW, I agree NYC belongs on the list, not because it’s ultra-modern and clean, but because it’s the heart of the city and proff that mass trasit systems can be servicesble for decades, returning value to the public highway simply cannot.

  6. PraetoR January 29, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    What qualifies a city to get to the list? You should consider adding Prague, as its public transportation system has the largest percentage of use (vs car use) in Europe. (some Dutch cities have even less percentage of cars, but that is due to cyclists, not mass transport system; cycling is unlikely to get so popular in hilly Prague)

  7. yesso December 13, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    can you tell me what public transportation can contibute to the development of ecocity?

  8. KittyCat April 7, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    I\’ve been on the Tube, the trams and subway at Amsterdam and Buenos Aires. The former\’s great except for the flights of stairs one has to climb but I think they\’re working on having lifts / ramps for the disabled and baby strollers. The latter are pretty good too although they may not score in terms of signs in languages other than their own.

    Nice to see someone mention Hong Kong. What about Singapore? The MRT and the buses are one of the most connected, efficient and clean public transport I\’ve ever been on.

    China is fast coming up too especially as its masses rely on the public transport. Check out my post at and see if you agree :-)

  9. Ithink January 28, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    Been to and lived in all cities execept Moscow and living in Seoul right now. Who made this to put London, Paris, Tokyo, NY on the list? I would say Seoul subway much better. Hongkong’s system was also ok but as its network is too short yet. You know short networks are easier to manage.

    Anyway London, some stations are closed down all at a sudden with just an annoncement. That can’t be imaged in other cities. The station corridors are too narrow and the elevators are way too old. Well it can be definetly be renowned for its history but can’t be the best in the world! Worse than London was Paris! No one can use the system without confusion if not using French. The stations were dirty and spooky. Worse than Paris is NY. Dirty, system old, not conveient..having the largest system doesn’t mean it’s the best. Tokyo, segregated lanes are the worst point, having to buy a new ticket to change lanes between JR and Tokyo Metro. Had many trains and stations but it’s a mess and didn’t feel it’s better that Seoul. Especially because of having to buy new tickets with extra charges.
    Well, Seoul has the 4th? largest system and is also very well manged with good infrastructure. Always clean, fast and convenient. The smart card is integrated with buses so the transfer between them are almost free! All stations have elevators and escalators just leaving a few out. Anyway I think Seoul’s the best.

  10. eraidesigns September 18, 2008 at 1:48 am

    I don’t know about the other cities but Tokyo should be bumped down the list. I live in Japan and used to live in Tokyo. While Tokyo public transit is extensive at least compared to my hometown in California (which has next to no public transit), I am sure there are much better places than Tokyo.

    I think the author should state the purpose of this article and HOW the cities are evaluated/ranked. Is it important just to have some sort of infrastructure? -even if it is not exactly efficient? If user experience is important at all, the Tokyo transportation system is a HUGE mess and a major pain in the ass to use.

  11. lisa_c August 6, 2008 at 1:55 am

    Seoul metro beats the NY system, London tube and the Paris system too. The Tokyo system too, actually. Who would ever have put NY’s system second?!

  12. Gracielabartlett July 10, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    I cannot believed that the New York subway is the second best in the world. I have been in New York and used the subway and it is not so great. It is so dirty and confuse. Besided, it’s l ticketing system is very unreliable.
    I was born in Mexico City and I think our subway system is superior to the one in NY. How can this be that Mexico City is not on the top five?

  13. JDD May 24, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    I\\\’ve been to London, Paris, and New York City, and I am only 12 years old. I only used buses at New York City and London, but I did ride on the Paris subway and it was nice.

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  16. brian December 14, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    it seems like this list is merely the highest usage…not necessarily the best ones…noticeably absent is Mexico City, with is enormous volume of users

    Perhaps one of the most underrated, yet best designed systems, is Madrid. It’s length rivals London’s and its trains are newer, faster and cleaner than many of these older systems.

    Also, why is Berlin off the list?

  17. rita November 23, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    the second oldest underground railway in Europe was opened in Budapest in 1896. it is NOT the Paris underground as you incorrectly stated.

  18. Marti October 13, 2007 at 2:19 am

    I live in Vienna and this city has a wonderful transport system – ubahn, trams, buses, fast train are all available for the same very reasonable cost (less than 500 euro for a yearly pass).

  19. Scott October 13, 2007 at 12:46 am

    If there were a reverse list Vancouver would be near the top. Our transit lack-of-service is pathetic. Some influential idiots have convinced city and provincial politicians we need a new transit line in time for the Olympics. Why? So rich tourists coming to Canada in the winter (think lots of bags full of coats and boots) will take two trains to get to their expensive hotels? Yup, you need to transfer if your taking the brand new train from the airport.

    That’s the kind of thinking that’ll keep putting cars on the roads!

  20. Sandra October 8, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    The Tokyo transit system is, indeed, amazing. To the person who made the comment about being crammed in: well, that just shows that the system is being well used. Rarely was I actually in a train where the crowding was seriously uncomfortable, and that was always due to a holiday or a (rare) delay; the only time I felt the train I was on was getting dangerously crowded was actually in Kyoto, not Tokyo. But yes, the amazing train and subway system is what I miss most about being back in the Bay Area; I shudder to think how I would feel if I lived somewhere with even *worse* public transit.

    (Can my last comment be taken down? I spaced out and put my full name… haha)

  21. Alex October 5, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    Right has the writer been on public transport in london it’s unaffordable, dirty, and overcrowded. Singapore, copenhagen etc all better

  22. Ben October 5, 2007 at 1:23 am

    Having lived here for the last 4 years, Tokyo (and Japan, as a whole) has a fantastic transit system! The buses may not be great, as they are relatively underdeveloped, but the trains (subway, lightrail, bullet/Shinkansen) are superb and effectively serve as `dedicated` lanes and are what most people use. Almost all transit systems throughout Japan are fully-integrated with few exceptions, and every station usually includes automated ticketing for purchases and entry. Connections are timed exceptionally well for connections and are typically very punctual. Stations and trains are quite clean. What Tokyo/Japan lacks is a 24-hr system (closes ~1AM), even in larger cities which are very much `alive` 24-hrs.

  23. rek October 4, 2007 at 11:56 pm

    Aleks – Toronto has 4 lines now. Sort of. I used to love the TTC, but I just got back from 6 months in Seoul (see my post above) and I can’t believe how dingy and crappy it is in comparison now.

  24. Aleks October 4, 2007 at 8:26 pm

    What about Madrid?? I found their system much smoother and more modern than Paris’ and a lot cheaper to ride too! A lot of the conferences on innovative public transportation are held there for a reason. It connects metro with local trains and regional trains within the same stops, as well as a very modern bus system.

    In response to some comments: Toronto’s subways are 2 lines that cross at 2 points.. you can’t call that functional. And Berlin’s were really archaic and confusing.. and expensive!

  25. Kawaii October 4, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    London number 3??!!! NO WAY!!!

    I’ve lived in both London, and Hong Kong… and would definitely rate Hong Kong’s MTR and KCR Systems to be a very very close second to Japan.

    Hong Kong’s transport system is always so clean, and they actually disinfect the trains regularly throughout the day. It is also very pleasant to travel in, as it is spacious and fully ventilated. What makes the journey experience more enjoyable, is that even during the rush hour, all the passengers are so considerate, and polite to let as many people in the trains as possible, without bodily contact. The system rarely fails, and the service is so regular and convenient, that going to work is a breeze. Also, during major public holidays, and weekends the trains run later and sometimes overnight. The employees enjoy working in the company, since they NEVER strike!! They NEVER suddenly decide to terminate the train mid-way as and when they please.

    My experience of the London Tube is the complete opposite. The first day arriving back in London after a few weeks holiday, as soon as I hit the lower levels of the underground. I was severely choking on the polluted stale air trapped underground. Which is made up of nothing, but dead human skin, and various gases which can’t be good for your health. Not only is the environment risking your health, but the trains are so dangerous inside, since they are full of food wrappers, bottles, beer cans, and newspaper. It’s just a massive rolling litter bin, that people travel in. The staff are so rude, and unhelpful. Train drivers just like to chuck everyone off the train, as and when they decided to terminate the trains mid-way. I once had to get off the Piccadilly Line 3 times between Green Park and Heathrow, resulting in a 2 hour journey, and almost missed my flight.

    Having said that, you may argue that the Hong Kong system is less complicated than the London System, but there are many systems around other countries, such as Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and so forth, that deserve a much higher rating than London.

    I vote Tokyo and Hong Kong, as number 1!

  26. DaveG October 4, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    Most underrated, without a doubt: Washington D.C.. Although the Metro is small, its incredibly consistent (in two years of travel with it, I can count the number of mid-travel stops on one hand) and thanks to heavy fines, impeccably clean. It’s reasonably priced and is located in great spots.

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  28. Andy in Germany October 4, 2007 at 4:12 am

    I wouldn’t score Tokyo so highly, having tried to use their system several times with my Japanese wife: High-floor, narrow busses, no segregated lanes, so they are Slow, slow, slow; Little integrated ticketing makes it hard to change modes if a different company is running the next leg, connections are haphazard or non-existent, and stations can be several blocks apart down narrow lanes with no signs, stations with random steps between platforms or even in front of lavatories, and no barrier free alternative. Great if you are able to walk, and don’t have a buggy or any luggage but terrible otherwise, women are routinely harrassed or groped… Not my idea of a great system.

    Apart from that, what about smaller cities like Stuttgart, which managee to integrate transport modes, have (mostly) barrier free access, trams or busses where you want to go, and through ticketing?

  29. Michelle Linden October 3, 2007 at 8:01 pm

    I’ve used 4 of the 5 systems as a tourist (haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit Moscow!). I would definitely say that as a tourist, the London Underground was actually the most difficult to use and the Tokyo Subway was the easiest. Not speaking Japonese, I was really nervous about using their system, but not surprisingly they have employed all sorts of technology to make the trip easier to navigate (including lighted diagrams and led stop information).

    Even though London’s system can be difficult to navigate, its hard to compare it to a system like Vancouver or Copenhagen. These cities are so much smaller, making it much easier to design the system.

  30. Josh October 3, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    All the cities that have public transit systems that close at night (London, Paris, Boston, Washington DC) should lose out to systems that run 24/7 (New York, Berlin). I’m not sure about Tokyo in that sense.

  31. Erika October 3, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    Rek, I’m with you – the Seoul system is incredible, and I was reading down these posts to get down to give props to Seoul, myself! It was the first system I’ve ever been in where you can receive cell signal underground – of course now that’s true for a bunch, but back in ’03 when I went I was delighted. :)

  32. meme October 3, 2007 at 7:26 am

    There is not a chance in Hell London could come above places like Vancouver, Toronto, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Berlin etc etc.. the list goes on and on…

    BTW I’m a Brit!!!

  33. EB October 3, 2007 at 6:09 am

    It’s hard to understand your criteria for this list: green it is not, although I admit you haven’t made such a claim.

    1. New York’s subway is dangerously loud, not to mention dirty. As for their buses, you may have to wait 15 minutes for the M104: when it finally arrives, there are 3 more right behind it, most of them empty.
    2, London’s subway is dangerously deep: it takes longer to get down to the tracks than it does to get to your destination once you’ve gotten there. And it’s claustrophobic.
    3. Tokyo is certainly efficient, if you don’t mind being pushed into the car at rush hour.

    I think the Paris Metro is wonderful–it’s relatively quiet and its coverage is the best anywhere.

    But there are other quiet comfortable subways all over the world–Washington, Munich, Vienna, Hamburg, and many others, I’m sure, that I’ve never tried. What about them?

    And for efficiency and coverage, cities with subways + tram systems +buses should top the list.

  34. rek October 3, 2007 at 1:28 am

    How about Seoul Subway? All signs are in Korean, English, Japanese, and Chinese. All stops are announced in Korean and English, often with directions telling you which side of the car will open to the platform. 8 lines, 12 if you include what it connects to, and over 260 stations. Nearly 8 million daily riders. You can pay your fare with your cell phone. Multistorey stations (I’m convinced some are designed to be used as bomb shelters too). The cars are bright and wide, and have very little advertising.

  35. Sean October 3, 2007 at 12:20 am

    A decent list, from what I know, and after reading the comments. I shant reiterate what they have said.

    I have one comment.

    I wish Vancouver, British Columbia, could be on this list, but unfortunately, it cannot. While the Skytrain is an amazing innovation that serves efficiently, and the RAV line is being built, the bus lines and LRT lines out to the surrounding municipalities are severely lacking. The Evergreen line heading to the Tri-Cities is needed, and would cut automobile traffic to the Downtown Core from that area in half, yet it is not being built, and the Skytrain has not been expanded for some time. Unfortunate, for it is entertaining on the Skytrain, high up where you can see everything, but I digress.

    Perhaps one day, Vancouver may make the list.

  36. Petula October 2, 2007 at 11:51 pm

    Props to Raj Seshadri about Hong Kong MTR. I’ve been to 4 of the top 5 list’s city and ride on their metro (except Moscow), and I tell you this, the one thing I missed most when I was in London, New York or Paris is Hong Kong’s clean, efficient public transportation. Though we may not have the most rides by no. but considering the city’s population and the percentage of use, I think we have a higher rate then most on the list, maybe not as much as Tokyo.

    Even though we’re not the first city to introduce automatic door on the platform, but after installing it, it’s much safer to ride on.

    Though London metro let you ride all the way to Heathrow airport, but you can’t check in inside the station, so you have to drag your bag all the way through…

    And the transportation announcements comes in 3 languages (though annoying to local, but useful to travelers), so you’re less likely to miss your destination.

    Hong Kong’s MTR may not be the best, but we do deserve to be at least on the top 5 list.

  37. Jesse October 2, 2007 at 11:27 pm

    Madrid has an impressive subway and rail system. I think this piece is good, but a bit simplistic. This may be a good list of the most FAMOUS subways, but not the best public transit systems in the world.

  38. Cashew October 2, 2007 at 8:21 pm

    If you had to pick a worst, I’d vote for Los Angeles. Our bus system has got to be the most inefficient and dirtiest I’ve yet experienced. SUbways ain’t bad, but the bus drivers are the worst. Ist in the culture of MTA.

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  40. Ben Schiendelman October 2, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    These entries should be copy edited.

    Tokyo also has heavy and commuter rail, not light rail. I think they may have one tramway, but the bulk of daily trips on rail in Tokyo that are not on subway are JR (Japan Rail) – and these are certainly not light rail lines, some with daily ridership in the millions.

  41. sirjorge October 2, 2007 at 1:47 pm

    seattle is working on a bunch of stuff too

  42. Emily October 2, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    Dear Shocked and Simon,

    Thank you for your corrections to our London details- the post has been modified to reflect this. We appreciate you letting us know.

    Emily Pilloton
    Managing Editor

  43. robie October 2, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    not to be overly critical, but a quick edit would make those blurbs much more readable…

  44. Raj Seshadri October 2, 2007 at 11:54 am

    How could you leave out Hong Kong (MTR)?

    The only system (AFAIK) where you can check into for your airport flight in the CENTER of the city up to 24 hrs in advance, leave your luggage, then hop on a metrolink straight to the airport the next morning.

    Not to mention the LPG cabs and the fact that, for lots of people there, the MTR is seamless… integrates directly into their building and workplace (they can get to work without ever going outdoors if they want).

    Plus… the trains come every like 3 min. Often people just wait for the “next train” as it’s not as crowded, or they’ll get a better seat, even though there was plenty of space on the first train . Coverage is also nice as they’re going to Shenzen as well.

    Now that’s worthy of at least the top 5 if not #1…

  45. shoepal October 2, 2007 at 11:21 am

    um, I think the Budapest Metro is the 2nd oldest, not the Paris Metro.

    Paris : “The initial line was inaugurated in 1900″

    Budapest: “it was inaugurated on May 2 1896″

  46. Simon October 2, 2007 at 8:25 am

    Erm, have you been to London? They got rid of all of the trams in the 50s, there’s a new tramway out in the suburbs, but not in the centre. The tube trains certainly aren’t air-conditioned, either. Transport after midnight is still actually alright, because there are night buses (which cost the same as daytime buses) — not the tube, but still pretty decent. Actually, one of the main problems in London is the number of buses — they come so frequently that they clog up the roads (for each other). Doesn’t stop people catching all this public transport everyday though, it’s pretty much at full capacity every peak hour.

  47. Jon October 2, 2007 at 8:17 am

    Yay Tokyo!

  48. Pete October 2, 2007 at 8:02 am

    Good list, though as a London commuter, the tube is definitely not air conditioned, and can get stifling in the mid summer.
    Also, Hong Kong could do with a mention: the MTR (subway) is huge, efficient, and spotlessly clean, the trams add some age and authenticity, while there are buses and minibuses which reach the rest of the island. It’s all amazingly cheap too, and the LPG taxis mean that it’s easy to travel with a conscience without a car. They also introduced the ‘Octopus’ card in 1997, which can be used to pay for all of the public transport, as well as carparking, vending machines and in loads of shops too..

  49. Andy October 2, 2007 at 7:45 am

    A few errors in your London section.

    The iconic, Routemaster buses have now been replaced with more modern alternatives which have improved access and greater capacity. Unfortunately London’s narrow streets sometimes cause a problem which the much older but purpose built Routemasters avoided due to a much shorter wheelbase and smaller turning circle.

    The London Tram system was completely removed in the early 50s and very little evidence can be found that there was once a very large network covering central London. The second generation of trams started with the opening of Croydon Tramlink in 2000. This operates modern low-floor articulated tramcars, based on a design for Cologne in Germany, on three routes in South London.

    None of the tube trains are air-conditioned at present although there are plans to improve things in the near future. Quite a few of the main stations now have cold air pumped into them duiring the summer to alleviate the high heat and humidity of the summer.

    However, you have neglected to mention one of the best features of the integrated public transport system – the Oyster smart card. This covers all the various methods of transport (bus, tube, tram, DLR and some of the suburban trains) with one means of payment which can be both used as a pay-as-you-go by loading money to the card, or with a day/week/month travel card which will give unlimited travel within certain named zones.

    Also, when the tube shuts the bus system changes to cope, with a different timetable of night buses covering most routes making the trip home from late night haunts a fairly easy and very entertaining experience.

  50. shocked!! October 2, 2007 at 4:50 am

    at first my comment was going to be ‘what order is this list supposed to be in?!?’ then i reconsidered, my comment is in fact ‘have you actually been to London?!?!?’

    I live in central London and have to face the slog of the london transport system daily, and am sad to announce to you that it is in fact utterly terrible. Sorry scratch that, i’m sure the system is potentially fine – it is more the company (that is currently in administration) that runs it that is awful. Regular striking workforces over bad pay/job security, huge areas of the system regularly shut down creating catastrophe for commuters, employee shortages, over crowding… I could go on.

    however the most amusing part of your post about the london tube is that you seem to think all trains are air-conditioned and fitted with comfy seats!?!? i’m not sure what tube system you were riding on, but it certainly wasn’t the london underground – they have no air-conditioning whatsoever, and i can assure everyone are far from comfy!

  51. btc September 25, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    Thanks for adding Moscow to the list. Though t’s nice to see my city in the top 5, but actually it shouldn’t qualify. The problem is simple and complicated at the same time. Moscow is very OVERCROWDED. The development of public transit stopped with the collapse of the USSR. Tram lines are being closed. The amount of cars raised tremendously up to 10 times peaking at 3,5 mln rate currently. The factual number of people staying inside the city during the daytime is 20 millions, which also 2 times more than 15 years ago.

    Moscow Metro is really suffering due to this, and having beautiful stations with statues and mosaics doesn’t help.
    Transportation in Moscow today is a pain, not a pleasure. That’s why we’re in the second hundred of the World’s Best Capitals To Live.

  52. Ali September 25, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    What about Scandinavian cities with amazing public transpot systems like Copenhagen and Stockholm?

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