Successful Seoul Public Transportation Overhaul
New Big Blue Seoul Bus
Man the Seoul Metropolitan Public Transportation Authority has their stuff together, unlike other government bureaus. Today, June 1st, was the first day the changes in Seoul’s public transportation system took effect. It has been completely revamped. The bus routes, numbers, signs, fairs, website, payment system, even the bus colors changed. It was a huge undertaking the public had been following for weeks.
Considering the extent of the changes, I seriously doubted it would go smoothly. I expected a nightmare during my morning commute. But, amazingly, it went off without a hitch. The success is all due to the Seoul Public Transit Authority’s superb foresight, planning, and service. The new bus stop signs with maps of all the routs and little temporary placards noting the old bus numbers were all up by this morning. There were helpers at metro stations and busy bus stops with flyers explaining the changes and summarizing new routes. Each bus had a temporary sticker on the side with the old bus number. But, most considerate of all, everyone rode for free today. The electronic readers were turned off and the coin deposit slots taped over.
But, that’s just the beginning. The JoongAng Daily had an article about the changes and the Seoul Bus Management and the Seoul Metropolitan Subway Corporation websites provided extensive information. The improvements are impressive. They may make the Seoul system the most advanced in the world. It was already fairly advanced. The Seoul Transportation System, in cooperation with local banks, has already created traffic cards. Electronic scanners at subway stations and on buses read the cards. They store a tally of the fairs and it is automatically deduct from your bank account at the end of each month.
Now, using the same traffic card system in combination with Global Positioning Satellite technology, the Transit Authority to is charging cardholders by the distance they travel rather than the number of transfers they make. Under pre-GPS system cardholders that traveled 10 kilometers and transferred 4 times could pay up to 5,200 won depending on the combination of buses and trains. But, today journeys up to 10 kilometers, which involve less than 4 transfers, cost 800 won. Then travelers pay 100 won for each additional 5 kilometers they travel over 10 kilometers. It’s simpler and cheaper.
But, the coolest thing is the GPS system allows users to travelers to see bus route maps, track the location of buses, and view arrival times on the Internet, PDAs, or web-enabled cell phones. The system also enables disputers to adjust bus departure times so buses arrive more consistently.
The only drawback, as I see, are the T-Money cards. They became available today and will replace the current traffic cards in 2008. According to the JoongAng Daily story, there are 1,500 and 2,500 won versions of T-cards. The 1,500 won cards come in minimum 10,000 won denominations and can only be used for public transportation. The 2,500 won cards can also be used at convenience stores and in taxies. However, the more expensive T-Money cards are still no were near as versatile as the current traffic cards. My traffic card is also an international Visa and a debit card. I don’t need any other cards. I can travel from my house to Inchoen airport to the United States and back again without using another card.
However, even with the T-Money cards, the current Seoul public transportation system has to be one of — if not the — best in the world. I’ve used the San Francisco, Washington D.C., Mexico City, New York, Miami, and Seattle systems and Seoul kicks their asses! Thank you Seoul Metropolitan Public Transportation Authority. Keep up the good work.