What Seoul Does Well in Urban Mobility
Seoul’s affordable, efficient, and timely public transit system sustains one of the highest ridership levels in the world. An unlimited mass transit pass that would allow riders to use all subway and bus lines and the city’s bike-sharing service is planned for release in 2024 and may help boost ridership further. The city’s 2030 plan envisions an expanded and speedier rail network with more frequent bus service. In 2022, Seoul expanded nightly bus service.
The combination of the presence of top university talent and government investment in mobility technology and infrastructure has made Seoul a leader in mobility innovation and utilization. In July 2023, Seoul National University and a large automaker co-created a new research institute to study electric vehicle battery technology.
Urban Mobility Readiness Index, Sustainable Mobility and Public Transit scores
Challenges and Opportunities for Seoul Transportation System
Despite having a strong electric vehicle (EV) charging station network, Seoul lags behind many of its peers on EV representation in total car sales. In February 2023, the Korean government raised the criteria for subsidies on EV purchases from vehicles priced at about $40,000 to those priced at roughly $42,000.
Walking and cycling are not popular in Seoul due to the limited number of car-free zones, underdeveloped cycling infrastructure, and a lack of incentives. However, the city’s 2030 mobility plan includes expanded cycling and pedestrian paths equipped with traffic management systems specifically for active mobility travelers.
Dimensions of the Urban Mobility Readiness Index score
How Seoul Can Improve Its Public Transportation and Sustainable Mobility
While Seoul is home to a strong public transit system, some residents have long walks to stations. To improve station density and encourage ridership, the city could add bus routes and stops to help connect residents to the public transit system — a cost effective improvement that would benefit residents. In the long run, adding new subway and rail stations and lines will be key to building out their public transit offering for residents outside of the existing lines, but that effort will be a long and expensive undertaking. The city has plans to add more rail service and better connect bus services to metro hubs by 2030.
While Seoul is home to a strong mobility sector, few residents opt to walk around the city. Compared to Helsinki, where there are tenfold more walking trips, the city has room for improvements for its walking population. Seoul could implement more car-free zones. Nearly three-times more Helsinki residents live near a car-free zone compared to those in Seoul. The city has begun work on expanded pedestrian infrastructure, but further efforts would help boost the walking modal share.