10 Reasons London’s Tube is better than the NYC Subway

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!

3. Cushions.

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.

6. Signage.
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.

8. Announcements.
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.”

9. Attractions.

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.

London Tube announcer suggests commuters off themselves because of delayed trains

Commuters on London‘s Tube got an earful last week when the station announcer gave a 30 minute play-by-play of the happenings on the tracks. Several trains were delayed and in between updating passengers on the status and predicting which train would be next, the announcer lamented the fact that his supervisor had previously reprimanded him for not offering enough information. Apparently, this was his way of showing just how much information he could provide.

Bystanders said the over-achieving announcer talked nearly nonstop for 30 minutes. It wasn’t all just technical blather though. The announcer also sympathized with the waiting passengers. “Once again, I do apologize for the disruption to your journey today,” he said, “It has upset me easily as much as it has upset you. Do trust me, that is coming from the heart.” See, boss? He’s not only informative, but he really cares too!

Later, he seemed to get more frazzled. “Is this what a nervous breakdown feels like?” he asked. Then he offered his suggestions for dealing with the annoyance. “You’ve got two options – apart from shooting yourself, and who could blame you?” Whoa, relax guy, it’s just a few delayed trains.

I’m betting his nonstop chatter actually made the delays a little more bearable for London commuters. If you’ve got to wait for a train, at least you can have a little station entertainment.

[via Telegraph]

London’s Tube will have (some) air conditioning next summer

Londoners love to hate the Tube. The London Underground is said to be overpriced, overcrowded, and prone to breakdowns and strikes, but perhaps the biggest (and most valid) complaint is that on hot summer days the lack of air conditioning turns the cars into ovens. I’ve even seen people faint, either from the heat or the stink of sweaty bodies.

Londoners and visitors alike will have some relief next summer as the city introduces its first air conditioned subway car, which was delivered this week.

But don’t throw away your water bottles just yet. The first air conditioned car will only be on the Metropolitan line, and that line won’t be entirely air conditioned until 2011. By 2015, the District and Circle lines will also have air conditioning.

That’s a long wait, and the nine other lines will have to wait even longer, perhaps forever. Some, such as the heavily used Northern and Piccadilly lines, are too deep in the earth to easily expel warm air. The Piccadilly is the one that goes to Heathrow, so you can have a nice sweat after several hours of cramped seating and airline food.

Oh, and there’s more bad news. Since this is part of a major revamping of the Tube system, prices will go up 3.9 percent, and bus fares will also go up 12 percent. The fare hikes will start in January 2012.

Europe on a budget: Take public transportation

It really shouldn’t come as a surprise, but when you are trying to save those euros this summer, you are going to want to spend your time discovering cities by way of public transportation. Buses, street cars and metros are what the European continent is known for, and this article in the New York Times highlights how many good deals you can find aboard different forms of transportation.

The article lays out how much you’ll have to pay and where public transportation can take you in five European cities: London, Paris, Barcelona, Berlin and Rome. Any budget conscious traveler will most likely already be well versed in the variety of modes of public transportation and how to pay for them — the constant “single tickets vs. multi-day pass” question — but what I do like about the article are the recommendations for day trips, all accessible by main Metro, Tube or U-Bahn lines, and that take you to some off the beaten path destinations.

The budget basics:

London: The Tube. Invest in a pay-as-you-go Oyster Card to save some money, you have to pay a 3.50£ deposit to get the card, so make sure not to lose it so you can get your money back.
Paris: Le Metro. One trip passes are 1.50€, but the Times recommends that it’s probably cheaper to buy a pack of ten than invest in a multi-day pass.
Barcelona: Metro. Single tickets cost 1.30€, but it makes more sense to buy a ten trip pass which starts at 7.20€.
Berlin: U-Bahn. Single ticket fares start at 2.10€ and a one day pass starts at 6.10€.
Rome: Metropolitana. It’s super cheap: single-ride tickets start at 1€ and one-day passes at 4€!

Read the whole article here.

Londoner fired for telling it like it is

There’s been a surprising amount of press over the news that woman who recorded the announcements you hear on the London Underground has been fired for posting spoof messages on her website. The voice-over artist, 36-year-old Emma Clarke, has all of a sudden gained worldwide notoriety, with her website brought down by the sheer amount of traffic from people wanting to download the hilarious spoofs.

You can still find some recordings here. Here are some excerpts:

  • “We would like to remind our American tourist friends that you are almost certainly talking too loudly.”
  • “Would the passenger in the red shirt pretending to read the paper but who is actually staring at that woman’s chest please stop. You are not fooling anyone, you filthy pervert.”
  • “Would passengers filling in answers on their Sudokus please accept that they are just crosswords for the unimaginative and are not in any way more impressive just because they contain numbers.

As if to reaffirm her funny take on London stereotypes, the transport administration was too staid to keep her on. Well, ok their statement was surprisingly amusing: “London Underground is sorry to have to announce that further contracts for Miss Clarke are experiencing severe delays,” a spokesman said.