18 of the World's Most Wondrous Public Transportation Options - Atlas Obscura

18 of the World’s Most Wondrous Public Transportation Options

Atlas Obscura readers recommend their favorite mass transit experiences.

Not a bad commute.
Not a bad commute. Jorge Gobbi/CC BY 2.0

One of the greatest ways to experience a new place is also one of the simplest: take public transportation. Riding a bus or subway is a wonderful way to explore a destination both inexpensively, and like a local. But as terrific as first-rate mass transit can be, all over the world you can also find public transport options that are experiences in and of themselves. We recently asked Atlas Obscura readers in our Community Forums to tell us about their favorite examples of unforgettable public transit, and they recommended everything from giant elevators to bamboo rail cars (plus plenty of funiculars… so many funiculars!).

See some of our favorite responses below, and if there’s an incredible mode of public transportation that didn’t make it into our list, head over to the Forums and keep the conversation going! If you truly want to travel in style, remember this one simple rule: always ride the funicular.


Just Booked A Trip/CC BY 2.0

Elevador de Santa Justa

Lisbon, Portugal

“Lisbon, Portugal, has its fair share of fun public transport, including an elevator (Elevador de Santa Justa), three funiculars (Ascensor do Lavra, da Bica, and da Glória), and trams, with several lines operated by old small trams, simply because anything bigger wouldn’t fit.” fotomiep


Hippoattack/Public Domain

Docklands Light Railway

London, England

“London’s DLR line has driver-free trains, which means you can sit at the very front of the train and pretend to be the driver yourself!” longdenbethany


Teemu008/CC BY-SA 2.0

Fenelon Place Elevator

Dubuque, Iowa

“Two places I have been that have funiculars are Dubuque, Iowa, and Old Quebec City in Canada. They are a fun way to get from the lower part of the cities to the top of the bluffs.” darbyfish50


Michlaovic/Public Domain

Morgantown PRT

Morgantown, West Virginia

“I have had the opportunity to travel on a lot of cool systems like the Eurotrain, but the most unique was the Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) installed at West Virginia University in 1975. I used it during my time as a student and then some. It consisted of a small driverless vehicles zooming around on semi-enclosed concrete tracks. A really forward-looking system considering the date. What’s more amazing is that it is still in use to this day.” thinhtien


MOs810/CC BY-SA 4.0

Ascensore Castello d’Albertis-Montegalletto

Genoa, Italy

“A multi mode underground lift in which a cart enters the steep hillside horizontally and then comes to a halt deep underground. A jolting chorus of whirring gears and cables heralds the transition to vertical movement and the cart ascends the last leg à la Willy Wonka.” petenuttall


Jonas Ahrentorp/CC BY-SA 2.0

Trampe Bicycle Lift

Trondheim, Norway

“On a visit to Trondheim, Norway, we encountered the Trampe Bicycle Lift. Basically it’s a steam-driven (I believe) chain that runs underground on a steep hill. Attached to the chain and sticking up out of the ground are multiple ‘pedals.’ You would ride your bike up to one of these pedals, place your foot on it while remaining seated on your bike, and it would then propel you and your bike up the hill. Ingenious!” enospork


Suckindiesel/CC BY-SA 3.0

Monongahela Incline

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

“When I was a student at Pittsburgh’s Art Institute (1973-1975), I rose on the Monongahela Incline, one of TWO funiculars to get up to the top of Mount Washington. It’s a great place to view Pittsburgh’s wonderful downtown.” alanrogers250


Jim.henderson/Public Domain

Roosevelt Island Tramway

New York City, New York

“Commuted on it for three years and never got bored.” diannleesmith


Chris j wood/CC BY-SA 3.0

Como–Brunate Funicular

Lombardy, Italy

“Several years ago we were visiting Lake Como, and had done the tour boat. Walking away from the lake we saw the funicular, Como to Brunate. A straight up trip to a beautiful little village. As we exited, the small local church organist was practicing for the weekend. The music was beautiful, but the view of the alps was spectacular!” CAwinediva


Adam E. Moreira/CC BY-SA 3.0

‘The Dinky’

Princeton, New Jersey

“It’s 2.7 miles long, with one car on standard gauge track and one stop. Supposedly the shortest rail line in the U.S.A.” thuds36


Albeiror24/Public Domain

Metrocable

Medellín, Colombia

“The gondolas of Medellín, Colombia, which enable residents of poor, steep neighborhoods to get downtown lickety-split. Also, they have amazing views.”davidplotz


BriYYZ/CC BY-SA 2.0

St. Charles Streetcar Line

New Orleans, Louisiana

“The New Orleans streetcar! The St. Charles Ave. line is on the National Register of Historic Places. The cars are still the original green, and are utterly lacking in air conditioning, but that’s how it should be. For $1.25, you can ride from Riverbend (where the Mississippi bends to form the bottom of the crescent of New Orleans) all the way to Canal Street right next to the French Quarter, and pass through all the Uptown and Garden District mansions along the way. The newer lines have red cars (and air conditioning).” telfb


Sergey Ashmarin/CC BY-SA 3.0

Fløibanen Funicular

Bergen, Norway

“The funicular in Bergen, Norway, takes you to a fabulous view of the fjord below, ‘Norwegian Woods,’ and a collection of carved trolls that are scattered through the wooded area. I also loved the funicular in Llandudno, Wales, the Great Orme Tramway that takes folks to the top of the Great Orme, a limestone headland in the north of Wales.” robertasheahan


Ben Shade/CC BY-SA 3.0

Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway

Devon, England

“In continuous operation since 1890, and water powered. How environmentally friendly is that?”rwhiting123


calflier001/CC BY-SA 2.0

Glasgow Subway

Glasgow, Scotland

“Glasgow’s subway opened on December 14, 1896 (the third oldest in the world after London and Budapest)—known by Glaswegians as the ‘Clockwork Orange’ due to its dinky scale (4 foot x 1,219 mm gauge) and its single circular route. It is a very different travel experience. As a student in Glasgow, a pub crawl stopping for a drink at each of the 15 stations was a challenge of a Saturday night.” Kenneth_Wardrop


Jon Oakley/CC BY 2.0

Tees Transporter Bridge

Middlesbrough, England

“Try the transporter bridge between Middlesbrough and Port Clarence in north east England. Is it a bridge, cable car, or ferry?! Cables guided by the bridge above pull a gondola across the River Tees in about three minutes.” kevanbrianhubbard


Vladimir Menkov/CC BY-SA 3.0

Funivia di San Marino

San Marino, Republic of San Marino

“Here’s the funivia, or aerial cable car, in San Marino. It runs between the city of San Marino up at the top of the country down to the lower city of Borgo Maggiore. It’s just a quick little ride, but it’s an easy way to get between the two places.” SaintUrsula


Gonzo Gooner/CC BY 3.0

Norry Trains

Cambodia

“The Battambang bamboo railway in Cambodia is a lot of fun. I have been on the old one—lots of fun, especially when the opposing ‘cars’ meet on the single track :)” fbgcai