Underground trains can be both the most inspiring and frustrating pieces of urban infrastructure. 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. (Full story:
  1. Now Arriving …
    The London Underground, also known as the Tube, is the world’s oldest underground urban transit system. It began service in 1863. (Photo by Mauricio Handler, National Geographic Creative)
  2. Hustle and Bustle
    Crowds of commuters in Japan move about a subway platform as they jostle to get to their next destination. (Photo by Paul Chesley, National Geographic Creative)
  3. A Moving Performance
    An accordion player performs for passengers on the Barcelona Metro. Train cars are convenient stages for musicians and dancers looking to make a little money. (Photo by Randy Olson, National Geographic Creative)
  4. Over the River
    The Paris Métro crosses a viaduct over the Seine River. Many transit systems bury their lines underground, but it’s not uncommon for segments of the system to be elevated or aboveground. (Photo by Richard Nowitz, National Geographic Creative)
  5. Rumbling Along
    The Chicago L moves through the Loop, a downtown segment of track named for its shape. The name L comes from the long sections of the system that are built on elevated tracks. (Photo by Steve Raymer, National Geographic Creative)
  6. Running Errands
    You never know what you might encounter on the train. Here, a man clings to his mattress on the Barcelona Metro. (Photo by Randy Olson, National Geographic Creative)
  7. Packed Like Sardines
    In a scene quite common in Japan, “pushers” try to squeeze as many people possible into overloaded subway cars. Pushers are gloved railway station attendants who manage the morning and evening commuter crowds. (Photo by Paul Chesley, National Geographic Creative)
  8. Face in the Crowd
    A woman pokes her head above a throng of people aboard the Guangzhou Metro in China. Finding your way through a mass of humanity is just another facet of rail commuting. (Photo by Randy Olson, National Geographic Creative)
  9. Crime and Punishment
    For decades, the New York subway was an open canvas for spray paint and graffiti. That ended when the city cracked down on violators in the 1990’s. Here, people arrested for petty crimes clean up a subway car. (Photo by Robert Madden, National Geographic Creative)
  10. Girls Only
    In response to sexual harassment on the Rio de Janeiro Metro, Brazilian officials began designating women-only cars. Here, a security guard stops men from entering. (Photo by John Stanmeyer, National Geographic Creative)
  11. “Please stand clear…”
    Two Washington D.C. Metro trains pass through Dupont Circle Station. The system’s architecture—the overarching, coffered ceilings featured in many stations—is an enduring symbol of America’s capital city. (Photo by Rich Reid, National Geographic Creative)
  12. A Decadent Commute
    Muscovites walk down a corridor adorned with mosaics and ornate chandeliers in Kiev Station. Many elements of the Moscow Metro system were constructed to be stunning examples of Stalinist architecture. (Photo by Dean Conger, National Geographic Creative)
  13. 9 to 5
    A team of department store Santas waits for the next train at Broadway-Lafayette Street Station in New York City. (Photo by Jodi Cobb, National Geographic Creative)
  14. Going Forward
    A Paris Métro train on the 14 line moves along an underground track. The 14 line is one of the newest and most automated lines in the system, and is eventually supposed to connect to the Grand Paris Express: a major transit expansion project. (Photo by Stephen Alvarez, National Geographic Creative)