If you work in mobility, you might get the impression that there are as many rankings for the best public transport in the world as there are cities on the planet. And there probably are, as every traveler with a blog or every travel platform publishes a post on the subject at some point. For this article, however, we decided to rely on a more trustworthy and reputable source: a December 2022 study conducted by the consulting firm Oliver Wyman and the University of California, Berkeley.
What makes transit great?
Public transport deserves applause. Why is that? Not only does it get us from A to B, but public transportation is an essential component of an inclusive and sustainable society.
The comprehensive study looked at the public transport systems of 60 major cities around the world and rated them based on criteria that included the quality of the infrastructure, social impact, market appeal, operational efficiency, and innovative network developments.
Without further ado, let’s dive in:
1. Hong Kong
Hong Kong topped the list and was awarded the best public transport system in the world. According to the study, the well-developed public transport system is characterized by affordability, high station density and robust rail infrastructure, which led to the outstanding result.
For a city with a high cost of living, public transportation in Zurich is very affordable. It is also almost unbeatable in terms of efficiency, and a public transport station is almost always within walking distance. Another major advantage of Zurich’s public transportation system is Switzerland’s excellent rail network, thanks to the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB).
The Zürcher Verkehrsbetriebe (VBZ) provides the people of Zurich and the surrounding region with environmentally friendly and affordable public transportation – 365 days a year, at least 20 hours a day. In order to provide a high quality of service at all times, VBZ is working to expand its operations in a resource-conserving and future-oriented manner.
For years, VBZ has been using PTV Visum software for its service planning, analyzing the potential of new lines or services, e.g..
The Swedish capital ranks third on the list for its sustainable, low-emission public transportation. Since 2017, trains and buses use 100% renewable energy. The next goals for 2030 are to have fossil-free maritime transport, to reduce emissions by 75% compared to 2009 levels, and to use 15% less energy per passenger kilometer than in 2011.
Oslo has a well-developed, modern transportation system that makes getting around the city a breeze. Whether you walk or ride a bike, you won’t have to go far. In addition, the cost of public transportation in Oslo is 28% of the cost of daily food, and public transportation is more affordable than parking. Parking costs about 56% of the share of daily food.
Recent technology trends such as autonomous vehicles and Mobility as a Service (MaaS) concepts will change the mobility landscape of cities in the coming years. The Norwegian capital is preparing for this trend. Ruter, the local public transport company, commissioned a study to identify potential opportunities, risks and consequences for urban and transport planning. Together with COWI, a Scandinavian consulting firm, PTV developed a traffic model for the Oslo and Akershus region to underpin the future mobility scenario. The Oslo study dares to look into this unknown future and shows how the latest technology trends, such as autonomous driving and shared mobility, will affect future mobility in Oslo.
Back in 2003, Singapore took the lead as the world’s first automated rail system, and it is currently recognized for maintaining one of the best. Public transportation is affordable and conveniently accessible on foot.
In Helsinki, the multimodal public transportation network includes bus, tram, metro, commuter train, and ferry services, which is common for a Nordic country. What sets it apart is its connection to the robust national rail system and a great journey planner app that integrates all modes of transportation.
Tokyo is known for having the world’s most extensive urban rail network of suburban trains and subways, as well as buses, trams, and many other modes of transportation. The system boasts frequent service and on-time departures. Not to mention, it is connected to the world-class rail network, including high-speed bullet trains like the Shinkansen.
Paris’ ranking is mainly due to its current high share of public transport, an affordable public transport system, and its density of stations. Few parts of the city are more than a short walk from public transport. In addition, a single public transport ticket costs about 18% of the cost of a daily meal, which is below average, making public transport in Paris more affordable than in many other cities.
What makes public transportation in Berlin special is its multimodality. Supported by an integrated app that allows trip planning and payment for all modes of transportation, including cars and e-scooters, it is easy to get around using mass transit. Although expensive compared to other cities, an overwhelming majority (97%) of Berliners praise the network for being reliable, comfortable, and safe.
Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG), Berlin’s public transport operator, has been using traffic modeling for more than 15 years to support its planning and decision-making. Their PTV Visum traffic model covers 1,500 traffic districts and includes up-to-date supply, structural, behavioral and counting data.
In addition, PTV Transport Consult was commissioned to enhance the content and methodology of the current transport model.
With one of the most extensive public transportation networks in the world, London ranks tenth on the list. The recently opened, high-frequency Elizabeth line is cited as one of the pros, connecting the east and west sides of the city. The downside is the price. Public transportation in London is expensive, costing as much as 80% of a day’s food for a single fare (unless you have an Oyster card).
Transport for London (TfL) is the integrated body responsible for London’s transport system. Its Operational Network Evaluator (ONE) is a tactical highway traffic assignment model used to assess the impact of projects in the Greater London area and evaluate mitigation strategies. Built into PTV Visum software, ONE provides a simplified representation of real-world road traffic conditions and has been used extensively by TfL for many years with excellent results. It has helped to assess the impact of schemes such as cycle routes and major road redesigns. It has also helped with the operational analysis of road and river crossing closures and their impact on bus journey times.