I’m a New Yorker. I spend plenty of time on the subway. At present, I’m in London, and I just can’t help but notice the staggering differences between the Tube and the MTA. Frankly, there is a lot we could stand to learn from the masterminds behind the Tube. I’m writing this from the UK, so as not to incur bad subway karma (you know, when you have a series of just-missed-the-train experiences) in New York. Someone, please put this into the hands of an MTA official — and tell them to give me a call next time they want to hike up the fare.
10 Reasons London’s Tube is Better than the NYC Subway
1. Full maps in the stations. Not decaying.
Unlike in NYC, where you’re scrambling to find a subway map within most stations, London’s Tube has clean, clear, updated maps posted in both stations and trains. This is a no brainer.
2. Lack of rats.
When I asked around, Londoners did admit to having seen a rat once or twice during their voyages. I don’t think they understand that it’s a daily experience for New Yorkers. Don’t tell!
A subway seat is a hard-won prize. The padding the Tube offers is icing on the cake. There are even padded spots to lean on.
4. Seat dividers.
Speaking of the seats, not only are they padded, but in many cases, actual armrests are provided between individual seats. In the rare cases that they’re not,the cushions are separate. Finally, a way to know where, exactly, to sit, and how much space one ought to take.
5. Train times on screens.
In New York, it’s just the L. In London, quite a few Tube stations, particularly in Central London, have screens telling you exactly when the next train is coming, and where that train’s headed. This is helpful information, people.
The signage in London is better than New York’s by at least a thousand large points. First of all, in New York, when you want to see where your train is headed, you have to seek out some dodgy, dilapidated-diorama-framed paper on a post in the station. In London, when choosing East or West, North or South, a sign with all the forthcoming stops in either direction is provided in an easy-to-read, clear manner.
7. Signage 2.
Secondly, unlike in NYC, when broke-ass peach printed signs tell you that the C’s not running and they don’t necessarily make any sense, and then the C shows up, the Tube offers you a full map of every portion of the railway that’s under construction, with clear directions for detouring any problems. These are universally up to date — as though it’s someone’s job to let the public know their train is or isn’t running. Imagine that.
It’s like a revelation. Every announcement made is totally understandable. A recorded voice declares the stop and next stop to passengers in a crisp British accent, and there are no questions. Even changes to service and other station announcements are easy to hear. In New York, “Fourteenth Street, stand clear of the closing doors” often sounds like “Fotinsti. Stankle.”
The announcements aren’t limited to just station names. The Tube makes itself extra tourist-friendly by announcing major attractions at each stop. NYC really only does this for Rockefeller Center and Ground Zero. And, as I mentioned, you can’t really understand them.
10. Fewer ads, more maps.
I hear you, Dr. Zizmor, I do, and I know you could do amazing things for my skin, but I just want to verify my train’s route. I can’t deal with you right now. Frankly, NYC’s subway maps are usually old, damaged, or not there. On the trains, display cases are packed with ads and the one-per-car subway maps are often damaged or covered in graffiti. Not helpful.
So, good job, London. You win this one. But don’t get me started on food.
This trip was paid for by VisitBritain, but the ideas and opinions expressed in the article above are 100% my own.