Random Observation/Comment #153: The comparison between public transportation systems in different countries really expresses much of the culture and ingenuity of the engineers when these systems were built. I’m not going to lie; the New York MTA transit sucks. The map is intuitive, but the trains don’t seem to follow a schedule and it always confuses tourists with express and local tracks. You basically know you’re a local in the NYC subway system when you know where to stand on the track to have the least distance to walk to the next exit, and you know when to switch trains from the local to the express to save maybe 45 seconds in the commute. The Japanese subway systems may look ridiculously confusing (and it actually is), but it is very efficient. You’ll get lost a few times, but who doesn’t in a foreign country?
The Underground is the name of the transit company, like the LIRR or MTA North for New Yorkers. The Tube is the combination of all of the major subway systems. I think the terms could possibly be interchangeable, but I hear people use the phrase “I’m taking the Tube in the Underground” so this always confuses me. Now that I think about, everyone just calls it whatever they want.
London is divided into zones that look like a map of the expected casualties from a science fiction infection. Zone 1 is the center and Zone 2 is the same shape with a larger radius covering an additional area of pi*(r2^2-r1^2), where r1 is the radius of Zone1 and r2 is the radius of Zone2 (I am, undoubtedly, an engineer). Zone 3, 4, and 5 continue this outward chromatography effect. As you travel further from Zone 1, you are leaving the city life and heading towards the Boondocks with suburban aminals*. I guess if you were to compare London Zones to the five boroughs, you could say; Zone 1 ~ Manhattan, Zone 2 ~ Brooklyn, Zone 3 ~ the Bronx, Zone 4 ~ Queens, and Zone 5 ~ Staten Island.
For guests traveling for more than 3 days, I would suggest buying an Oyster Card. This costs 3 GBP and then you can add additional money to it. Instead of paying the normal 4 GBP for roundtrip tickets within Zone 1-2, I would suggest just buying the Oyster Card and getting charged about 1.50 GBP per underground ride. This will probably pay off after riding 4 or 5 rides. Personally, I walked everywhere, even if it took me 30 minutes. I was in the mood to explore and I wasn’t in a rush to go anywhere. I had already scrapped all of my plans, so I considered wandering as the best option. Of course, I was wandering with purpose, but I definitely didn’t know exactly which streets I would be taking. Fortunately, I had abnormally beautiful weather, so walking was a valid option. I seemed to have picked the perfect week to visit because it never rained. I had a bit of a misty, humid, and moist feel once I walked outside, but I heard this was so normal it was not only expected, but suspiciously unusual without this matter of fact.
The first thing I noticed about the tube was its incredibly short height. The door opens to maybe 6 feet and then curves up slowly for a max height of around 7. The curve is very slow, so tall people basically have a foot width of standing space near the center. The train itself is also a little bit thinner so it’s certainly a tight squeeze. The reason for this is that people were shorter back then and the tunnels were dug so far underground that changes to the system would be very expensive. Since the soil in London is soft, they needed to go at least 5 or 6 stories underground to have enough structure to prevent upper soil collapses. The trains that used to run on steam have been replaced with the tube and now have to follow the same paths and size restrictions. So from this experience, engineers should design transit systems for giants (or something like that).
The tubes also come every 3 or 4 minutes, so there is no reason to rush. Newer stations have glass doors to prevent people from jumping onto the train tracks, while the older ones look like every other train station with large gaps.
The chairs separate into individual seats, but include the arm rests. This works surprisingly well compared to the old N/R/W trains with those little orange and yellow ass-dips in the seats. For the most part, these wider trains lead to equal number of standing and sitting commuters, even with empty seats. It might be the culture, but I suspect it’s the extra few inches with the ass room.
Older tubes have these “open” buttons on the inside and outside of each door, which used to work, but have stayed for visual appeal (and to make tourists look stupid). I still like pressing them for fun. What I’ve also noticed from the tube is that the doors start opening before the train comes to a complete stop. In other words, when the train is slowing down the doors will start to open and will be completely open when you’ve come to the complete stop. This saves like 2 seconds, which can add up (to like a minute). I think we should adopt this to our systems. I hope kids are not stupid enough to try and jump out.
~See Lemons Underground
*Spelling purposeful for Michelle