Get Your Ticket to Ride: 10 of the Strangest Public Transit Options Around the World
Get Your Ticket to Ride: 10 of the Strangest Public Transit Options Around the World - The Bus Rapid Transit System of Bogotá, Colombia
As the capital and largest city in Colombia, Bogotá suffers from major traffic congestion issues. With a population of over 7 million people and over 1 million vehicles clogging the roads, the city desperately needed an efficient public transportation system. The solution came in the form of TransMilenio - a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system implemented in 2000.
TransMilenio’s dedicated lanes allow buses to bypass vehicle traffic, resulting in expedited travel times. Stations are conveniently located similar to a metro system, providing accessibility. Double-articulated buses can carry up to 270 passengers, significantly reducing congestion and pollution. TransMilenio now serves over 2.1 million passengers daily across 113 kilometers of lanes and 147 stations.
Riders praise the system for its speed, reaching an average of 26 km/h compared to Bogotá’s overall traffic speed of 12 km/h. Ticket costs are low, making it affordable for all economic classes. Buses arrive frequently, reducing wait times. Overall, TransMilenio provides an efficient and sustainable transportation solution.
However, some areas need improvement. During peak hours, overcrowding is an issue with buses packed beyond capacity. Lines can stretch for blocks at stations. Adding more buses could alleviate this problem. Safely entering and exiting the bus is another concern, as pickpocketing and petty theft sometimes occur. Increased security presence would help address this.
Despite a few drawbacks, TransMilenio positively impacts Bogotá and its residents. Traffic accidents, commute times, air pollution and greenhouse gases have all declined since its launch. The BRT integrates different neighborhoods and provides greater accessibility. Citizens rely on the system’s extensive coverage for work, school and leisure. TransMilenio sets an example for major metropolises struggling with mobility.
This innovative BRT system earned the title “The Most Innovative Transportation Project in the World” in 2002 from the prestigious Stockholm-based Institution for Transportation and Development Policy. Its design thinking has been replicated in other cities like Mexico City, Istanbul, Delhi and Guangzhou to improve quality of life. TransMilenio proves that low-cost, high-efficiency public transportation is achievable.
Riding TransMilenio provides insight into how Bogotá operates. Visitors can purchase a rechargable Tullave card and experience firsthand the BRT’s benefits. Stops at key destinations like the historic La Candelaria neighborhood, Simón Bolívar Park and the lively Zona Rosa are accessible. TransMilenio offers sightseers an easy way to explore Bogotá's top attractions.
What else is in this post?
- Get Your Ticket to Ride: 10 of the Strangest Public Transit Options Around the World - The Bus Rapid Transit System of Bogotá, Colombia
- Get Your Ticket to Ride: 10 of the Strangest Public Transit Options Around the World - The Cable Cars Over Medellín, Colombia
- Get Your Ticket to Ride: 10 of the Strangest Public Transit Options Around the World - Tuk Tuks in Bangkok, Thailand
- Get Your Ticket to Ride: 10 of the Strangest Public Transit Options Around the World - The Human-Powered Rickshaws of Kolkata, India
- Get Your Ticket to Ride: 10 of the Strangest Public Transit Options Around the World - Moscow's Beautiful Subway Stations
- Get Your Ticket to Ride: 10 of the Strangest Public Transit Options Around the World - The Unique Trams of Lisbon, Portugal
- Get Your Ticket to Ride: 10 of the Strangest Public Transit Options Around the World - Riding Ostriches in South Africa
- Get Your Ticket to Ride: 10 of the Strangest Public Transit Options Around the World - The Maglev Trains of Shanghai, China
Get Your Ticket to Ride: 10 of the Strangest Public Transit Options Around the World - The Cable Cars Over Medellín, Colombia
Medellín offers a unique way to experience the city through an intricate network of cable cars known as Metrocables. These modern aerial transit systems provide efficient transportation across Medellín’s difficult mountainous terrain where building roads presents massive engineering and economic challenges.
The first Metrocable line opened in 2004 to serve underprivileged neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city center. Residents previously had to trek down and back up steep hills taking over an hour via winding paths putting them at risk of assaults and accidents. The 7.5 km Line K cable car reduced commute times to a 10 minute smooth aerial ride across a valley. This accessibility connected impoverished communities to jobs, education and healthcare in the urban core for the first time.
Additional Metrocable lines were constructed through the years. Line J services the Arvi Park nature reserve. Line L reaches the popular Arví Theme Park. Line H ascends to Santo Domingo Savio library, touted as Latin America’s most beautiful library for its Black Pearl architecture.
Avoiding hair-raising traffic, these airborne alternatives transport you directly tokey destinations while revealing breathtaking valley vistas. Cars whisk 141 passengers at 18 km/h capacities in peaceful enclosed cabins outfitted with expansive windows.
The system integrates seamlessly with Medellín’s metro trains, buses and bikes. Comuna residents can now readily access the metro via cable cars to connect across the city. Visitors can purchase integrated metro tickets to combine transport modes across Medellín’s diverse neighborhoods.
Medellín locals frequently ride Metrocables as part of their work commute or to visit family. Tourists eager for bird’s eye views of the mountainous area relish experiencing this mode of transport. Photographers capture unparalleled panoramas from cable cars gliding over dense urban cores out to lush green hillsides surrounding the city.
Get Your Ticket to Ride: 10 of the Strangest Public Transit Options Around the World - Tuk Tuks in Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok's infamously congested streets might seem like an impossible maze for visitors to navigate. But an exciting and iconic mode of transport zips though the chaos - the tuk tuk. These three-wheeled open-air vehicles embody the frenetic energy and gritty charm of Thailand's capital.
Tuk tuks originated in Japan as practical auto rickshaws in the 1930s. The design spread throughout Asia over the following decades, including Thailand. While tuk tuks have largely been replaced by taxis in many modern metropolises, they remain ubiquitous in Bangkok as a quintessential component of the cityscape.
Part of their lasting popularity comes from the sheer fun of careening through Bangkok's jam-packed roads in these zippy contraptions. Passengers sit snuggly hip-to-hip on a padded bench facing sideways. A roof provides shade from the tropical sun and frequent rains. Side curtains unfurl for added enclosure and privacy.
Most tuk tuks are powered by ear-splitting two-stroke engines, contributing to Bangkok's sensory overload. You'll breathe in gasoline exhaust fumes mingling with mouthwatering aromas wafting from street food stalls. An exhilarating tuk tuk ride undoubtedly overloads the senses - but it's an experience every Bangkok visitor should embrace.
Drivers weave precariously through traffic, making their own lanes, squeezing through impossibly narrow gaps, and whizzing past bumper-to-bumper vehicles. The sheer skill of tuk tuk drivers navigating breakneck Bangkok streets with seeming effortlessness makes for a thrilling ride.
You won't find meters in tuk tuks, so always negotiate an all-inclusive flat fare with the driver beforehand. Most drivers speak sufficient English, especially in tourist zones like Khao San Road. Tuk tuks offer a fun way to explore Bangkok's top sites without getting lost or wilting in the tropical heat. Key landmarks are spaced far apart, making a tuk tuk an efficient and comfortable option.
But don't limit tuk tuk excursions just to seeing the sights - locals rely on them for quick neighborhood jaunts too. Grab one to zip to the mall, market or temple. Some parents even transport their children to school in tuk tuks.
While Bangkok's newer mass transit systems like the BTS Skytrain boast advantages like speed, AC and safety, nothing beats seeing the city from a tuk tuk. You'll gain an authentic street-level glimpse of real Bangkok life. Locals view tuk tuks with a sense of pride, considering them an integral part of their heritage.
But tuk tuks do have downsides. Lack of seatbelts and reckless driving makes them inherently more dangerous than cars. Their two-stroke engines worsen Bangkok's hazardous air quality. Most tuk tuks still run on leaded gasoline, despite it being banned over 20 years ago. Rising prosperity means some Bangkok residents now view tuk tuks as outdated.
Get Your Ticket to Ride: 10 of the Strangest Public Transit Options Around the World - The Human-Powered Rickshaws of Kolkata, India
The hand-pulled rickshaws dragging passengers along Kolkata’s frenetic streets immerse you in the raw, authentic chaos of this fascinating Indian city. While other modes of transport like metro trains and taxis insulate travelers from the on-the-ground commotion, open rickshaws deliver an electrifying sensory experience unique to Kolkata.
Rickshaws first emerged in Japan in the late 1800s as jinrikisha, meaning human-powered vehicle. The design spread rapidly throughout Asia. While most major metropolises phased out rickshaws long ago, Kolkata retains a substantial fleet today numbering around 6,000. Rickshaws remain vital transport for short distances in Kolkata’s clogged, narrow lanes poorly suited to cars or buses.
Visitors entering a rickshaw initially feel hesitation and concern for the human effort required. But earning a meager living as a rickshaw puller remains one of the few employment options available to many struggling migrants flooding into Kolkata from poor rural villages. Most pullers accept their role with humble resignation. Young, lean men make the job look easy enough as they swiftly pedal and weave through honking vehicles. You quickly realize a leisurely rickshaw ride lightens their load versus hauling bulky goods. The experience provides insight into Kolkata’s stark socioeconomic divisions.
Sitting low to the ground in a rickshaw bathes you in Kolkata’s intense street scenes. Makeshift shops and food stalls crowd the sidewalks, forcing rickshaws into the chaos of traffic. The pullers transport not just passengers but products too, expertly balancing baskets and bags as they pedal. They regularly stop so you can take photos of colorful saris hanging out to dry above the street or a wandering cow. The discovery feels more adventurous and authentic than peering out a taxi window.
While rickshaws go quite slow compared to cars, they rarely get stuck in snarls thanks to their nimble size and the puller’s skill in swiftly changing direction. Traveling this way provides close-up views of holy men, merchants, laborers and beggars who make up Kolkata’s essence. The city’s cacophony of sounds, from bicycle bells to calls to prayer to shouts from street hawkers, becomes your background music.
Most visitors feel some mixed emotions about accepting human-powered transport in an increasingly modernized India. But the ride provides direct insight into Kolkata's soul. Generous travelers often pay above the 10-30 rupee fare. You may even decide to step out and pull the rickshaw yourself for a block - an act remembered with gratitude. This traditional transport also reduces pollution and congestion.
Get Your Ticket to Ride: 10 of the Strangest Public Transit Options Around the World - Moscow's Beautiful Subway Stations
With expansive murals, elaborate chandeliers, and palatial architecture, Moscow’s metro system stands as one of the world’s most beautiful. The Soviet push for impressive public works projects resulted in the opening of these palatial stations in the 1930s. Riders across Moscow utilize the metro’s efficient reach daily, but also get to soak up the opulent ambiance.
Descending into these stunning stations feels like entering hidden underground ballrooms. Following the Russian tradition of vivid storytelling through visual arts, the metro’s arched ceilings display massive mural masterpieces depicting socialist imagery. Inspiring portraits of farmers toiling in fields or workers uniting in factories remind travelers of communist ideals. Mosaics of athletes and scholars represent Soviet youth and achievement. Some stations even showcase peoples and legends from Russia’s vast expanse, like the monumental bronze statues lining Ploshchad Revolyutsii.
Not only do the metro’s mosaic murals educate, they also astonish with their immense scale and fine detail. Natural light pours through elaborate glasswork to illuminate the vivid scenes. The palatial architecture provides an ornate frame for this artwork with its arched ceilings, elaborate plaster flourishes, crystal chandeliers and shining marble.
Travelers seeking the system’s crowning beauty flock to stations like Mayakovskaya. Its grand arched ceiling shines with rows of stainless-steel art deco fixtures creating a futuristic sky. And Komsomolskaya’s immense baroque-style hall, adorned with intricate mosaics and lined by dramatic columns, resembles a tsar’s lavish ballroom. The elegant, flowing designs masterfully camouflage the engineering required for these immense underground spaces.
Riding through this splendor commuting to work or running errands highlights the incredible public access to fine art and architecture. Muscovites utilize the metro’s efficiency while also gaining inspiration from its world-class beauty daily. Even visitors pressing through crowded stations and trains on sticky summer days get swept up by this hidden grandeur. The metro transports you both across Moscow and through Russia’s vivid history.
Get Your Ticket to Ride: 10 of the Strangest Public Transit Options Around the World - The Unique Trams of Lisbon, Portugal
Winding through Lisbon's hilly cobblestone streets, the city's iconic yellow trams deliver stunning views and a quintessential Portuguese experience. These historic trolleys have shuttled locals up and down Lisbon's steep hills since the late 1800s. Today, a few vintage routes still operate, offering travelers a charming ride through Portugal's capital.
Unlike modern streetcars, Lisbon's narrow trams feature wooden benches facing sideways down the carriage. Large windows provide panoramic vistas of the colorful houses blanketing Lisbon's slopes as you rattle along. The old-fashioned trams only fit a couple dozen passengers cozied together. Their intimacy fosters conversation between tourists and locals happy to swap insights or travel tips.
Part of the joy comes from being transported back in time through Lisbon's postcard-perfect neighborhoods. The slower speed allows you to spot laundry hanging above the narrow lanes, children playing street soccer, and old ladies chatting out windows. While Lisbon also offers fast, modern metro lines, only the classic trams deliver this feeling of nostalgia.
Route 28 is the most popular, starting in trendy Bairro Alto winding north to the medieval Alfama district and Castelo de Sao Jorge. The vintage 1930s trams squeak and rattle up steep hills and around tight bends - hold on when standing! Along the way, trace Lisbon's history through sights like the grandiose 18th-century Estrela Basilica and the Prazeres Cemetery's lavish tombs.
The appeal also comes from conquering Lisbon's terrain the old-fashioned way. The city's seven legendary hills make walking exhausting. But hopping the tram allows you to experience the city across these steep slopes with ease and panache.
Part of the adventure is actually boarding a tram. Long lines queue at limited stops as the sardine-packed trams roll up. Locals graciously squeeze together to fit just one more. You need to mount quickly and grab any edge offered before the tram lurches forward. Expect close quarters and new friends.
While planning your journey along the scenic waterfront or to Belém's sights like the Tower of Belém, don't miss this classic Lisbon experience. Tram 15 also provides a parallel route if 28 is too crowded. The smooth ride across Lisbon's hills gives you a new vantage on its beauty.
Get Your Ticket to Ride: 10 of the Strangest Public Transit Options Around the World - Riding Ostriches in South Africa
Who needs a safari jeep when you can saddle up your very own ostrich and experience a South African game reserve from a distinctly different vantage point? Ostrich riding offers a unique way to take in the natural beauty of reserves like Oudtshoorn’s Safari Ostrich Farm. And with ostriches being the world’s largest living bird species, adult riders sit high up for excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. Just hold on tight to those reins once the ostrich decides to sprint!
South Africa pioneered ostrich riding during the mid 1800s. With minimal needed equipment besides a saddle, reins and foot stirrups, ostrich riding proved an efficient means of covering large areas and monitoring ostrich flocks on farms. Today, ostrich riding remains a quintessential South African adventure activity. Farms across the country now welcome visitors to partake following brief instruction.
Approaching a standing ostrich can feel intimidating given their powerful long legs and sharp claws. But riders soon learn these flightless giants are also gentle, loyal and eager to follow direction. You’ll sit wedged up front on the ostrich’s back, so lean forward to properly balance. Giddy first time riders often can’t stop smiling as their ostrich trots off, thrilled to partner with such an imposing beast.
As the ostrich speeds up, bouncing along dirt roads, the bouncy gait demands concentrating fully on posture. But traversing reserves this way allows closer interaction with resident wildlife compared to vehicles. You steer the obliging ostrich toward scenic lookouts and prime game viewing spots. Sightings of grazing zebras or a journey of giraffes chatting are magical moments to treasure.
Ostriches naturally top out around 40 mph, but supervised riding limits speed for safety. Still, when your ostrich accelerates unexpectedly, just cling to the saddle with thighs and knees. Their strong necks act as a handlebar of sorts when needed. Relax and move with the ostrich’s rhythm as the powerful legs eat up ground.
Dusty trails lead deep into untamed landscapes where few vehicles venture. As the ostrich strides through brush, you gain a walker’s perspective of the land compared to riding in a jeep. The connection feels primal and adventurous.
Get Your Ticket to Ride: 10 of the Strangest Public Transit Options Around the World - The Maglev Trains of Shanghai, China
Zip through the futuristic metropolis of Shanghai at speeds over 260 miles per hour on the world’s fastest commercially operating train - the maglev. These sleek white bullet trains use electro-magnetic propulsion to fly passengers smooth as glass across the city in mere minutes.
China holds claim to the sole high-speed maglev route, whisking people 19 miles from downtown Shanghai to Pudong International Airport in just 7 1/2 minutes. That's less time than you'll spend on a typical airport shuttle bus. The train maxes out at a blazing 268 mph thanks to magnetic levitation technology that literally lifts the train above the track. With no friction to slow it down, the train seems to skim the track like a surfer along a wave.
The speed leaves your jaw dropped as the maglev accelerates to 260 mph within seconds of departure. Tunnel vision sets in as the futuristic skyline whizzes past in a blur. Upon descent, ears pop rapidly from the change in air pressure. All too quickly, it's over. The maglev offers a sample of what rail transport could look like everywhere someday. Even locals still ride just for the thrill.
The maglev's speed and smoothness provide more than just novelty though. The high-capacity system transports passengers between Shanghai's city center and its international airport in mere minutes. This allows for rapid connections to long-haul flights from Asia's busiest airport. Making the commute in under 8 minutes versus 60 minutes by car increases productivity and opens economic channels.
Since launching in 2002, the maglev has carried over 50 million people. It's changed life in Shanghai by collapsing the urban-airport divide. What once felt like a trek now becomes a quick errand. Travelers worldwide envy this rapid link from the skyscrapers of Pudong to the Bund's historic buildings in central Shanghai via a train faster than a jet plane.
Beyond travel benefits, China views the maglev as a symbol of its technological innovations and status. However, high infrastructure costs have prevented widespread maglev adoption. This demonstration line required over $1.2 billion to construct in the early 2000s. But with steady passenger growth, China now looks toward maglev links beyond Shanghai. Proposed routes from Shanghai to Beijing would slash travel times to under 3 hours.