Thursday, January 31, 2008

10 things I love about the Hong Kong MTR

My trip in Asia continues. I promise I will post at least one picture of the MTR once I get back to SF but it's been so difficult to snap photos in crowded trains where even standing room is a premium. Nevertheless, the Hong Kong MTR is all that I wish BART can be.

What do I mean by that? Well, here are my reasons:

10) The trains have interactive maps that light up at each destination so even if you missed the announcement at each stop, you know exactly where you are. Furthermore, the interactive panels tells you which side of the door to exit at.

9) You can clearly hear each stop, which side of door to exit, transfer directions, and cautionary statements at all times (a computer generated voice, in 3 languages). On BART, each T.O. makes such announcements and while some do a wonderful job, most cannot enunciate or speak loud enough into the speakers.

8) The escalators move faster and so do the people here. I move at very fast speeds and I like the pace of movement here. It's efficient.

7) At each platform, there are glass doors that prevent people from jumping or accidentally falling into the tracks. The glass doors open, along with the train doors once the train arrives.

6) The stations clearly mark which side of pedestrian traffic should go where. For example, even stairs leading up to street level are divided by a yellow line. People going up stay on one side and people going down stay on the other. There is no yielding. Even on the platform, they clearly mark where to line up while keeping the middle part open for those exiting the train (some BART platforms have this). People know where they are supposed to be and no one runs into each other.

5) Stations are clean! They don't smell! They look high-tech with flat screens for news and stock market updates. Stations are well-staffed-- there are always security officers patrolling and you can always easily locate a live agent to help you with something.

4) Trains have very few seats (one row of seats along each side of the train) and equipped with lots of safety poles, handles, side bars..etc. This is smart because the trains are always crowded! Furthermore, right on top of the seats, there are huge signs that say "Show that you are a caring person. Give your seat to someone in need." "You can do it! Show that you care". No handicapped designations...just anyone in need, whether that's someone who is ill, or someone who is pregnant. People don't jump to the seats like BART commuters. They are OK with standing and letting someone else have a place to sit.

3) Stations are like mini-shopping centers with shops, book stores, bank branches, cafes...etc. You can even buy books and other reading material in vending machines!

2) No food or drinks on the train and people actually follow! I've been getting around strictly by MTR and have yet to see anyone even take a sip from their water bottle!

1) Trains are clean! It's a combination of people following rules, plastic floors and seats, and efficiency of the cleaning crew that keep the MTR tidy and effective!

All that said, there is no place like home and I am looking forward to returning to SF later in the week.

One more observation to share with you....the seats on the train are much smaller! I can't imagine having seats of that size on BART. People are "heavier" in the US and most will need 1.5 seats in Hong Kong. Interesting isn't it?


Anonymous said...

Nice post, and I agree! Both the MTR and Airport Express are very efficient and user-friendly. The cleanliness is a by-product of the the unfortunate SARS outbreak that spread from China, effectively worsened by the PRC government's cover-up attempt, so the HK government has taken pro-active measures to maintain a clean environment.

michael said...

You can get a refund on your Octopus card (or is it just the deposit) when you leave H.K.

One thing I can't remember about the MTR is whether or not it's as noisy as BART is. I kind of think not. The airport express is awesome, isn't it?