“ Taipei Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) - Taipei metro system „
Taipei Mass Rapid Transit (MRT)
If London Underground is the worst metro system I've ever been on (and frankly, IMHO, it's nothing short of an embarrassment to an otherwise great city) then Taipei MRT in Taiwan has to be the best.
Opened in 1998, Taipei MRT has four main lines (plus a couple of short annexes) that cover the majority of the city. With signs in English, it is very easy to navigate for the foreign tourist.
I found it impossible to fault Taipei MRT. The trains themselves were very regular - roughly at 2 - 5min intervals on every line. They also have longer service hours than many metro systems, roughly from 5am to 1am every day. Most of the lines were protected by safety barriers, meaning there was no fear of being pushed on to the tracks - those that didn't had guards to keep the lines back. At rush hour the trains were busy as all metros are, but at off peak times it was pretty easy to get a seat on most trains.
Some features that I noticed that were interesting - at night the stations, already very well lit and open, had security guards on duty. They also had "women night waiting" areas, as well as breast-feeding rooms, while "yield your seat" stickers (for people with special needs such as the elderly or people with babies or young children) were available from the information desks found in each station.
In terms of cost it was hard to better. No single journey cost more than 80 Taiwan New Dollars (roughly 1.80), but you could get an "Easycard", which was also used on buses and for entry to some attractions (such as the zoo). These cost 500TND to purchase from a machine, of which 100 was a deposit. You simply pressed the card against a sensor at the ticket gates and did the same to exit. When your remaining balance got low you just put the card into a machine and topped it up.
In addition to the already cheap prices, Easycard journeys carried a 20% discount. And when you were finished, you just returned your card to an information desk and you were given your deposit and any remaining balance back (I cashed mine in at the airport). They were incredible value - in five days in Taipei, using the MRT roughly five times a day, I only used 450TND worth of credit - about nine pounds or roughly two quid a day. You use more than that in a single journey in London sometimes.
Most of the metro lines ran below ground in the centre and above ground in the suburbs, so you could use them for sightseeing. Going north on the blue line to Danshui, for example, you got great views of the Maokong River estuary, while the brown Wengu line heading south to the zoo and the Maokong Gondola had some great views of the hills and Taipei 101.
Overall, makes travelling in Taipei effortless.