Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Mokpo Transit System

Mokponians either buy their own transportation (it should be noted that, like wearing socks with sandals, scooters are socially acceptable in Korea) or simply use the cheap taxi system to get from point A to point B. Consequently the transit system is often an overlooked resource, but consisting of a variety of buses the Mokpo transit system is clean, efficient, and comparable to any counterpart city in North America. Sadly English information about this system is non-existent (and again if you're in Seoul you'll have better luck). Here's what I've figured out.

Routes & Services
Routes are classified into four different lines.

  1. Red Lines (간선 – The Main Line) cut through the city along the major streets, going from east to west and back again along the same route.
  2. Green Lines (도심 순한 – The Gentle City Center Line) circle the city.
  3. Yellow Lines (지선 – The Branch Line) cuts through the city like the red lines, but travel along minor streets, resulting in longer routes and less frequent buses.
  4. Orange Lines (외곽 연계 – The Outside Connection Line) all focus on the outskirts of Mokpo.
The buses themselves are colored accordingly except that the yellow line buses look more orange and the orange line buses are white. The orange line buses are also a higher class of bus, more like city coach than city transit and demand a higher fare.

There is a bus guide online but it was last updated in 2005 and it doesn't believe in implementing maps. Some bus routes are non existent while some exiting bus routes are missing. But it creates a useful picture of the system; the transgooglelated version lists some information, like the interval time between buses and the operation times for each bus. On average each bus operates between 6am and 10pm and its frequency can be as quick as every 15 minutes or as slow as every hour; generally the lower the bus number the more frequent the turnover.

Luckily printed guides do exist and there is at least one location in Mokpo where they can be obtained, free of charge. Students may know of other places, but the main map poster-pamphlet is available in 시청 (aka Shi Cheong), Mokpo's city hall, at the 교통행정과 (aka Gyotong Haengeonggwa), the Transportation Administration department (pictured).

The process to get one is very informal: ask for a bus map and one of the office workers will lead you to a box and you can take as many as you want. They're free like like leftover Hallowe'en candy. The guides are written in Korean but the maps are easy to interpret. Scans are available at the bottom of this post.

Each bus route has a starting and stopping point and it's important to recognize where these are in your schedule. For some routes that operate in a straight line across the city the terminals are fairly obvious; the bus starts at one terminal, travels until it reaches the other terminal and bounces back again. But other, more circular routes, hide their terminals within their loop so if you're not paying attention you'll end up with your bus pulled over and watching the driver's smoking break pass the half hour mark.

Bus Stops
Everybody in Mokpo (and I guess Korea as well) can't be bothered with streets; each bus stop is named according to its closest landmark. On the bus, a pre-recorded voice will announce the next two bus stops and help you practice your Korean listening skills.

Fares & Passes
As of of this post's date the regular fare (at least the one applicable to English speaking Native Speakers) is ₩1,000 for Red, Green and Yellow Routes and ₩1,400 for Orange bus routes. The seniors, students, and other special cases have a reduced fair.

Bus Passes
There are Bus Passes – translated as Traffic Cards (교통카드) – and in it's popular form resemble key chains more than North American credit card sized passes. As of this post you have a couple options. There actually is a credit card size pass but everyone I spy on seems to choose the more popular circle key chain and the rectangle key chain. All of my students have these key chains and they run in between ₩4,000 and ₩6, 000. I used have one and use it as an actual key chain; the proper Korean way is to use them as cell phone jewelery.

Using the Traffic Card is fairly easy; each bus is equipped with a Traffic Card touch pad right by the driver and you simply touch the traffic card to the key pad. Upon a successful transaction the pad will play a pre-recorded 감사합니다 and the LCD displaying the time will switch to funds remaining. There's a similar pad near the exit but that is uses for transferring.

There’s no concept of unlimited ride; the traffic card is really a debit card (also usable in other supported transactions around town) and nothing similar to a North American bus pass where we would expect to pay for unlimited transportation in special 7 day or 30 day increments. Apart from the convenience an added bonus of using the traffic cards is fare reduction by ₩50. Basically use the card traffic card 20 times and the next ride is free.

Cards can be purchased and re-charged at local book stores, convenience stores, etc. all around Mokpo; look for the 마이비 (aka MYBi) signs. Or to find one closer to you, ask your students or get somebody who can translate to call the Traffic Card Hot Line (1588-8990) for more information.

Only the Traffic Cards allow you to transfer from one bus to another. The 30 minute transfer window starts when you swipe the Traffic Card on the exiting Traffic Card pad. The transfer is only valid on a different bus; you can't hop off and hop on. And if you've paid cash you're out of luck.

T-Money is Seoul's transportation payment system that's viable for Bus, Subway, and even Taxis trips. Normally the two systems are incompatible but this hasn't been tested or verified. I found a story once that T-Money was trying to buy out MyBi, but that link has expired and any Google search come up empty.

Bus Etiquette
Entering a bus is always done at the front door and exiting is always done out the rear door. Do not try and exit out the front door. Bus drivers will yell at you. And when you want to exit you can press the little buzzer found on the walls and ceiling of the bus. Hyunwoo Sun has some key bus phrase in the case there is a break down in communication:
You can say "내려 주세요(Nae Ryo Joo Say Yo)" to mean "Let me off here, please", or add "죄송합니다(Jae Song Haam Nih Dah)", meaning "I'm sorry" in front of that.
Here are some notes that don't quite fit in anywhere else:
  • All buses are equipped with a commercial radio and pipe in radio stations for the enjoyment of the passengers. It is the bus driver who is in charge in the in-trip radio entertainment and they do not take requests.
  • The bus rides are crowded during rush hours. You will be forced to stand and consequently people will fall into you. Be strong.
  • I inherited the booklet guide from the previous native speaker but I have yet to find where they hand those guides out. To cut costs it looks like the city has switched to cheaper, 'pamphlet' printings.
Red Line (간선) Bus Map:

Green Line (도심 순한) Bus Map:

Yellow Line (지선) Bus Map:

Orange Line (외곽 연계) Bus Map:


Jocelyn Wright said...

These maps are great! Thanks for sharing!

Dave said...

The maps are pretty neat- but I think a little inaccurate in their color coding. The #13 bus, for example, is kind of mustardy orange, and the #20 is sort of orangey mustard.

FYI: The #13 goes to E Mart, Hadang and Shinay. The #1 hits up the new HomePlus and Shinay. The #20 cruises pretty close to Lotte Mart, and close to the P Club end of Hadang. All three cost chun-un (a thousand won).

FYI 2: If you offer a seat to an old lady, you will gain great face among other Koreans on the bus who will smile upon you with warm-hearted benevolence. If, once comfortable in your recently vacated seat, that old lady tries to take your bag away from you, don't resist! She will hold it in her lap so you have both hands free to hang on for dear life.

Brian said...

I love giving up seats for old people . . . both because it's a very kind gesture, and also because I'm usually eager to embarrass all the high school students and princess-types who stare out the window or pretend to sleep as old people are sitting on the floor or sitting on each others' laps.

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