Lisbon: The city whose public transportation system operates in three dimensions

Lisbon is a very hilly city.

The public transportation system in Lisbon is a quaint mix of old and new. There's a tram system over a hundred years old; on it run both historic trains as well as sleek modern ones. There's also a modern bus system and a subway. And all of these systems run north, south, east, and west all over town.

But it's the only city I've experienced in which the public transportation includes elevators which take you up and down.

The most famous of the three vertical forms of public transit is Santa Justa's Elevator which takes you from just off Rossio Square downtown six stories up a steep cliff face to Carmo Square in the Barrio Alto district. Without it, you'd have to go the long way around.

There is a Baixa-Chiado Metro stop on the uphill side of the elevator, and if your spatial relations are still intact, this tells you that the metro runs six stories below the surface. Coming out of Baixa-Chiado station requires four consecutive long escalator rides. Of course, people in Moscow read this and scoff, "You call that a long escalator ride? This is a long escalator ride."

Comments (25)
  1. jcs says:

    A bit of trivia: The longest escalator in the western hemisphere is at the Wheaton metro station in Washington, DC. This escalator ride of 508 feet (155 meters) takes 2 minutes and 45 seconds (if you’re standing still).

  2. Chris says:

    Have you been to Portland, Oregon?  It’s also got a pretty three dimensional transit system.

    They’ve got a light-rail station accessed by an elevator that’s 260 feet below ground.  Rather than stories, the elevator displays it’s position based on the age of the surrounding rock, going from the present to 15 million years ago.

    They’ve also got an aerial tram as part of their mass transit system.  It connects the waterfront with the Oregon Health & Science University campus.

  3. Reginald Wellington III says:

    In Moscow, doesn’t escalator ride you?

  4. Funicular Fan says:

    For other vertical transport see

  5. cab32.exe says:

    I vistited someone a few years ago with my

    family  who traveled by train through europe

    and was 20 years ago in lisbon and he said

    that the elevator is an old thing and he

    showed me a picture in a ~40 years old

    encyclopedia and he said that there is

    also an elevator on the island sylt where he

    also arrived by a train dam and drove down

    to the beach and the red rocks

  6. eff Five says:

    Amazingly the Wikipedia entry on Elevators includes a section on Elevators for urban transport.

  7. Josh says:

    When I was in Barcelona a number of years back, they had outdoor uncovered escalators which I found quite amusing. Some were alongside roads, others were alongside really steep staircases – so steep they couldn’t put a road there.

    Here’s some pics some searching found:

  8. ColdWaterOmo says:

    I really enjoyed the escalators in Hong Kong. The views are much nicer since you’re above-ground. e.g. (bad sound though).

  9. Andy Simpson says:

    The longest escalator in Europe is in Angel Tube Station in London. Someone thought it would be a good idea to ski down it.

  10. Scott says:

    "When I was in Barcelona a number of years back, they had outdoor uncovered escalators which I found quite amusing. "

    I forgot about that.  That street goes from road to escalator/stairs to road depending on how steep it is.

    Barcelona also has a funicular to get to Montjuic, which is a bit unusual since it goes underground at the bottom to connect directly to the Metro system.  And at the top of the funicular, there is a cable car, but that’s not technically part of the public transit system.

  11. hexatron says:

    In New York–visit the Cloisters via the 190th Street Station of the A train, and take an elevator 140 feet up to the surface

    Or for escalator fun, there’s the 5th ave-53rd street station with 80 vertical feet of moving stairway madness.

  12. Rich says:

    The Salzburg public transportation system includes an elevator up the Mönchsberg.  Many European cities (Salzburg, Budapest, Prague) include Funiculars and/or chairlifts.

  13. Kyralessa says:

    I’m disappointed that they’ve got those Moscow escalators set up so that you can’t slide down the flat part between adjoining escalators.

  14. Vladimir says:

    <i>Of course, people in Moscow read this and scoff, "You call that a long escalator ride? This is a long escalator ride."</i>

    I believe the ones in St Petersburg are generally longer. The city’s built on a swamp so there’s a thick layer of wet ground in which you can’t build subway lines, you have to go deeper. At least that’s what I heard of.

    Kyralessa: You can drop something (usually a ticket or a coin) and it’ll slide just well. In fact, even locals do this.

  15. Guido says:

    There’s a (rather short) elevator that belongs to the public transportation network in Bern, where I live…

    …and we have the shortest cable car in Europe as well, which is another three dimensional means of transportation. Part of the public transportation network too.

  16. Anon says:

    There’s a funicular in Hastings UK. Not quite a city, but it’s also renowned for being the site of the first demonstration of Television, to John Logie Baird’s electromechanical design.

  17. George Jansen says:

    The stop south of Wheaton, Forest Glen, is deep enough that WMATA didn’t bother with escalators. There are elevators and emergency steps, and that’s it. Years ago during a power failure, WMATA offered Forest Glen users the choice of riding to Wheaton (maybe a 25-minute walk away) or taking the steps.

    And don’t forget Dubuque, with its inclined plane.

  18. As in many subways around the world, some stations are really worth a detailed visit

    In Portuguese (if you can’t understand the text, just use combo box in the upper right corner to select the station to see some pictures)

    In English, but with fewer details

    Keep up the posts about your Lisbon experience! Greetings from Lisbon :-)

  19. Gabe says:

    Wow, that Forest Glen stop (in Wash., DC) has a 20-story staircase. If the elevators aren’t working, the 25 minute walk from Wheaton might actually be faster than going up the stairs for most people. If the elevators are working, they only take 10 seconds.

  20. Steve Boyko says:

    I remember that Moscow escalator, from the 70s when I lived there. Thanks for the link!

  21. Joe Dietz says:

    Well actually Oregon City, which is just south of Portland, contains a public elevator that carries you about a 150 ft between the Willamette river shoreline and the bluff where the historic city was built.

    In grade school we took this crazy field trip where we rode on an Amtrak train from Vancouver Washington to Portland, took a tri-met bus around Portland to Oregon City and took the Elevator in Oregon City to see the McLaughlin house.

  22. Kelly Leahy says:

    Vladimir beat me to it, but I was going to say that SPb metro escalators are much longer than Moscow ones, in general.  I was so surprised when I went to Moscow about how *short* the escalator rides were, after being in SPb for 6 months.

    You could easily read several pages while on the SPb escalators.

  23. Then again – there’s Angel tube in London. Not sure if it’s as long as the Russian example, although the video of the guy skiing down it claims it’s the longest in Europe.

    Other sources list Angel as having the longest escalator in "Western" Europe. Maybe that’s an acknowledgement of the Moscow example.

  24. Craig Ringer says:

    Lyon’s public transport doesn’t quite go straight up and down, but it has covered cablecars that’re used for some extremely steep, short hill runs. In particular, up to Vieux Lyon, which is on and around a large hill.

    It’s an absolutely lovely place.

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