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Clean, On Time and Rat-Free: 9 International Transit Systems With Lessons for New York

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What smells like a “nightclub toilet,” evokes the feeling of “an underworld” and resembles a “working museum”?

That would be the New York City subway, according to international readers who have experienced it.

The subway runs around the clock and carries millions daily across a sprawling network. But when we asked riders of public transit around the world how their systems compare, New York’s scored worse than most on several measures.

[Read New Yorkers’ stories of major subway meltdowns.]

Among the enviable features they described were Moscow’s chandelier-adorned platforms, Istanbul’s plans for a 500-mile expansion and Tokyo’s friendly attendants who locate lost items.

Below are some of their tales of exceptional public transit. They have been condensed, edited for clarity and paired with photos of their systems and New York’s.

What experiences have you had with public transit? Tell us in the comments.


I’m a senior majoring in Russian studies at Carleton College in Minnesota. When I studied abroad in Moscow last year, my father, a South Bronx native, came to visit. We took the metro many times, and he was shocked.

“Where are the rats?” he asked. “I can’t believe how clean it is on these platforms.”

Many of the stations are works of art. Kievskaya, one of my favorites, has chandeliers and glittering mosaics with scenes from Ukrainian and Russian history. My other favorite station, Dostoevskaya, has murals depicting some of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s famous works, including “Crime and Punishment.”

The stations are held to a high standard of cleanliness, and there’s a constant police presence. Hooliganism is a serious crime, and it’s illegal to drink in the metro.

New York impressions: The subway in New York doesn’t follow a schedule in my experience. One time, in the summer of 2017, I waited 40 minutes for a Q train on the way to Brighton Beach. There was construction, but come on, 40 minutes?

Schuyler Kapnick


I live in Tokyo and rely on three trains — JR and Tokyo Metro lines — to get to my job leading food tours at the Tsukiji fish market. My first train is famous for being packed during the morning commute. But riders are good for the most part about making room for as many people as possible. When things go smoothly, a new train comes on the JR Chuo line every few minutes. If there are ever delays, train stations, social media and TV news are quick to share the information.

Trains are clean, and some cars are reserved for women and children. There are staff at the stations who are helpful and friendly. One time I left my keys on the train, and the staff at my station quickly figured out which train it was and where I could track it down. The keys were turned in and I retrieved them.

Japanese culture respects others before yourself. My train ride is so quiet in the morning that a baby could sleep. There are rules, such as letting people off first, that everyone follows.

New York impressions: I lived in New York for many years, and two things happened to me on the subway. First, I was held up. There were other riders in the car, and no one did anything to help. Second, I was on a train and a man had a gun. Everyone panicked, and people fled to the ends of the train. This doesn’t happen in Tokyo.

Yukari Sakamoto


As an American and former New Yorker, I am keenly aware of the public transit differences between here and New York. In Amsterdam it is a priority, a connecting web of trams, buses, trains and ferries that allows everyone to get around safely and on time.

I came to Amsterdam in 1989 to work for Radio Netherlands Worldwide and started living here full time seven years later. Now I’m retired, and as a senior on a limited income, I qualify for a free pass on all city transportation. This mobility has opened my life.

When American friends visit, they think our system is like a dream. But it isn’t. It’s the result of decisions made by the city and national governments and supported by the citizenry, who benefit daily and are willing to pay taxes to support it.

New York impressions: When I moved to Amsterdam after 15 years in New York, I had no idea that transport could actually run on a schedule. All I knew was to schedule extra time.

I still don’t trust the timetables, mainly because I want to keep some of my New Yorker-ness!

Ruth Dreier


The metro here is known as the world’s longest art gallery.

One card allows you to ride the commuter trains, metro, trams, ferries and buses. There are even driverless vehicles. Transit is safe, punctual and affordable. Between my commute from the suburbs and my work co-directing the Stockholm Fringe Festival, I take three to four transportation modes a day. The system is part of my office.

For the festival we rely on public transit to get our actors, crew and audience members to each venue. In fact we plan the locations and schedule around the metro lines. In 2012 we had a roaming performance that took place across different stations and trains. It won the Audience Choice Award.

New York impressions: The subway looks like it does in the movies and smells like a shady nightclub toilet.

Adam Potrykus


When my husband and I were both working remotely, we thought, “Why not do this from Berlin instead of home?” So we left Austin, Tex., and spent a month there in 2016. We returned last year to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary and my birthday. Berlin is our favorite big city, in large part because of how easy transportation is.

The U-Bahn was our primary method of transit for everything. Trips on it aren’t particularly memorable, and that’s how it should be. Systems are consistent across platforms and stations. There aren’t obstacles to smooth travel. What’s memorable, though, is the exquisite, ornate tiling in many of the stations. You also don’t validate your ticket when you enter a platform, which I think only works because of German culture.

New York impressions: When I visited New York, the stations were grungier and more rundown than the U-Bahn. But the U-Bahn serves a city with 3.5 million people. It’s harder to maintain and clean a system in a city of 8.5 million.

Jamie Miller

My family has a foundation that manages a robotics competition in Turkey. My work for it often requires taking public transit to meet with schools, sponsors and teams across Istanbul. When I was looking for an apartment, access to the metro and buses was basically my only criterion.

The metro is pretty fantastic. The trains can carry a massive number of people. We have mild overcrowding for an hour or two a day, but it’s usually not horrendous. Trains are almost never delayed thanks to good maintenance. My line, the M2, carries about 400,000 people each day without trouble.

The trains have TV screens that play lots of things. My favorites are the cat (and sometimes dog) videos.

The metro sparkles: Trains and stations are shiny clean. What I like most, though, is how fast it’s expanding. There are plans to go from 105 miles of track to about 680 miles in the next decade or so.

New York impressions: I’ve come to New York for robotics competitions. The subway gets you there. That’s about it. It was slow and broken, with lots of trash and decay. I felt like I was in an underworld.

Alex Francis Burchard


My work addresses urban-planning issues. Before moving to Vancouver, I lived in San Francisco, where I helped take down the Embarcadero Freeway and create the Presidio, a national park. Here, I’m working to remove two old highway viaducts, which will be replaced by a new roadway, parks, housing, bike paths and more.

The SkyTrain, our rapid transit system, has three lines that run through metro Vancouver. It plays a key part in a transportation strategy that makes walking, cycling and transit account for half of all trips in Vancouver.

The entire system is driverless. I’ve sat in the front seat of a SkyTrain, imagining that I’m the engineer as we race across the Fraser River.

Automation puts more money into maintenance and expansion. Six new stations opened in 2016. A project that will connect the suburbs to a major hospital has been approved, and an extension to the University of British Columbia is being discussed.

New York impressions: The subway is a critical public asset with impressive 24-hour service. But it’s antiquated, inefficient and not designed for all ages and abilities.

Michael Alexander


I’m a professor of computer science and use public transit on weekdays to drop off my youngest daughter at school, get to my university, run errands and go to meetings.

Zurich’s system has many desirable features. Most trams and many bus lines have their own lane, so travel time is more or less predictable.

The buses, with few exceptions, and many trams have low floors, allowing a stroller, wheelchair or suitcase to be moved easily onboard. Most U-Bahn stations are also accessible.

The timetables are fairly dense on many lines, and the evening and weekend schedules aren’t much thinner. On Friday and Saturday there’s a late-night network. I’ve never felt unsafe in any bus or tram.

Public transportation covers every part of the city. I don’t recall walking more than five minutes to a stop. It also has wide social acceptance; I know C.E.O.s who take public transit.

We once had visitors from the United States who left a handbag with money, jewelry and their passports on a bus. It took a phone call to find out when and where to meet the bus, and the driver handed over the bag.

New York impressions: The subway is a nice working museum.

Thomas Gross


I go to Northeastern University in Boston and studied in London for six months in 2017. I return every so often to work with a friend there on a business venture.

The Tube was the most amazing thing to happen to me. I could reach practically every spot in London in less than 40 minutes.

The system is extremely efficient, with frequent trains during the day. For me this is one of the main reasons that London has stayed ahead of many cities that haven’t aged as gracefully.

The trains are extremely long and can fit tons of passengers. Some stops also serve as national rail stations. I could board a train near my apartment and head out almost anywhere in the United Kingdom, from London’s suburbs to Edinburgh.

Transit fares are based on zones. One time I accidentally left the area that my card could access. It was 2:30 a.m., and I was six miles from my apartment. A security guard offered to pay for me and I was home within 30 minutes.

New York impressions: I like that New York’s subway is extensive (more so than Boston’s), but it’s extremely poor quality. It’s closer to London in terms of having many stops in many places, but not close in much else.

Andrew Cataldo

Follow Lara Takenaga on Twitter: @LaraTakenaga.

A note to readers who are not subscribers: This article from the Reader Center does not count toward your monthly free article limit.

Follow the @ReaderCenter on Twitter for more coverage highlighting your perspectives and experiences and for insight into how we work.

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Trudeau Government Should Turn to Sustainable Floor Heating In Its New Deal

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A consortium has been chosen by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to manage the $1.1-billion overhaul of five heating and cooling plants in the National Capital Region. However, this decision has been met with a lot of disapproval by the country’s largest federal public service union.

Early June, the department announced that Innovate Energy has been awarded the 30-year contract “to design, retrofit, maintain and operate the plants,”winning the bid over a rival group that included SNC-Lavalin.

Minister of Environment, Catherine McKenna, said the federal government was “leading by example” in its bid to drastically reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions across the country. McKenna noted that by supporting this project, they’re utilizing heating and cooling infrastructure to promote a more environmentally friendly option.

“We’re very proud that our government is working with partners like Innovate Energy to modernize this critical infrastructure,” she said during the announcement at one of the facilities that will be upgraded, the Cliff Heating and Cooling Plant in downtown Ottawa.

The plants would be known as the district energy system and would heat 80 buildings in the area with steam. It is also expected to cool 67 of these buildings with chilled water through more than 14 kilometres of underground pipes.

Under the Energy Services Acquisition Program, PSPC will be tasked with modernizing the outdated technology in the plants to lower emissions and supportgrowth in the eco-friendly technology sector.

During the first stage of the overhaul, the system would be converted from steam to low temperature hot water and then switched from steam to electric chillers—with the estimated completion date being 2025. PSPC notes that the project will reduce current emissions by 63 per cent, the equivalent of removing 14,000 non-eco-friendly cars off the road.

Afterwards, the natural gas powering the plant will then be replaced by carbon-neutral fuel sources, which according to estimated will reduce emissions by a further 28 per cent. The renovation project is bound to save the government an estimated fee of more than $750 million in heating and cooling costs in the next 40 years.

Furthermore, the implementation of radiant floor heating in Ottawa by the federal government would be an additional step in driving its agenda for a more eco-friendly state.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers website, radiant floor heating has a lot of benefits and advantages over alternate heat systems and can cut heating costs by 25 to 50 per cent.

“It is more efficient than baseboard heating and usually more efficient than forced-air heating because no energy is lost through ducts,” the website states.

Radiant floor heating provides an equal amount of heat throughout a building, including areas that are difficult to heat, such as rooms with vaulted ceilings, garages or bathrooms. Consideringit warms people and objects directly—controlling the direct heat loss of the occupant—radiant floor heating provides comfort at lower thermostat settings.

“Radiators and other forms of ‘point’ heating circulate heat inefficiently and hence need to run for longer periods to obtain comfort levels,” reports the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNet).

Radiant heating is a clean and healthy option—a perfect choice for those with severe allergies—as it doesn’t rely on circulating air, meaning there are no potentially irritating particles blowing around the room. Additionally, it is more energy efficient, aesthetically pleasing with wall radiators or floor registers and virtually noiseless when in operation.

“They draw cold air across the floor and send warm air up to the ceiling, where it then falls, heating the room from the top down, creating drafts and circulating dust and allergens.”

It is important for the leadership in Ottawa to equally drive the adoption of radiant floor heating as doing this would lead to increased usage in residential buildings—and even government-owned buildings.

However, in October, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), a representative body of employees of the plants,began a campaign target at the government against their decision to use a public-private partnership (P3) for the retrofitting project, citing concerns about costs and safety.

According to the union, outside employees won’t be bound to the same health and safety standards of government workers and that typically P3 projects cost a lot more than traditional public financing deals.

The union demands that the government scraps the proposed project and meet PSAC members and experts to brainstorm on a new way forward that would ensure federal employees continue to operate and maintain the plants.

However, parliamentary secretary to public services and procurement minister, Steve MacKinnon said that the union officials have consulted him but that after conducting an analysis, the P3 option was still the best for the job.

“We didn’t have (to) sacrifice on safety or health — we didn’t have to sacrifice on job security,” he said.

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Steps to becoming a Data Scientist

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Data science has become one of the most in-demand career paths in this century, according to Business Insider. With the amount of information being circulated online, it has created a huge demand for storing, interpreting and implementing big data for different purposes—hence the need for a data scientist.

Today, there too much information flying around for regular people to process efficiently and use. Therefore, it has become the responsibility of data scientists to collect, organize and analyze this data. Doing this helps various people, organizations, enterprise businesses and governments to manage, store and interpret this data for different purposes.

Though data scientists come from different educational backgrounds, a majority of them need to have a technical educational background. To pursue a career in data science, computer-related majors, graduations and post graduations in maths and statistics are quite useful.

Therefore, the steps to becoming a data scientist are quite straightforward.  After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in an IT related field—such as computer science, maths or physics—you can also further your education by obtaining a master’s degree in a data science or any other related field of study. With the necessary educational background, you can now search for a job and obtain the required experience in whichever filed you choose to invest your acquired skills.

Here are the necessary steps to be taken to become a data scientist.

Step 1: Obtain the necessary educational requirements

As earlier noted, different educational paths can still lead to a career in data science. However, it is impossible to begin a career in data science without obtaining a collegiate degree—as a four-year bachelor’s degree is really important. However, according to a report by Business Insider, over 73% of data scientist in existence today have a graduate degree and about 38% of them hold a Ph.D. Therefore, to rise above the crowd and get a high-end position in the field of data science, it is important to have a Master’s degree or a Ph.D.—and with various online data science masters program, obtaining one is quite easy.

Some institutions provide data science programs with courses that will equip students to analyze complex sets of data. These courses also involve a host of technical information about computers, statistics, data analysis techniques and many more. Completing these programs equips you with the necessary skills to function adequately as a data scientist.

Additionally, there are some technical—and computer-based degrees—that can aid you begin a career in data science. Some of them include studies in, Computer Science, Statistics, Social Science, Physics, Economics, Mathematics and Applied Math. These degrees will imbibe some important skills related to data science in you—namely, coding, experimenting, managing large amounts of data, solving quantitative problems and many others.

Step 2: Choose an area of specialization

There rarely exists an organization, agency or business today that doesn’t require the expertise of a data scientist. Hence, it is important that after acquiring the necessary education to start a career as a data scientist, you need to choose an area of specialization in the field you wish to work in.

Some of the specializations that exist in data science today include automotive, marketing, business, defence, sales, negotiation, insurance and many others.

Step 3: Kick start your career as a data scientist

After acquiring the necessary skills to become a data scientist, it is important to get a job in the filed and company of your choice where you can acquire some experience.

Many organizations offer valuable training to their data scientists and these pieces of training are typically centred around the specific internal systems and programs of an organization. Partaking in this training allows you learn some high-level analytical skills that were not taught during your various school programs—especially since data science is a constantly evolving field.

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Artificial intelligence pioneers win tech’s ‘Nobel Prize’

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Computers have become so smart during the past 20 years that people don’t think twice about chatting with digital assistants like Alexa and Siri or seeing their friends automatically tagged in Facebook pictures.

But making those quantum leaps from science fiction to reality required hard work from computer scientists like Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun. The trio tapped into their own brainpower to make it possible for machines to learn like humans, a breakthrough now commonly known as “artificial intelligence,” or AI.

Their insights and persistence were rewarded Wednesday with the Turing Award, an honor that has become known as technology industry’s version of the Nobel Prize. It comes with a $1 million prize funded by Google, a company where AI has become part of its DNA.

The award marks the latest recognition of the instrumental role that artificial intelligence will likely play in redefining the relationship between humanity and technology in the decades ahead.

Artificial intelligence is now one of the fastest-growing areas in all of science and one of the most talked-about topics in society,” said Cherri Pancake, president of the Association for Computing Machinery, the group behind the Turing Award.

Although they have known each other for than 30 years, Bengio, Hinton and LeCun have mostly worked separately on technology known as neural networks. These are the electronic engines that power tasks such as facial and speech recognition, areas where computers have made enormous strides over the past decade. Such neural networks also are a critical component of robotic systems that are automating a wide range of other human activity, including driving.

Their belief in the power of neural networks was once mocked by their peers, Hinton said. No more. He now works at Google as a vice president and senior fellow while LeCun is chief AI scientist at Facebook. Bengio remains immersed in academia as a University of Montreal professor in addition to serving as scientific director at the Artificial Intelligence Institute in Quebec.

“For a long time, people thought what the three of us were doing was nonsense,” Hinton said in an interview with The Associated Press. “They thought we were very misguided and what we were doing was a very surprising thing for apparently intelligent people to waste their time on. My message to young researchers is, don’t be put off if everyone tells you what are doing is silly.” Now, some people are worried that the results of the researchers’ efforts might spiral out of control.

While the AI revolution is raising hopes that computers will make most people’s lives more convenient and enjoyable, it’s also stoking fears that humanity eventually will be living at the mercy of machines.

Bengio, Hinton and LeCun share some of those concerns especially the doomsday scenarios that envision AI technology developed into weapons systems that wipe out humanity.

But they are far more optimistic about the other prospects of AI empowering computers to deliver more accurate warnings about floods and earthquakes, for instance, or detecting health risks, such as cancer and heart attacks, far earlier than human doctors.

“One thing is very clear, the techniques that we developed can be used for an enormous amount of good affecting hundreds of millions of people,” Hinton said.

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