<p>The London Underground, also known as the Tube, is the world’s oldest underground urban transit system. It began service in 1863.</p>

Now Arriving …

The London Underground, also known as the Tube, is the world’s oldest underground urban transit system. It began service in 1863.

Photograph by MAURICIO HANDLER, Nat Geo Image Collection

Now Boarding! Photos of Subways From Around the World

Underground trains can be both the most inspiring and frustrating pieces of urban infrastructure.

The underground. Le Métro. Die U-Bahn. The subway. They have different names, but they share the same goal — to get you where you need to be.

As urban populations boomed in the twentieth century, streets became congested. City planners responded in a number of ways... They widened roads, built new highways, bought fleets of buses, and developed networks of train lines. Of all these, it was the urban rail systems that found a special place in our hearts.

Transit is a symbol of metropolitan culture. City dwellers hang framed editions of their rail map in their living rooms. Train stations are natural neighborhood gathering places. And recent transplants know they’ve finally settled when they can confidently navigate the different lines and transfer points of their city’s network.

Here are 14 photos from National Geographic’s archives that capture all the ways rapid transit is an indispensable aspect of life in the city.

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