Going Underground

Having spent the previous week navigating the Underground1, spending multiple days in New York this week was a rude juxtaposition. The Tube is, in parts, over 150 years old. It has serious issues at times. South London is woefully covered by its links.

And yet, you just try taking an E train from Manhattan to JFK and back. You’ll be begging for Baker Street in minutes. Trains that sit still for 10-15 minutes, other trains that pull out of the station only to stop dead, absurdly hot platforms that lead onto plastic-feeling rolling stock2, station and train announcements that somehow manage to sound like electrical screeching rather than actual human voices, escalators that are so thin that the entire station grinds to a halt as the train disembarks, and ticket gates seemingly designed to be as hateful as humanly possible.

All this and the MTA map is a hideous piece of design, made even worse by knowing that they had a decent map in the 70s but discarded it because apparently New Yorkers couldn’t handle spatial maps like every other citizen of a city with an underground network.

You may infer from all this that I’m happy to be back in Durham. I couldn’t possibly comment.


  1. We went on almost every line in a week, including my first time on a DLR route. [return]
  2. Yes, the cars are air-conditioned, whereas most Tube cars aren’t. But, they’re air-conditioned in the American mall fashion, in that they’re set about 5˚C below comfortable temperatures, so you go from sweating profusely to shivering in about thirty seconds. Hurrah! [return]