9 Unbelievable public transit rides you should try before you die

Public Transport – Viñales – Cuba. Photo: Adam Jones, Ph.D. – Global Photo Archive on Flickr

So much to ride, so little time...

This post was originally published on EcoLocalizer. I’m bringing it back here, updated with added rides from the comments I’ve received. I’m republishing it now and here because ABB is supporting European Mobility Week. So jump on one of these unbelievable rides or the public transit in your area and join in.

Levitating Monorail, Germany. An electric car? Cool. An electric train? Awesome. An upside down electric monorail?? Now that qualifies as unusual public transportation. Believe it or not, this transit system was built over 100 years ago. While Ford was fidgeting with his “quadricycle,” the city of Wuppertal built thistransportation marvel that still appears ahead of its time today.

It’s a zero emissions, all electric transit system, and it floats through Wuppertal (the self-styled “German San Francisco”) with over 20 million passengers a year. Photo: Nir Nussbaum on Flickr.

Mae Klong Train Market, Thailand. Yes, those are train tracks running through that market. One of the shortest train routes in Thailand is also one of the most bizarre. Ambling past windmills and salt flats, the train stops halfway through its route at a river. Right, no bridge. So, people get out and ferry across to a second train, which picks up where the first left off. But wait, it gets better…

In order to arrive at the Mae Klong station, the train must pass right through the middle of a crowded street market. Vendors quickly pull in their stalls several times a day as the train goes by. For an excellent account of the journey, read Steve Van Beek’s article on the Tourism Authority of Thailand website or this article at 2Bangkok.com, or see this video. Photo: m-louis on Flickr.

Central–Mid-Levels escalators, Hong Kong. The longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world? Yes, please! I’ve ridden these, and can verify that riding an escalator up a mountain is pretty darn cool. You can jump off at any number of points along the way to visit shops, or just keep riding the thing all the way to the top. This recommendation also comes from John. Photo:  tompagenet on Flickr.

Buscycle, United States and Netherlands. Forget the bus… All I want to do is bicycle! Now you can do both. Peddling its way across the United States, here comes the Buscycle. It’s a 15 passenger bus, stripped to the bolts and refitted with bicycle parts. See this great video for more, or visit the official Buscycle website.

But believe it or not, the U.S. Buscycle isn’t the only one of its kind. Buscycles have also appeared in Eindhoven, Netherlands, courtesy of some creative students. In fact, businesses are even invited to use a modified buscycle in team building workshops. As the Utne Reader observes, if this catches on, it could hail a whole new era of carbon-free transit. Photo:  Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious on Flickr.

Khlong Saen Saeb canal boats, Thailand. Buscycle too beaten-track for you? Try the Khlong Saen Saeb canal boats of Thailand. This recommendation comes from Flawed Gent on EcoLocalizer, who rode the boats himself several years back. He describes it as “fowl, ugly, smelly and dangerous, but also fast, cheap, quick, exhilarating and awesome. Think public transport meets extreme sports – Venice on Popeye’s favourite spinach. The boats surge along at speed, stopping off at piers bisecting Bo Bae market, Pratunam, Childom, Asok, Nana and Thonglor, among other areas. It begins by Pan Faa bridge, in the Old City, and ends out in Bangna, and the journey from one to the other costs only 20 baht.” Sounds great, right?

Wikipedia pretty much agrees with the same description: “The canal is lined with concrete walkways on either side in many areas where people stroll despite the foul smells of the canal, and in other areas the heavily polluted water oozes into adjacent properties, especially after heavy rainstorms. The canal is connected to many other canals in a large network, though most of the other canals do not have a regular transport service.”

General Class Rail Ticket, India. Indian trains are a travel experience unlike any other in the world. There are nine classes of trains in India. Travelers can take the easy route in air-conditioned first class on the 140 km/h Rajdhani Express. Tea lovers can visit Darjeeling, a World Heritage Area, on the Darjeeling “Toy Train.” Vacationers can even partake in some extravagance and pampering on the Palace on Wheels.

But some would say that you haven’t traveled in India until you buy a general class rail ticket during the summer. It’s not always as packed as in this picture, but you’re sure to get to know your neighbors. Passengers unable to fit inside the cars sometimes ride on top, as parodied in this Ballywood video. Before you go, here‘s some advice on Indian rail travel. Photo:  ruffin_ready on Flickr.

Gondola at Sandia Peak, United States. This recommendation comes from Gregory Peterson. Gregory says, “If you’re traveling through New Mexico, you might want to take the tram up to Sandia Peak on the east edge of Albuquerque, the city’s escape the heat summer playground and the neighborhood ski resort in the winter.

If you’re lucky, you can see people jump off and paraglide down. Don’t come April 14-17 though. It’s maintenance time. It’s the windy season anyway.

Remember, it’s over 10,000 feet above sea level, so you might feel a little giddy if you’re not use to the altitude. Take a sweater if you plan to watch the sunset…hard to remember in the summer, when the city a mile below is at 95 degrees Fahrenheit.” Photo:  Kolin Toney on Flickr.

Dubai driverless metro, United Arab Emirates. Dubai’s driverless metro network moves over 140,000 people per day in a city where summer day-time temperatures regularly exceed 40 degrees Celsius.

Hitchhiking, Worldwide. Hitchhiking, alas, is no longer the symbol of freedom and travel that it once was. Today, it’s illegal on many major roadways and the current generations have heard so many hitchhiking horror stories that many are afraid to try. In some ways, these stories are self-prophetic. It may be the marginalization of hitchhiking today that makes unsavory sorts that think they can mistreat hitchhikers. MSN wrote an interesting story on this too.

Despite all this, hitchhiking can be safe, fun, and the cheapest way to travel. I’ve hitchhiked across Eastern Canada and through Colorado. On the way, I met many friendly people: a truck driver, a young guy just back from India, a woman who had the interesting job of wining and dining rich casino goers, and other amiable folks. I’ve even heard of people hitching their way across the ocean by freight ship. (And, no, this is not me in the photo.)

If you’re willing to give hitchhiking a try, check out this wiki for tips. Also, before you’re out on the road with a sign and your thumb in the air, you can look for rides onCraigslist. Photo:  Zach Klein on Flickr.

Whatever your method of public transportation, whether it be ordinary or extraordinary, enjoy your freedom of travel, your good spirits, and the community around you that’s sharing your transit ride. Happy trails!


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About the author

Gavin Hudson

Global social media manager at ABB headquarters in Zurich. My background is in blogging and print journalism, covering renewable energy and the environment. At ABB, it's fascinating being surrounded by experts in cleantech and energy efficiency technologies. Outside of work, I enjoy running, swimming, cycling, skiing, and most other outdoor sports. I did the Ironman Zurich in 2012, and have run several marathons. I also enjoy learning and sharing languages.
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