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Editor's Note: China Daily reporters go underground in New York, Paris and Tokyo to get the inside track on subways.
Making connections in the Big Apple
Dating back to 1904, New York City's subway system is the busiest transit system in the United States, with an estimated 5.5 million people riding it daily.
But the recent holiday saw services cut back.
The city's Metropolitan Transportation Authority ran fewer trains during the morning and evening rush during the Christmas holiday. The reduction in service, according to the MTA, was part of efforts to save $2 billion from the budget.
Even though budget concerns are a priority, the system is expanding.
The Second Avenue Subway will be the first major expansion of the city's subway system in more than 50 years.
A huge tunnel-boring machine - nicknamed "the mole", went far beneath the surface so that nearby buildings would not be disturbed by construction.
The MTA recently approved raising subway fares to increase revenue. "The announced fare hike, which will take place in March, is necessary to help the MTA meet its budget," MTA spokesman Charles Seaton said.
However, Tom Angotti, professor of urban affairs and planning at Hunter College in New York City, said the construction of the new line is "more for promoting new real estate development than meeting the needs of present and future passengers.
"There is no long-term planning for the New York subway system. This is consistent with national transportation policy, which overwhelmingly favors highway construction and maintenance over mass transit, and (there are) only minimal funds for existing transit systems," he said.
Underground railway keeps Paris going
With a history of more than 110 years, the underground transportation system in Paris continues to grow.
A total of 32 billion euros ($42 billion) is expected to be invested in the Greater Paris Express project over the next 15 years, according to the RATP Group, the French company that operates the Parisian subway system.
The infrastructure program includes the construction of 250 kilometers of automatic metro lines by 2025 with 72 new stations in the Paris region.
The project will help alleviate congestion on the existing metro network in Greater Paris. About two million passengers will use this new network on a daily basis and journey times will be significantly reduced, according to the RATP Group.
It is also expected to help keep 150,000 cars off the road daily in the Greater Paris region by 2035.
Since the first metro line was inaugurated in 1900, the metro system has been a defining feature of the French capital. Today the network consists of 14 lines, carrying 1.4 billion passengers per year.
Automation is a key feature of the Paris Metro system. In 1998, Paris opened the world's first automatic driverless line. Another fully automated line was added in December.
With the automated facilities, passengers can enjoy a more responsive service with greater safety and comfort. One of the main benefits of automation is the line's ability to react instantly to an increase in passengers and provide the number of trains required for the optimum operation of the line, the group said.
There are 300 stations in the city, ensuring that every point in the city is less than 500 meters away from a metro station.
There are plans to build a 100-km line around Paris.
Tokyo metro stations are a hub of activity
Tokyo's subway system, operated by Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway, is comprised of 13 lines with a total length of 320 kilometers. Estimated daily passenger use stands at 8 million.
A journey of 10 km costs 190 yen ($2.2) for an adult, and half the price for children between 6 and 11 years old.
Tokyo Metro uses "women-only" cars during rush hour, and on certain lines. Stations are usually hives of commercial activity.
Tokyo Metro and Toei trains form separate networks. While users of prepaid rail passes can freely interchange between the two networks, regular ticket holders must purchase a second ticket, or a special transfer ticket, in most cases, to change between the two lines.
"The subway system in Tokyo is quite extensive, and it's very convenient to take the subway to most places in Tokyo," Shen Xin, a resident of Beijing who visited Tokyo last year. "But I was surprised to find, unlike in Beijing, I had to buy a second ticket to transfer to another line. In addition, the network's complicated routes can also be confusing to a visitor."
As in all major cities, subway and main line stations are linked. Wang Mengshu, a specialist in underground engineering and a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that "Chinese cities can also adopt this practice to encourage the use of subways".
(China Daily 01/04/2013 page6)