A tale of 3 cities: Public transportation | PDD

A tale of 3 cities: Public transportation


on March 14 2012

After a busy month of trotting around the globe, Design Insight Consultant Rosie Brodhurst-Hooper has put together a series of posts examining the key cultural differences in public hygiene, art& culture, public transportation and her favourite, fashion& retail.

New York

After a rather confusing cab situation (black-market cabs endorsed by airport staff?!), I was thrown into the running theme of transport confusion that would carry me through the  next  5 days in New York City. After arriving at the airport and what can be described as a ‘good value’ bus-trip over the river, I found myself in a cab negotiation session which I was yet to be prepared for.

Like the experience of New York in general, I really did find managing their transport system to be quite fraught. With their reputation preceding them, I approached cab  drivers  with caution, following the advice of friends that I should just jump in and then bark orders!

The New York Subway was a different animal, with locals proclaiming their network to be ‘the simplest to navigate in the world’. I beg to differ. Being a seasoned tube traveller, I can get to most Zone 1 or 2 destinations without even referring to the trusty London tube map, but the New York Subway was a struggle from the start. Branches, colours, lines and engineering works taking us all the way into the depths of Long Island city, not towards Times Square as we hoped.

As the lowly Metrocard does rule in NYC, I experienced another travel bugbear of mine, thanks to their counter-intuitive top-up machines, with an unfriendly user-interface, and unstated rules about the amount of money allowed to-top up at a single time.

NYC Subway Image credit: Mike Fleming Image source:  Flickr Creative Commons


Japan Subway Map image credit: Bureau of Transportation Tokyo Metropolitan Government Image Source:http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/subwaymap/index.html

Looking at the Tokyo Subway in Kanji can be a little daunting for a first time visitor, so I was very thankful that English versions were readily available.

Unlike the New York System, although the colour and numbered lines system is the same, the formatting (less curved/less branches) seems to be more formulaic, and navigable.

Image credit: PDD

I found my mini travel from Shibuya to Takebashi to be largely stress-free, and even enjoyed seeing the signage for women-only trains in peak hours, something which London Transport could do with copying!

Image credit: PDD

Of course, linking back to Christian and James Steiner’s blog post about cuties, it was interesting to see such a typically un-friendly  vehicle  as a bus be transformed by a sunny colour-scheme and a mega-cute dog.

Image credit: RATP Image source: RATP


With me being much more familiar with France, and Paris in particular, I found their transport network to be most like London’s. Saying that, I would never dare try and get a bus in Paris, a feat far beyond my means, even at my ‘intermediate’ tourist  status .

I am always shocked that Parisian trains going to Charles De Gaulle airport (on the RER) are so unmaintained. Foul-smelling, rubbish filled, noisy and packed are not adjectives I would expect to be associated with the welcome-to-Paris-wagon that (cheaply) delivers visitors into central Paris.

Image credit: PDD

But, on the other hand, the French do have their own transportation curveball. Anything double-decker fascinates me, whether it’s the old-style buses housed in the TfL Museum, or even the anticipation of getting to have a ride on the top-deck of the new 38 Routemaster buses, so imagine my delight on seeing Paris’ double-decker TRAINS! Unfortunately I am yet to take a ride, but, will make it my mission on returning to Paris at the end of April.

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A tale of 3 cities: Public Transportation

A tale of 3 cities: Fashion & retail