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Riding Subways in Seoul: A Word from Phil

When Amy and I decided to move out of Brooklyn in 1995, we only wanted to live in neighborhoods where we could walk to the train and shopping. It wasn’t so easy to find something in our price range. In Westchester, a realtor showed us a house squeezed between a train station’s parking lot and the highway. We stayed in the car. Another realtor took us to a house 3 miles from the station and said it wasn’t far at all. We didn’t get out of her car either.

Now, in Seoul, we can walk to 3 subway stations! Plus, we use the shared bikes nearly every day, ride lots of different buses, but mostly walk and walk and walk.

Check out an article that I wrote that compared the difference in getting around NY vs. Seoul. It ran in Streetsblog.

Here’s a bunch of related photos.

1. Believe it not, these two photos are the bus terminal in Seoul. It’s also the ground floor of a department store. (Look very closely. If you compare it to the Port Authority bus terminal in New York, you’ll see some subtle differences.)

2. The station have glass partitions that separate passengers from the tracks. You can’t fall in, jump in, or get pushed onto the tracks. These “platform doors” make the stations quieter and also cooler in the summer.

3. New York has turnstiles that would have deterred medieval armies. No need for that in Seoul. And, check out what’s on the left on the other side of the turnstiles – lockers!

4. Passengers under the age of 65 are required to look busy. Watching videos and playing games is perfectly acceptable.

5. Korea has a shrinking population. Not enough women are getting married and having kids. Apparently, free child care isn’t enough of an inducement. So, here’s one little perk pregnant woman get. Their own pink seat in every subway car.

6. People just like to hang out in Seoul subway stations.

7. You might remember playing “pin the tail on the donkey” as a kid. You just close your eyes and pick out a spot. That’s pretty much how we got around, at first, when we had to rely upon this bewildering subway map.

8. Subway stations have this weird smell. Sometimes it’s the flowers in the shops. But, more often it’s the bakeries. Some of the baked goods look like a fish, others a nut. My favorite look like an octopus. Croffles are the hip food, now -- you can probably figure out the two treats they are made from.

9. You'll find a clean public bathroom at every single station. It’s not like New York where trying to find a public bathroom is more like playing “Where’s Waldo.”

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