These Are the World’s Busiest Transit Lines—Here’s How to Navigate the Crowds

According to a new report from Google Maps, the most crowded subway and metro lines can be found in New York, Tokyo, and Paris, as well as Buenos Aires and São Paulo. Here’s how to get around town and keep your sanity intact the next time you take mass transit.

These Are the World’s Busiest Transit Lines—Here’s How to Navigate the Crowds

The platform at Shinkjuku Station where Tokyo’s Yamanote Line meets the Chuo Line, the seventh most crowded transit line in the world.

Photo by Benny Marty / Shutterstock

If you’ve used the Google Maps app on your phone in any major city around the world in the past nine months to navigate public transportation, you may have received a notification asking just how crowded your train, bus, or subway was.

From October 2018 and June 2019, riders were presented with four options—many empty seats, few empty seats, standing room only, or cramped standing room only—in these optional surveys that were taken between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. Monday through Sunday. After analyzing the data, Google says it has identified the 10 most crowded transit lines around the world and is rolling out a new feature in the app that will help you avoid the busiest times.

Notoriously busy cities like Tokyo and New York have transit lines on this list, but Buenos Aires and São Paulo dominated the top 10 with three lines each. In fact, Buenos Aires’s Urquiza Line, a suburban commuter rail line that connects the Federico Lacroze station in the Chacarita neighborhood to the Campo de Mayo district west of the city, took the number one spot. São Paulo’s Line 11 in its commuter rail system took second place, while Line A on the Buenos Aires Underground took third.

The most crowded transit lines around the world, according to Google Maps users:

  1. Buenos Aires Urquiza Line
  2. São Paulo Line 11 (Coral)
  3. Buenos Aires Line A
  4. São Paulo Line 8 (Diamond)
  5. Paris Line 13
  6. Buenos Aires Line C
  7. Tokyo Chuo Line
  8. São Paulo Line 9 (Emerald)
  9. Tokyo Nippori-Toneri Liner
  10. New York L Train

While many of these lines are commuter rails that aren’t frequented by travelers, the data Google collected is being put to use in a new feature available now on the Google Maps app that predicts how crowded public transit will be in more than 200 cities around the world. The next time you search for directions in Google Maps, and pick a bus, train, or subway route, you’ll see information about how crowded it could be alongside the directions. A recent search for directions from New York’s Bryant Park down to the West Village around 6 p.m. on a weekday revealed that riders could expect standing room only on the B or D trains, but would find many empty seats on the 1 train, which takes just a few minutes more than the first option.

In general when you travel, it’s always best to avoid using mass transit during rush hour in the morning and evenings so you’re not competing with locals for a seat. If possible, plan to explore the neighborhood around your hotel or Airbnb in the morning and head out to explore different areas after 10 a.m. once most people are already at their desks.

For more tips for being a better traveler while taking the bus, subway, or train abroad, read more of AFAR’s Unspoken Rules of Public Transportation Around the World.

>> Next: The Ultimate Guide to European Train Travel With a Eurail Pass

Lyndsey Matthews is the senior commerce editor at AFAR who covers travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.
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