Transit in Vancouver vs. Seoul

The recent speculation of a system glitch with Translink’s Compass Card made me wonder if there will be progress anytime soon. Looking back at my experiences in other countries, Seoul (South Korea) to be specific, it is surprising that Vancouver has yet to fully implement an already established transit system.

Seoul is no different from Vancouver. Both cities are hubs to business and residential districts with high traffic flow. Here is a population breakdown as a quick reference: Seoul (9.82 million people, 2005), and Vancouver (578,040 people, 2006). It is no surprise that the transit system in Seoul is built to accommodate the flux of users during rush hour.

Having taken the transit system during my recent trip to Seoul, it was an eye opening experience. For this post, let’s focus on the subway system of Seoul. At first glance, the subway network may seem overwhelming. There are 19 different lines (inclusive of planned construction and extensions of lines). Note that this is just within the city of Seoul. Other cities in South Korea, such as Busan, also have their own subway system.

Subway map of Seoul

The stations were well kept and maintained. Most stations had barricades to prevent people from walking onto the tracks. Specific stations may have up to 10 different exits, each leading to different streets. Users can buy a transit card, called “T Money” (which can be used in buses, taxis, convenient stores, and across a few other subway systems within South Korea). A clear and distinct announcement board provides information of the next train, where it’s heading, and its departure time.


Cabins of the trains are more spacious in comparison to those in Vancouver. I did not notice any banners promoting public courtesy in transit (which are commonly found in most trains here). Of course, there are allocated seats specifically for senior citizens, pregnant women, and the injured). Advertisements can be seen across cabins, as well as small screens for commercials. A unique feature inside of train cabins in Seoul is a decibel board, which shows the level of noise inside each cabin. Strange, but interesting.


With an increase in population and frequencies of train delays, Vancouver is only a step away from implementing these established systems (from other countries). It’s only a matter of time.


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