I have never experienced public transportation like I have in Seoul.
In Bloomington, I live about three miles off campus – about 10 minutes away by car.
The Bloomington Transit bus is the only one that comes near my house, and it only comes every hour and does not run on the weekends.
Standing in the rain for an hour is not my idea of good transportation. Consequently, I had resorted to driving my car to and from campus.
In a city where half of South Korea’s population resides, one would expect public transportation to be frustrating or at least difficult to travel on time given the heavy traffic. However, it is quite the opposite.
Every day I take the city bus to campus. The bus comes every 15 minutes or less.
The buses use special lanes on most major streets, shaving off a lot of time bypassing traffic. The subway is also quite efficient and easy to use.
Also, I have never used taxis as much as I do here. They are everywhere at all times of the day and cheap. From campus to my apartment, the fare is about six dollars, and I usually split a taxi with two other people.
At times, I have used a taxi when I was too tired to travel the 15 minutes by foot (in my defense, the campus has many hills) to campus. On certain days, paying three dollars for an easy drive is worth it.
Even more, I am impressed by the way people can pay for transportation. They have a charging system called T-money, which is a card people can charge at subway stations or convenience stores and use to pay for their transportation on the bus, subway and taxis.
Whenever I get on a bus, I place my card on an electric scanner, and the screen will tell me how much I am being charged as well as how much money I have left. When I leave the bus or subway, I scan my T-money card again.
What’s really convenient is that I don’t have to scan the card directly; I can keep it in my wallet or in an outer pocket in my purse and just put my wallet or purse up to the scanner. There are key-chains, watches and many new forms of T-money scanners. I switched from a card to a phone key chain just because I always have my phone close by.
Seoul is quite a modern and growing city, and I was glad to find that the transportation system reflects that. However, the driving in Seoul is not as well-systemized, and many take driving rules as suggestions not law, but that’s a completely different topic for another time.