Mind the Gap

London’s underground or the “tube” has got to be one of the great experiences of living here.  While sometimes I opt for a taxi if my destination is beyond comfortable walking distance (usually when I want daylight and to see the city), I find myself becoming a tube fan.  There is something special about how such a complex system works — and works it does.

I love the messages that frequently tell us that “all stations in the London underground are in good service”.  Good Service.  Hurrah!  And they do deliver good service.  I have an Oyster Card (which basically lets you top it up with $$ and you just flash it as you go through the turnstiles — dead simple and effective) and when I do a top-up I like to go to the tickets and assistant’s window so I can interact with the staff.  They are SO helpful and friendly.

The last time I did this, the fellow took my card, scanned it and said:  “you have been naughty”.  And I thought — what — me naughty??  What did I do?  Well it turned out that when I was coming back from Uxbridge (a long haul — precisely 52 minutes using Bakerloo and Metropolitan Line) I hadn’t properly registered my arrival back at the Embankment Tube Station.  And he was right — I recall seeing everyone using an open gate and seeing tape across the other ones so I flashed my card and went through.  But apparently that was wrong — and naughty!  But he chastised me so pleasantly.

And, of course, the people watching is superb.  Every type of folk you can imagine ride the tube.  And they, also, have been very polite.  Almost too polite when people are constantly getting up to allow me to sit down — let’s hear it for white hair!

We are so well positioned — we can go to the Embankment station if we want a leafy green Northumberland Avenue walk or we can go to Charing Cross station if we want to brave the crosswalks that get us there.

I must say it is a darn good thing that they have LOOK RIGHT and LOOK LEFT at every crosswalk — even though they don’t seem to have money for stencils and someone has had to do it by hand.  How great is that.  I do tend to move with the crowd in the hopes that will protect me from getting run over.

But I think my favourite message is:

The locals must like too because there are even door mats…

I even managed to use “Mind the Gap” as a title of my lecture to the UCL folks on Bridging the Research-Policy Gap. How wonderful when transportation gives you such pleasure.

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