Living in a big city has its perks — cool stuff to do, interesting people to meet — but, given their usually congested roads, getting around metropolises can be a bit of a drag. While we are certainly appreciative that functioning public transit exists in these cities, and they are not actually across-the-board terrible, we're just saying that there are elements that could use some improvements.
1. New York City
If your main intercity railway station inspires the trending hashtag #SummerofHell, you may have problems. That's how train travelers are describing a $40 million Amtrak project to upgrade track switches at Penn Station. The upgrade is set to continue for the next eight weeks, promising delays and packed train carriages as diverted passengers swell the already huge number of daily passengers passing through the station (almost 40,000).
While Penn Station's problems primarily impact on those commuting in and out of NYC, those living in the city itself don't have it much better. "Every subway line is getting worse," according to The New York Times. What the NYT calls "the aging equipment in its 112-year-old system" is pushing signals and tracks along the subway system to their limits and, along with overcrowding, making subway delays "a frustrating fact of life in New York City." And, believe us, at this time of year, when the humidity is at its peak, standing on an NYC subway track for even a minute too long can feel like a very particular type of torture. It's also really dirty, by the way.
2. Bogotá, Colombia
The Colombian capital is a wonderful city, rich in art, history and culture, but according to a Thomson Reuters Foundation survey conducted a few years ago, it's not such a wonderful city for women to travel through. Bogotá came out worst in a poll about sexual harassment on public transport, making its transit system the most dangerous in the world for women, followed by Mexico City and Lima, Peru (NYC redeems itself, here, by coming out best). Add this very off-putting detail to the fact that the city of 8 million people has no subway (although there is the effective bus raid system, TransMilenio), a network of overcrowded private buses and taxi drivers with terrible reputations for extortion and dangerous driving. Our advice? Use the taxi hailing app Tappsi for peace of mind when traveling around.
3. Toronto, Canada
Efficient Canada may seem a surprise entry on this list. However, an investigation by the National Post last year found that "Between September and November 2015, there was a total of 7,301 minutes of delays, caused by everything from missing drivers, bomb threats, and an owl." The report also noted that fares had actually increased during a period when service was getting worse (though that does seem to be a universal trend, not specific to Toronto). The problem, posited Torontoist in a reason editorial, is governance. "In contrast to virtually every other jurisdiction in North America," they wrote, "transit planning in Toronto is remarkably fractured, unresponsive, and undemocratic."
4. Guatemala City
Guatemala City's colorful "Chicken Buses" are pretty to look at — but the fact that they are usually retired U.S. school buses might cause pause for concern over their roadworthiness. That being said, your main concerns are reckless drivers, price gouging and theft, particularly at night. Some tourists have had their luggage stolen from the rooftop rack where it is stored, so best to carry important items in the bag you keep with you. Besides that, they're not so bad really.
Tokyo's smooth-running metro system is not really one of the worst. In fact, it's clean and almost always on time — and it's difficult to find many faults with it at all. So why does it make this list? Well, that's a nod to claustrophobic riders among us. Shinjuku Station sees more than 3.6 million passengers every day, and scenes of rail workers pushing passengers onto already way overcrowded trains are some of the most recognizable images of the city. Then there is the impossibly complicated layout of some stations — Shinjuku and Ginza stations can appear maze-like and inscrutable if you are not used to them — and it can all add up to an exasperating experience. Still, if you find your train, and can get on it, you can be fairly confident you'll get to your destination on time.
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