March 18, 2007

New York Subway vs London Underground

OK, sorry for the delay. We left this off with the match tied at one apiece. London got the nod as the most comprehensive system, based largely on the fact that it serves Heathrow, while NY was voted here as the cleaner system.

I'm going to get rid of the Third Category -- Ease of Use-- and will roll it into "Fares and Fare Collection". And will add "Express vs Local Trains"

Round Three: Hours of Operation

This is not meant to be a setup. New York's subway is unique among all the world systems in that it runs 24 hours. Which is a unique, wonderful advantage to living here. There's been many the time when I've boarded the NY Subway at 1am or later, to board a --crowded-- subway back to Brooklyn. The London Underground trains start running at 5am, and stop at 1am-ish. Those are long hours, but they ain't 24.

Advantage: New York

Express vs Local Trains

Most of the New York system has express lines, which can race past as many as seven local stations ( the A and D trains skip seven stations when they run between 59th St and 125th Street ). This can make for a much faster trip. I can just miss my R local train home at Pacific Street, but then catch the N Express four or five minutes later, which will easily overtake the R train I had missed, so that I can catch it at 36th or 59th Street.

London does not have express trains.

Advantage: New York


OK, now for the final round

Fares and Fare Collection

New York's system is much simpler than London's. The entire system consists of one zone. Whether you go one stop or whether you travel from Coney Island to the north Bronx, the base fare is $2.

The Underground has a zone system. Center city is Zone One. There are five other zones. In NY, you pay your fare and that's it. In London, you present your ticket when entering the system but then have to hold onto it--you must display it when leaving also. If you lose it, you are charged the "maximum fare" even if your trip was actually all within Zone One.

The fares in London are the highest in the world. The base cash fare for a trip within Zone one costs four British pounds-- a draw-dropping $7.76. Most London commuters pay a lot less when they use the Oyster Card, but most New Yorkers pay less than $2 when they use the MetroCard. No matter how you slice it --and here I intentionally avoid some of the complexities--London's system is both more expensive and more complex.

The NYC MetroCard is pretty easy to use. You present it only on entering the system. With the pay-per-ride version, you can pay for up to four people traveling together with the one card, including transfers. With London's Oyster Card, you must touch the electronic reader both on entering and departing the system ( no big hassle there ) but only one traveler at a time can use it.

I met a business contact at Heathrow when just in London, and I used my Oyster Card to pay for my fare to Green Park station. I would have liked to pay for my friend with the Oyster Card, but could not. I took out four one pound coins to buy him a ticket.

Advantage: New York

And the Title Goes To: New York's Subway

There are many points of comparison that I've not even touched on--ie London's system has more breakdowns-- but even without considering these, I think that there's no contest but that NY's is the better system across the board. Its simpler, its cheaper, its cleaner, and it never closes.

London's system is a good one, but I'll take the NY Subway anyday.


Anonymous said...

I saw the pictures of the old Bay Ridge movie theatre,does anyone recall that from about 1966 to the early 70's the top floor was home to the 25th hour club?Big party was when we would set the clock ahead in October,SRO.

Anonymous said...

You are comparing a bad subway system with a worst one. You need to go overseas to see how other countries have improved and how incredibly great their subway system is. In my personal opinion, NY subway sucks... stinky, dirty, dark, rude and loud MTA staff, N express trains always take the local lines for no reasons, rats everywhere, etc.. Some people say the NY subway system is old coz it has been around for 100 years. The least they can do is simply maintain it. Look and appearance is important. Clean + nice looking subway = comfort and happy commuters

The Phantom said...

--You need to go overseas to see how other countries have improved--

OK, lets see---
In Europe, I've rode subways in: London, Paris, Madrid, Naples, Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Prague, Budapest, Stockholm,and Athens.

In Asia, I've been on the Tokyo, Kyoto, Singapore, and Hong Kong systems.

Also: Buenos Aires.

In the USA: Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, and Chicago.

In Canada: Montreal, Toronto.

Forgive me if I've forgotten some systems, but trust me, I've been on many. And I'm not even mentioning the light rail systems I've been on, including Dublin's terrific LUAS light rail.

I observe very, very closely, and I talk to others who have traveled lightly, incl foreigners who have been on the NYC system.

I reach the conclusion that NYC's is the best system I've been on. What puts it over the top when compared with other great systems is the fact that it runs 24/7, which no other system does. Plus it is so damned cheap.

It is VASTLY better than it was in the 1970s. Does it still have a long way to go? You bet.

But as someone who has essentially seen them all, its the worlds best right now.

Anonymous said...

I think the best subway system in the world should go to Hong Kong, Singapore or Tokyo. The trains running 24/7 isn't that important unless you are a 20 something who likes to party a lot. Plus the trains running 24/7 leads to a lot of the cars becoming dirty from a lack of adequate cleaning and the rails deteriorate from a lack of adequate repairs.

The subway systems in Asia are light years ahead of the subway system in the city.

The Phantom said...

Well, its a matter of taste.

They don't have to be open 24 hours, but a lot of these lines shut down right around midnight or abouts--way too early for me. I was on what I thought was the last train of the night in Tokyo, when it stopped mid-line, and a frentic (but polite) conductor let us know that they were done for the night.
Had to find a taxi in a strange neighborhood.

The Tokyo system is terrific but again as of the recent past--no late night service, no MetroCard or equivalent, and ( I think ) no transfers between certain lines, which are run by different companies.

Singapore is very modern, and as you would expect spotless. But a huge downside--cell phones work everywhere. This is NOT a good thing in a crowded train. Good thing-their "Octopus Card" works in 711 stores, so you can essentially buy a beer with your MetroCard equivalent.

Hong Kong- agree its a fine system. Terrific train to the airport too

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Anonymous said...

NYC does indeed have a great subway system, but it isn't the only 24-hour system. Chicago's subway/El system also runs 24 hours. That said, the best system I've ever been on is in Mexico City. Trains arrive constantly, stations are clean, delays are uncommon, etc. It's a sad comment on US commitment to public transportation that a system in a developing country is better than anything here.

Ed said...

I've lived a split life between london and new york, so I think I'm qualified to comment on this.

I totally agree with everything you've said. There is one place that london beats new york though; cleanliness of the stations. The carriages themselves are definitely cleaner in new york, but the stations and tracks are filthy.

Anonymous said...

I think the Moscow metro should be mentioned here, as it is famous all over the world! I've never been there, so I don't know whether it's cheap and convenient, but it is certainly clean and, most of all, beautiful!!! It was built as a palace for the worker class!
Take a look!:

stametis said...

London Underground DOES have express trains, and has for decades.

The London Underground is currently undergoing a refit.

The Oyster cards don't need to be zapped, they can recognise a person as they approach the barrier.

London has the worlds first underground, so repair costs are higher because of the heritage.

The London underground has been drilled under the city, where NYC's has been cut from above, as London has greater heritage, it is not possible to dig up the streets in the same way as NYC.

it is not possible for London's underground to follow the roads, because of their age, and the depth of the lines.

The staff at London's underground are some of the best trained.

London has one of the most secure systems against terrorists (hence the swipe in and swipe out).

And please bear in mind that nearly all of London undergrounds stations will have been modernised by 2014 at the latest, the majority by 2009. The funding has only just opened up to the tube, and huge improvements are being made.

I do have to admit though LU over the last few years has been in a state, this will improve however!

Anonymous said...

As a New Yorker, I was, of course, pleased that we won ;) That said, I was in London and I enjoyed using the underground, it was fine. But you're right, for the fares and zones alone, it's much more complicated and difficult and expensive. On the plus side, I appreciate Metrocards a lot more now!

And I'm also impressed with the 24/7 thing. I actually had no idea that other transportation systems didn't run 24/7 until recently. Yes, it makes it harder to keep things clean and in repair, but it is definitely used!

haifischjunge said...

It's a pity that you never had the chance to ride the subway in Vienna. Vienna might not be large, but the subway is very clean, on time, one fare zone, no ticket checks on entering or leaving the system and not to forget full UMTS cell coverage in the tunnels. (I hate the no-coverage in the NYC subway)

downside is, no express trains and not 24/7.

I fully agree on the subway in Moscow. Clean, on time and everywhere. It's quiet cool to see trains going every 30s in the rush hours.

theUg said...

Yea, Moscow Metro is awesome. to be honest, I haven’t ridden any other sub or light rail, but objectively it serves its purpose top notch. In Moscow, being 10 million (plus suburbs) you can get virtually anywhere on the Metro, especially in downtown. You only would have to use bus/tram/trolley on the outskirts, but new stations are added as times goes on.

If you come from out of town by the railroad, in most cases you get to Metro directly from rail station. And unless you have a lot of baggage, you can seamlessly integrate yourself in the mass transit system.

The mentioned 30 seconds around downtown during rush hour is true. Trains almost literally go back to back.

Moscow being radially-planned city, posesses easily-comprehensive system with many radial lines and one circular line, which roughly goes underneath the Boulevard Ring rounding center of the city. It’s easy to quickly and seamlessly change lines, and if you know your way around, you can get from place to place in swift, sweeping fashion.

Being largely subsidised system it is fairly cheap, especially if you use monthly passes. Plus, pensioners, students, soldiers etc. get half-price off those monthly passes.

Anonymous said...

Haven't You ever heard of the Metropolitan Line between Baker's Street and Harrow on the Hill?

What about the Piccadilly Line between Hammersmith and Acton Town?
If these aren't express lines, what are?

This evaluation is also biased towards New York subway. It does not mention that the trains on the London Underground have all been upgraded, wating to be upgraded or being replaced and in appearence, they are much nicer than the NY subway trains!

Amir said...

The London Underground does have express routes and it has for ages. It comes in the form of heavy rail. London, during the industrial revolution, built hundreds of miles of heavy rail within the city. These have, over the years been used for regional passenger use. There are a lot fewer stations and faster trains, you can get from one side of the city to the other, in no time.

Whilst I do accept, 24 hour service is great, the system in New York is not quite 24/7 because they cut down the number of services during the unsociable hours. So if it was 24/7 service at 100%, yes, that would be a plus. 24/7 service where service at unsociable hours is at maybe 10% of peak service, is nothing special to brag about. Most people don't use the underground at night since we have a comprehensive and relatively efficient Night Bus service.

From what I understand and have heard, the NYC system is quite underfunded, whereas the London Underground is undergoing massive amounts of public investment in new rolling stock, much better signalling, more capacity, renovated stations etc. Also in the process of planning and constructing Crossrail, which although not part of the Tube, is very much a metro style heavy rail operation. In all likelihood, it will also fall under the umbrella of Transport for London and accept the use of the Oyster card.

So my evaluation on the topics you've set.

24 hour usage: It's a tie, but if I had to choose one, it would be the London Underground, because, although it does not have 24 hour operation, the alternative to use out of hours is a very efficient, very comprehensive Nightbus system.

Express Lines: London Underground again, as the large number of heavil rail routes throughout the city act as the systems express line system, thus negating the advantage to the NYC system. Also the introduction of Crossrail within the next decade should improve that greatly also.

Fares: Yes, New York has a better fare system, flat rate wherever you want to go for $2. You can't beat that, but it has left the system rather shortchanged. I suspect that if you were to include the number of public funds spent by the city government, in addition to the fares collected, the figure, compared with London, may be roughly the same.

Carl Nolan said...

I think the subway in NY is absolutely terrible. Filthy, Ugly, Falling apart, dangerous and unmodern. The only advantages are the way it runs 24hours and the local and express idea. Besides that I think it's in dire need a a revamp

Anonymous said...

Lies, lies, and more lies. This blogger must be part of the same disinformation machine that gave us the Iraq war and a 700 billion bailout. NYC subway system is a piece of filthy junk. My mother uses the subway to get to work every day. When she visited London this past summer she lost her mind. She said you could eat off the subway floor and the bathrooms where nearly immaculate. Americans need to wake up from the bullshit "we are the greatest" mentality. We are not. Period…Paragraph. Pride cometh before the fall.

The Phantom said...

The London subways are falling apart after 25 years and more of disinvestment.

Many London residents have given up hope on them ever getting better.

I ride the London system maybe five times a year, and NY every day.

Anonymous said...

the London Underground beats all

It is the longest in trems of route miles and could be far longer if the conditions south of the Thames were good for tunneling. It is being heavily invested in and new air conditioned trains are being introduced. Also, the total rail transport network across London covers practically everywhere, right out into the suburbs, whereas the subway coverage is more constrained and heavy rail networks are not really heard of.

Anonymous said...

The London Underground beats all. Anericans just need to realise that their system is just awful. The system is behind the London Underground in many respects:
The London Underground had unpainted aluminium trains and then they painted them because ti was obvious that it would be more practial in the long run. LU also has 2 ATO lines at the moment and is planned to upgrade the northen line in 2011.
Also, LU stretches right into the suburbs and communter belts of London whereas New York is a concentrated mess of lines. They don't even cross into the neighbouring city;New Jersey, which in my view is stupoid seeing as all that divides the two is a river the size of mid way down the Thames estuary. If that were London, the transport links would be endless!

Anonymous said...

Actually the tube is currently planning to run a 24 hour service on weekend for 5 of the line by 2015 and that will expand also after that.