During the seven games of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, over 10 million Korean soccer fans flocked to the streets of Seoul for hours of enthusiastic cheering and open-air celebrations. Decked in the national team's signature red, the teeming crowds proved an impressive sight for foreign reporters on the ground, not only for their numbers and their energy but also for the seeming ease with which they traveled throughout the city.
Fans dressed in red fill an intersection in Daegu for the Korea-Spain match during the 2002 FIFA World Cup (photo: Yonhap News).
Streaming in and out of the main stadium and the surrounding streets in an average 40 minutes, the surprisingly well-organized flow of pedestrian and motor traffic gave the world a glimpse at the ever-rising standard of Korea's transportation system. Hourly analysis of the volume of traffic on vehicle routes as well as public transportation routes allowed for efficient routing and rerouting of transportation lines, which prevented congestion and garnered praise from satisfied users.
Today, ten years after the successful World Cup run, the transportation systems in Korea's cities continue to boast an impressive standard of operational capacity and efficiency, incorporating the latest technologies to bring convenience and ease to daily life. In Seoul, with a population over 10.6 million people residing in a space that accounts for less than one percent of the country's area, transportation challenges are being met with creative solutions.
A busy street in Gangnam district offers a view of Seoul's various transportation offerings.
Seoul's transit system, which runs a network of conventional, mostly privately operated buses in addition to publicly managed subway lines, is one of the most heavily used in the world. The Seoul Metropolitan Subway, which with its 16 lines serves Seoul as well as the greater metropolitan area, counts more than 6 million users a day. Motor expressways see speed limits that change automatically to facilitate traffic flow, while the over 17 million cars registered with GPS systems continuously receive updates on expected delays and quicker alternative routes. As of 2011, a total 3,500 kilometers of national expressways had been outfitted with fiber-optic lines that enable high-speed communication and comprise the base of the country's intelligent transportation systems (ITS).
"Our transportation life in Korea has much improved -- and our quality of life as well", said Kee Yeon Hwang, former director of the Korea Transport Institute (KOTI), the government's official think tank for transportation research, in a 2011 interview with CNN. The interview went on to cite how IT-based transportation measures have saved the city time and money, increasing average speeds on Seoul's roads from 20 to 24 kilometers per hour in under five years and cutting costs from accidents and pollution to around USD 1.5 billion a year. According to KOTI, developing ITS infrastructure costs less than one percent of the investment necessary to build a four-lane road.
A view of an intersection in Jamsil before the introduction of central bus-only lanes (left) and afterward (right) (photo: Newswire)
A day trip through the city brings visitors in contact with most of the key features of Seoul's public transportation system. Central bus-only lanes, introduced in 2007, not only prevent congestion due to loading and unloading but also give bus riders an advantage during peak traffic hours. Electronic schedules at each stop indicates the arrival time of the next bus, and LED displays across the subway stations display the status of the next train as well as advertisements and movie trailers. Large standalone LED touch-screen panels allow subway users to search for restaurants, shops, and bus routes in any area of the city or simply catch up with the latest headlines on Korea's top Internet portals.
Seoul's transportation card can be used on buses, subways, and taxis, as well as in convenience stores.
With the rechargeable transportation card system in place throughout the city since 2004, public transit users can transfer from subway to bus and back again at no extra cost within a 30-minute period. The transportation card is also accepted as currency at most convenience stores and a growing number of other shops, and can be used to pay for taxi fares. The transportation card system automatically collects integrated fares from both buses and subways, the profits of which are then distributed to each transportation service provider according to usage. Mobile phones and bank cards have also been equipped with the traffic card function for user convenience. The first of its kind, this system also allows for analysis of passenger data to improve route management efficiency and track pedestrian population flow and log trading area activity.
A smartphone application (left) gives drivers real-time updates on traffic; the website of the Seoul Transport and Information Service (right) offers the same information online.
The newly redesigned website of the Seoul Transport and Information Service (http://topis.seoul.go.kr/), the central operating and analysis center for the city's transportation system, gives travelers traffic updates, route guidance, bus and subway information, and live footage of roads. Using the now ubiquitous smart phones, drivers and passengers can also access all of this information on various smart phone apps. Buses and bus schedules can be looked up by bus number and stop number, and custom-mapped routes through the subway systems even tell users which subway car is closest to the transfer point.
An electronic bus schedule lets riders know when the next buses are arriving.
With convenience and accessibility long the norms for travel in Seoul and throughout the country, Korea's transportation technologies have continued to gain international recognition as a standard for benchmarking. Since winning the Metropolis Award at the Metropolis Berlin Assembly in 2005 for reform of the bus system and recognition by the International Association of Public Transport in 2006 for sustainable urban transportation policies, Seoul and other cities have hosted dignitaries and transportation officials from various countries.
In May 2012, Mike Penning, the British parliamentary under-secretary of state for transport, paid a four-day visit to Seoul to explore the Korean transportation system and to seek partnerships with Korean firms on transportation-related technology. Penning explained that, ahead of the Olympic Games, London is seeking ways to ease the traffic congestion to greet millions of visitors. Also in May, a delegation from Ghana's transportation ministry visited Busan to tour the city's transportation information center and take a firsthand look at Korea's high-tech transportation system. Of particular interest to the delegation were the systems for analyzing expressway toll use and bus use, as well as monitoring live footage of roads for immediate response to accidents.
By Kwon Jungyun
Korea.net Staff Writer
Source : www.korea.net/NewsFoc... ( English Korean )
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