Singapore not No. 1 (subway system)
Alright, I’m done making fun of the local media’s predilection for crowing loudly every time Singapore makes it as No. 1 on some dubious list like the world’s best toilets or something.
So Virgin Vacations recently ran a list of what they think are the world’s Top 11 underground transit systems (don’t ask me why the list arbitrarily ends at 11 instead of a round number like 10 — maybe there was a tie in ranking one of them). Singapore’s noticeably absent from the list, and I say noticeably because the list otherwise seems to include the greatest hits of Asia: Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing and Hong Kong.
The exclusion of Singapore seems even odder because the Virgin list seems to prize all the qualities that Singapore’s MRT system has: timeliness, efficiency, safety, cleanliness, electronic signs telling you how much longer you have to wait till the next train, modest train fares, painless ticketing systems, reasonably comfortable train carriages.
Ah, but there’s something else they like: good architecture and design.
Look at how most of the top 11 stack up:
- London (no. 1) — “the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) … offers many scenic views of the Thames river and surrounding areas.”
- Paris (no. 2) — “Many stations were designed with the distinctive unique art noveau style.”
- Moscow (no. 3) — “Ornate architecture (at least 44 of these stations are rated as architectural sights).”
- Seoul (no. 6) — “beautiful architecture”.
- NYC (no. 7) — “Unique and distinct artwork (mosaics) throughout the system.”
- Montreal (no. 8) — “Diverse, beautiful architecture and unique station art (each station is designed by a different architect).”
- Beijing (no. 9) — “Interesting architecture on the newer subway lines.”
None of Singapore’s MRT stations, on the other hand, are what you would call a hallmark of distinctive architecture (modern or otherwise). Most of the underground stations on the same line (either East-West or North-East) look identical except for the signage with the name of the station. Any artwork or finer aesthetic touches seem to have been slapped on as an afterthought (like the many odd murals in the North-East Line stations) rather than integrated with the overall station design from the beginning. A quick scan through the Flickr cluster of photos tagged “MRT” seems to prove just how bland Singapore’s station designs are.
I’d like to think this will change when the Circle Line opens. The new underground station located opposite the Singapore Art Museum and integrated into SMU’s campus looks quite promising, with its water feature and ground-level glass roof.
As for the older train lines, maybe they’ll be seen as retro chic someday, but for now they seem to more closely resemble clunky, oversized bomb shelters whose greatest architectural achievement is not to upset the surroundings they’ve been plonked down in.
Read other Metblogs’ take on the list:
- Bangkok disputes London’s ranking and makes a case for the Skytrain/BTS.
- Berlin gives its two cents on other cities’ underground systems.
- Los Angeles gives a Metblog roundup and links to their lizard people’s secret underground system.
- Manila offers its own informal world rankings.
- New York makes a case for their extensive subway system, which also happens to run 24 hours a day — when’s Singapore gonna get that, huh?
- Pittsburgh weighs in on why its T deserves to be included in the list.
- Tokyo assesses its own subway system.