going underground (for Pierre)


It occurred to me today what Mi Young tried to teach me the second night I was here in Seoul.  I knew she was talking about efficiency, how to get on the right car, and what the metal numbers on the platform floor meant.  So I acknowledged that to her, and she seemed pleased.

Later, I have asked other Koreans about the numbers and what they meant and nobody had any clue why they would bother noting the number of the train car doors.  But tonight I figured it out.

Okay, so here’s why:  If you follow the stairs leading down (or up) to the platform, the floor pattern will continue from the stairs to the nearest waiting spot for the train.   The rest of the platform has a different flooring surface.  There are ten cars for every train, and each door to each car is numbered.  Sooooo, if you’re a regular and you really want to shave ten minutes off of your commute, you can memorize which car door is closest to the exit stair  when you get off the train.  Therefore, you can plan accordingly which car to get on, and which door is closest.  For example, I got onto the number 4 line train heading south to Oido.  I got onto car 10, the last door (9?)  But then when I got off of the train at Pyeongchon Station, I had to walk four minutes before I got to where the Way OUT stairs were located, which was at something like car 6-4 (car 6, door 4.)   So next time, I’ll probably split the difference and get on something like car 7 or 8 instead.

Just a little trivial tip.  I also will often wait for the next train if I see one packed like cattle.  It’s almost always paid off.  And if the trip is a long one, I will not always take the shortest route.  I’ve found that the longer between me and my destination, the greater the odds of getting a seat early on and being comfortable on the journey, while a shorter trip the odds enough people are going to get off before I get there are rather slim.

So those are my subway strategies.  Because I’m too cool to hurry and would rather sit and read.

Oh, and btw, Pierre, the Seoul subways are incredibly clean.  Not really sure how they do it.  Maybe because the train technology is better?  The Manhattan subway underground just seemed covered in grime and soot.

It was raining a lot today and the subways were full of Seoul’s homeless.  They are an INCREDIBLY clean lot, who pack extremely light:  multiple light layers, clean cardboard boxes, and perhaps a sleeping bag.  There was a line of about twenty cued for some reason, but I didn’t see any food or anything being handed out, so don’t know what was going on there.  Mostly they hug the walls of the corridors and they don’t bother anyone and vice-versa.  Some didn’t look that worse for wear.  Maybe they are newly homeless, due to the reduction in jobs here since the economy tanked in the U.S.  I kind of felt better after seeing them.  They weren’t being shooed away like they would be in the states, and they were above the draft of the train tunnels and below the draft of the streets.  Thank god for subways.

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One thought on “going underground (for Pierre)

  1. It took me way too long to figure out that system myself. Something to keep in mind if you ever make long-distance trips is that the door numbers printed in Seoul are the opposite of those for stations in northern Gyeonggi-do. This becomes even more important for the stations near my home that only have one exit!

    Not sure how often the Manhattan metro trains get cleaned, but the Seoul metro trains get cleaned up on a regular basis. My local station is the terminus for some of the routes and there are cleaning ladies who go through each car picking up newspapers and sweeping garbage and dirt into bins before the train departs on its next route.

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