Keep it moving

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Keep it moving

The author is a reporter on traffic issues at the JoongAng Ilbo.

I usually use the subway to get around Seoul for work during the day. I often find escalators and moving walkways turned off in stations, often when I transfer trains. To change to a different train line, the walk and climb over the stairs can be laborious and annoying without the aid of machines. The automatic paths may have been turned off during off-peak time to save costs. Station operators may think that it would be better to have the escalators and moving walkway turned off when there are fewer commuters.

But that is a shortsighted view. Korea has spent massive amounts to promote public transportation, which is responsible for carrying 40 percent of commuters in the country as of 2016. The situation is better in Seoul, with nine subway lines, light railway and railroads. Public transportation in Seoul carries nearly 60 percent of the city’s commuters.

Over 40 percent of citizens in Seoul prefer cars. They drive despite the heavy traffic and costly maintenance fee. The reason is simple. Driving is a more convenient way of getting from home to a destination even if it takes a longer time to get there. The door-to-door option beats the lengthy walk and climbing crowded steps.

If traveling by subway was less laborious, more people would opt to use the faster and cheap underground system.

The app service dubbed MaaS, or Mobility as a Service, guides users to the fastest means to get to a certain destination via public bus, subway and bike services. But the service won’t gain traction if the underground journey is still inconvenient and tiring. Subway operators should try to save expenses elsewhere and keep the automated pathways on and moving at all times.
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