Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mind the Gap

So as a Washington, D.C. college student I consider myself a bit of an authority on public transportation. In my short time in DC I have experienced the good and the bad(see June crash, recent suicides) about the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority. After spending just a few days in London I have some thoughts about the Underground, aka the Tube. Although quite a bit more expensive than my beloved Metro, the Tube is incredibly fast. I think I have only waited a total of ten minutes in about 15 trips. Also the tube does frequent updates regarding the service on each line letting travelers know well in advance if there are any issues.

Something else I enjoyed about the Tube is that each of the stations is incredibly unique. Unlike the D.C. metro system where uniform stations are the norm, British stations are each very different. A reflection of the age of London itself these stations are lined with some of the most effective advertising I have seen in my life. There is barely an empty wall. It makes me wonder why the D.C. metro is so inadequately utilized as far as advertising space is concerned. I have also been blown away by the quality of service from the Underground employees. Each time I have been lost they were quick to help with a smile on their faces. A stark contrast to the horrendous attitude displayed by WMATA employees. Lastly I was shocked to see how clean the cars of the Tube are. Unlike the D.C. metro there are few to no signs warning of penalties resulting from consuming food or drink on the trains.

However, despite the positives I noticed a few less than ideal things as well. Many of the lines on the Tube are undergoing track work during the weekends causing issues for the new traveler like myself. My primary criticism with this impressive transit system is the price though. As I alluded too earlier the Tube is incredibly expensive. With a price of nearly $2 for even the shortest ride "topping up" (adding money too) your oyster card (smarttrip card) can quickly drain your funds. I hope within the next two weeks to pick up a discounted student oyster card to help stave off some of these expenses. The availability of this card, even though it may be tough to get, underscores the need for a student smart trip in the D.C. WMATA system. Not only would this incentives student use of the metro it would also be a means of limited bad behavior on the Metro. If Metro Police can threaten to revoke a Student Smart Trip instead of applying a simple fine they may provide a persistent economic reason for college students to better treat their transit system.

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