The City With The Best Public Transport in the World Just Might Surprise You!

by Shelli Stein

A while back I was talking with a friend who was visiting Berlin for the first time. As he was describing his impressions of the city, what he liked and what he didn’t care for, one impression jumped out at me. He was raving about the public transportation. Other friends who either live or have lived in Berlin speak about many of Berlin’s pluses, but I didn’t recall them mentioning the public transportation. I enjoy Berlin too, but because I walk everywhere, while I did use public transportation, it didn’t stick out as being particularly special. But this friend, who is very well-traveled, was RAVING about it. That got me thinking. What cities have the best public transport in the world?

Just where did Berlin rank compared to other cities when it comes to the best public transportation in the world? I did some digging to find out. I was surprised by some of the high ranking cities, and equally as surprised by the cities that didn’t grab top spots. Spoiler alert…….I’m now planning a trip back to Berlin!

Who Decides What’s BEST?

Lists can be problematic, right? Who decides what’s best, what’s not making the cut, and the reasons why and criteria used? In the case of public transportation, it makes total sense to me that it’s necessary for the people who actually USE what’s being ranked, in this case public transportation in their cities, to do the deciding. That’s why I liked what this list had to say. The people who voted use these transportation systems every day.

Learn more here about which cities ranked highest

Of the cities ranked in the top 10, I’ve been to all but one of them. And I had used public transportation in all 9 of them, though not every day or very extensively. Still, I was fascinated to see that cities I had assumed (from either my own personal experience or from how I imagined the systems would work), would rank high did not make the top 10.

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What Criteria Were Used to Rank the Cities With the Best Public Transport in the World

I agree with the article when it says, “Trains, buses and trams are the unsung heroes of the world.” I would add ferries, too! To identify the cities with the world’s greatest public transport, surveys were taken by more than 20,000 city-dwellers around the world, in more than 50 cities. The survey asked one question: is it easy to get around your city by public transport? In the cities that ranked in the top 10, at least four out of five locals had good things to say about their city’s public transportation network.

What criteria would you use in ranking systems? Maybe comfort, safety, and whether or not the systems run on time? Does the system make it easy to get around the city and cover most of the city? Is using public transport a good value for the money?

It’s not about having the most stations or the most track. It’s more about servicing the population and doing it well. Having a system that’s well-maintained helps, too. And how about having a system, as they do in Tokyo, that’s easy to use even when you don’t speak the local language?

Take a look at the top 10 cities and see what you think. Agree, disagree, which cities would you have picked that didn’t make the cut, and maybe these choices will alert you to some destinations worth exploring more by using their transportation.

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Final Thoughts

I would suggest that to make the most of the cities we live in or visit, it’s key to make the most of its public transportation system. So it’s wonderful then to have a system in place that allows the people who use it to have a great experience.

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Bob June 3, 2023 - 12:25 pm

Which city is in picture associated with this article?

Shelli June 3, 2023 - 1:34 pm

Great question, Bob. It’s Prague. Thanks for reading!

derek October 7, 2023 - 10:46 am

Smartphones change things. Taipei is highly ranked. If one has a smartphone and data, one can get the current bus schedules. Often there are lots of different buses that one could take. If one relies only on memory or is a new visitor, that is too much information to consider. In the pre-smartphone days, subway systems had an advantage because you could carry a subway map. In Taipei, there’s both the subway system and a very extensive bus system. Sometimes bus is faster or more direct.

In NYC (Manhattan), the bus system is very straightforward and the street grid is well defined. There’s a lot of traffic so subways are faster. Along with widely displayed subway maps, Manhattan was one of the best in previous decades.

Singapore is great but it’s hot. That makes some bus trips sweaty, depending on if there is shade. Singapore considers taxis as public transportation so the fares are reasonable. That is smart thinking because no country can afford to build a subway to every corner of every city. Can you imagine every neighborhood in Peoria having a subway? The income tax rate would have to exceed 99%.

Some places with poor public transportation aren’t so bad. If the airport, your hotel, and a few places that you want to go are served, that could be good public transportation even if the system is not too good.

Shelli October 7, 2023 - 11:16 am

Great comment, derek! I agree with your last point. I have used public transportation in the three cities you mention and have no complaints! Thanks for reading and adding to the conversation. Enjoy your travels.


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