Secret Wonders of Public Transit?


One of the best ways to see any place you’re visiting is to take the bus. While you don’t get to choose the exact route, and the glamour factor is non-existent, if you really want to experience the unseen corners of a place, and connect with the real people who live there, you can’t really beat public transit. Luckily for the frugal travelers of the world, there’re a ton of public transit wonders that are way better than the bus! Whether it’s something like Buda Castle’s historic funicular, or Wuppertal, Germany’s incredible hanging rail system, curious transit can be found just about anywhere. Now tell us about the greatest public transit wonders you’ve ever discovered!

(Image: GuidoMengelberg/Public Domain)

Whenever people come to visit NYC for the first time, there are two surefire commuter attractions that I usually show them. First is the Staten Island Ferry, a free boat shuttle that runs between the southern tip of Manhattan and Staten Island. It goes right past the Statue of Liberty, and there’s even a little bar on board. If boats aren’t your thing, there’s always the Roosevelt Island gondola that goes over the East River from Manhattan. For just a few bucks you get a great view of the city and a cool gondola ride!

In the comments below, tell us about the coolest public transit locations that you’ve ever come across, where you found them, and what you think makes them so special. We’d also love to see any great pics you might have of the experience! Your response might be included in an upcoming article on Atlas Obscura! Seeing the sights of a city doesn’t have to be expensive to be unforgettably wondrous.

Subways in Montreal
This is the public transportation to the island of Årø Denmark which has a permanent population of around 150 people and businesses of a few restaurants, a winery, marina, camp grounds, and summer homes.


This is easy: The gondolas of Medellin, Colombia, which enable residents of poor, steep neighborhoods to get downtown lickety-split. Also, they have amazing views.


Staten Island native. Thanks for the shout-out to my hometown and its ferry.


I can’t find pics of the first thing I thought of, but have a cute tram pic.
Lisbon (PT) has its fair share of fun public transport, including an elevator (elevador de Santa Justa), 3 funiculars (ascensor do Lavra, da Bica & da Glória ) and trams, with several lines operated by old small trams, simply because anything bigger wouldn’t fit


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!


The Alaska ferry system through the Inner Passage. While I know many people who took the large cruise ships, the ferry system is the only option for visiting the small towns - and for traveling with the residents of the state. This is nothing like the cruise ships: while there are rooms available on board, many people just lay out sleeping bags on the deck or sleep in lounge chairs. We got to meet some wonderful people and learn about living in off-the-beaten-path areas of Alaska.


Oooh, I love this topic! I must share one of my favorite YouTube channels ever (and maybe it’s on TV in the UK?). Geoff & Vicki did a Kickstarter that paid for them to visit every train station in the UK, and they just finished another series where they visited ever station in Ireland. They’re really charming and the stories are fabulous.


There are so many secret wonders on trains , I really need to post some more entries for AO on these. I think one of the most interesting things I’ve seen on public transport has been archeological (Aztec pyramids) or paleontological remains (mammoth and prehistoric felines) in both Spain and Mexico, some even have mini museums in them.

I was in Spain last week , in Oviedo and one of the train stations was decorated with some Pre-Spanish Civil war vintage advertisements which were pretty cool , will post some pics.


Two places I have been that have funiculars are Dubuque, Iowa, USA 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.
27%20PM Quebec


We live off one income so traveling is rare and when we do travel, it’s creatively budget minded. On our first family trip to Florida we were fortunate to stay with family. On a whim, we decided to surprise our kids on Christmas morning with a trip to Epcot. Only when we got to Epcot my husband hadn’t bought the tickets and he forgot again that night. (You had one job…) Because we didn’t have tickets, we missed the chance to go to the park (long story). Instead, we road the monorail around for 2-3 hours while the kids worked through a scavenger hunt I made the night before. We stopped at hotels and other stops. It was over half way through our day before our youngest asked, “is this the real Disney?” My older son responded, “no, it’s Disney for Budgeteers”. It was tense as I was mad at my husband but in the end we have a funny story about a goofy experience. And a free ride around the park. Or several rides.


San Francisco’s Municipal Railway has one line (Market Street) that uses vintage streetcars from all over the world. Very cool! Streetcars | Market Street Railway


Never been, but I love the l-o-n-g name of the train station in Wales, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

For more info, go to Llanfairpwllgwyngyll – Travel guide at Wikivoyage


Thank you for the Iowa shout out! It’s a fun little ride up the funicular, the views are gorgeous, and you can see the neighboring state of Illinois at the top!


The “Personal Rapid Transit” in Morgantown WV. I’m surprised this hasn’t been replicated all over the world - it’s such a simple concept. Small cars, several stops, on an 8.7 mile continuous loop.


Ascensore Montegellato in Genoa - a multi mode underground lift in which a cart enters the steep hill side 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 a la Willy Wonka.


I have had the opportunity to travel on a lot of cool systems like the Euro-train 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 driver-less 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.

Wikipage: Morgantown Personal Rapid Transit - Wikipedia


Not sure if this qualifies as public transit but on a visit to Trondheim, Norway we encountered the Trampe Bicycle Lift. Basically it’s 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!


What a great, unintentional, gift from Hubby and a forward-thinking Mom.

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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. I found a picture of it to share.