Millions of travelers but no traffic jams: 5 mobility facts about Seoul

South Korea is a football-force in Asia, but in world football, the young state is rather a dwarf.

South Korea is a football-force in Asia, but in world football, the young state is rather a dwarf. Geographically, South Korea is just as large as Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg combined - yet more than 51 million people live here. The capital Seoul in the north of the country is one of the most densely populated cities in the world with almost ten million inhabitants. However, Seoul is a role model for mobility for other large cities: in addition to its excellent local transport system, it scores with a well-developed road network.


1. Ten million passengers daily

Seoul is a city of superlatives. One fifth of South Korea's total population has settled in the capital. With its huge urban conurbation - the fifth largest in the world - it is as many as 25.5 million people. That is half the population of the country! The city has undergone considerable development in recent decades: Urbanization, increasing prosperity and an increased interest in individual mobility. Today, for every three inhabitants there is one car, but traffic chaos is still not on the agenda. This is due to the exemplary public transport system, which transports ten million passengers a day and relies on digitization and mobile payment.


2. The digitization factor - time is money

The fact that the public transport services in Seoul are so well received is in particular due to two factors: On the one hand, digitization - for example by introducing purely electronic payment systems - saves enormous amounts of time for travelers, for whom everything has to go quickly and even counting change is too time-consuming. The so-called T-Money Card can be used for underground trains, buses and even taxis. On the other hand, since the 1990s the government has continuously invested in the expansion of the route network. Since then, 100 million US dollars have been put solely into modernizing the bus lanes. Around $200 million a year are spent on subsidizing the numerous private bus companies in order to ensure the operation of the 355 bus lines.


3. A vision and its effect

In 2012, the Korean government drew up its vision for the future of mobility: the plan was that within a few years, it should be possible to commute to Seoul from all parts of the country. Since then, many investments have been made and the public transport was modernized, expanded and newly built in record time. However, the excellent local transport network has had the opposite effect for years: more and more South Koreans are moving to or staying in the greater Seoul area, even if they work in the province. And so the number of those who commute from the mega metropolis to the provinces is growing. After all, the transport network offers sufficient opportunities for commuters.


41,100 kilometers of railway line

Seoul's first subway line was built in 1974. Today there are nine subway lines with an overall length of over 500 kilometers. In addition, there are 12 city train lines with a total length of over 600 kilometers. Those trains also serve the greater area. Up to three million people use the public rail system every day. The bus system is also well structured: it consists of 355 lines that transport seven million people a day. Many bus lines were specially designed for commuters connecting Seoul with neighboring cities. Compared to the prices in Europe, rail travel in Seoul is rather cheap. You can pay using the T-Money Card or a Smartphone. The latter is also often being used for checking connections and reacting to route failures in real time. Surprisingly the bus drivers in this well running system are known for their rough and eager driving style, which is why in some buses passengers have to wear seat belts.


5. Taxi: luxury edition for the lost tourist

If you just do not like the classic public transport, you will be happy about a taxi. There are two kinds of taxis in Seoul. In addition to the orange colored standard taxis, black luxury cabs, called "Mobeom Taxi", attract tourists in particular. They are more spacious and comfortable and driven by English-speaking taxi drivers. There are no classic taxi ranks, as the cars are in constant motion. But beware: Waving at a taxi is considered rude in South Korea. Rather, one extends the arm with the palm down and waggles several times loosely from top to bottom. Sharing a taxi has been quite common and welcome in South Korea for some time now.