London Underground Vs New York City Subway

By Londonist Last edited 13 months ago
London Underground Vs New York City Subway

Continuing our series of comparisons between the London Underground and the subterranean mass transit systems of other cities worldwide (see previous bouts with Moscow and Tokyo), we go up a gear and enter into a subway stand-off with our old adversary from across the pond, New York City.

Back in 2014, a writer for The Guardian by the name of Bim Adewunmi was utterly ripped to shreds on the internet after she called the New York City Subway system "patently ridiculous" and "the work of a sadist, cooked up in a fever dream and delivered with a flourish and an unhinged grin.”

She took issue with the subway maps, which she called "a mess of fonts and colours" and with the whole idea of making multiple lines the same colour:

The city's subway map is dense and needlessly complex,” she said. “Where in London the Central line (red) is distinct from the Piccadilly (dark blue), which is markedly different from the Hammersmith and City line (pink), New York's map has designated the same forest green to the 4, the 5 and the 6 lines. The B, D, F and M all rejoice in exactly the same shade of violent orange. And I'm almost entirely certain that the blue of the A, C, and E lines is the last thing you see before death's sweet embrace. Why would you do this? The whole thing resembles a child's approximation of a city transit system: it makes no sense.

The response to this on Twitter was intelligent and well thought through, naturally, with comments including "NYC is not for simpletons with the brain of a cane toad and beauty of a blobfish" and "the Subway is fairly simple actually, just stop being dumb".

The thing is... to a large extent, Adewunmi is right and we can fully understand where she's coming from. To any visitor, the New York City Subway system is a challenge. We have friends who think the Paris Metro system is easier to understand and they don't speak a single word of French. We don't know if we'd go as far as to call it the work of "a fevered sadist," but it is not as clearly laid out as it could be, especially at stations. Sure, if you've lived in New York for years, you've probably worked it out, but compared to the London Underground, navigation can be tricky. And that's something many New Yorkers freely admit.

We've experienced both city's systems and can say that if you took the best elements of the London Underground and put them together with the best elements of the New York City Subway, you’d probably have one of the best underground mass transit systems in the world.

The first big difference is how the journey is undertaken. In London, you pay for the distance travelled between touching in and touching out, generally measured in zones. In New York, it’s a flat fare regardless of where you’re going. However, one trip equals one fare. You can change lines, but should you need to suddenly turn around for any reason, you have to wait until you get to a bigger station with a centralised area. It also means that the equivalent trip from say, Holloway Road to Heathrow costs the same as Holborn to Holland Park. Naturally, there are pros and cons on both sides of these different approaches, depending on your daily commute.

Probably the biggest problem with the New York City Subway is trying to comprehend the mess of different trains that all run on the same coloured lines. It is very easy to accidentally get onto an express train and fly 15 stops past where you need to get off. However, once you have mastered it, and you do need to miss out a whole bunch of stations in-between your start and stop point, this can prove quite useful.

The stations themselves can be as confusing as the train network. There are multiple entrances and exits, rather than just a big one and each specific entrance/exit relates to whether the platform that it leads to is going uptown (north) or downtown (south). So, you’ll probably have to cross the road a few times to get the right one. Some of the bigger stations, like Penn Street, Fulton Street and Grand Central, have centralised areas where you can change platform without having to exit, but there aren’t many like this.

One design student experimented with the mind-boggingly useful idea of putting signs at eye-level on the stairs, but this has yet to be adopted by the MTA.

The stations in New York aren’t as bright or as clean as their UK equivalents, instead they look much more gothic, gritty and possibly even gloomy, but that’s a matter of personal taste (and by the way, we think the platform at Mile End looks just like a typical New York City Subway station). There isn’t much in the way of maps on the walls and the actual station name is often on a sign on the side of the cast iron pillars making it quite hard to spot from sitting inside the train carriage. The platforms and stations themselves aren’t air-conditioned; instead they have lots of vents, since the street is sometimes only 10 metres above you. This means they can get very hot during the summer and pretty cold during the winter.

Click for larger version.

However, the carriages are air-conditioned and it is very effective. In London you’d never find yourself wishing a train would come along for the added reason that you can cool off inside rather than waiting in the heat on the platform. They are also so much bigger, which means tall people don’t have to hunch, ever. In fact, generally speaking, the carriages are much better than those in London. No, they’re not as modern, but the plastic seats don’t feel as disgusting to sit on as London’s festering, germ-magnet material seats and can be quickly wiped down should you feel so inclined. There’s also room under the seats to slide suitcases and bags, which is very useful.

Personally, we also prefer the almost art-deco aluminium design of New York’s trains. Both London and New York boast Wi-Fi on their underground networks, but in reality both are still a little patchy. You can get connections at the stations, but in-between it’s non-existent. As for passenger weirdness, well, we’d call that a draw. You can watch this lady chopping onions on the Subway, or maybe catch a suit sniff a line of coke on the tube.

Actually getting your Subway card to open the barrier is a whole new nightmare. At some point, we’d like to get a radar gun and determine exactly what speed it is that the cards have to be swiped through, but we already know that a variation, faster or slower, of just an infinitesimal amount will result in requiring another attempt and a chorus of tuts from the New Yorkers behind you. That said, how many times have you been at full momentum at Bank when someone in front of you hasn’t kept their Oyster card topped up?

The fact remains that the contactless smartcard technology of the durable plastic Oyster is so, so much better than the ridiculously flimsy MTA card of the Subway. It’s worth remembering though, because it’s structured on a flat fare system, you don’t have to tap out in New York. Put the two together and you’d have a winner.

For a tourist, the New York City Subway can be a nightmare, but that itself is a very New York state of mind and they’re proud of it. Not that long ago a street vendor near the World Trade Center was busted for charging tourists $30 for a hot dog. The reaction of many New Yorkers in the comments sections and so on, was 'it’s your own damn fault if you get ripped off, get wise or get out'

Click here for larger version.

No one here will hold a door open for you, ever. It’s not that they’re deliberately rude, they just have absolutely no concept of anyone else. They’re not malicious or vindictive, they just don’t give a shit about you. No one in New York will stand up and offer an elderly or pregnant person their seat. When we once tried to do this all that happened was the elderly person looked up quizzically and said she was fine standing.

In New York City, you can get killed from falling building materials, hit with exploding man hole covers or pushed in front of a train. It’s a jungle over there — and New Yorkers wouldn’t have it any other way.

Final score

In short: the London Underground is easier to navigate, the New York City Subway has bigger, actual air-conditioned cars. The stations are cleaner in London, New York is cheaper. The staff are so much nicer in London, you don’t have to travel to the centre of the Earth to get to a train in New York. The space issue counts for a lot, it’s not just one tick in a box for New York. Yes, London has an older network, it covers a bigger area, but New York has more stations, more lines (technically speaking) and carries more people each year. London is way more expensive, but New York does run 24 hours a day, while we've only got 24 hour service two days a week, on a handful of lines. Many will disagree, but we're calling it... a draw.

By Scott Snowden @LorumIpsum

See our previous articles in this series, with the tube taking on counterparts in Moscow and Tokyo.

Feel free to share your opinion in the comments section below.

Last Updated 11 October 2016

Rich Thomas

Fun article. But really Londonist, copy-edit your illustrations before publishing them - the typos in these are properly wince-inducing >,<

rsdworker

i dont think New york has no WIFI - well its recently started WIFI in stations - i seen videos of passegners using wifi on trains also the ticket buying is same as here in london

Me

The articles always look interesting, but when you click on them there's so much bloody advertising that that the site is becoming unusable. A Converse splash screen once - fair enough - but on EVERY single link click. Your bounce rate must be through the roof. BTW... Dunlop are cheaper, more comfortable, and they don't spilt along the side after 2 weeks.

Carlos

I'd love to see a Berlin vs London / Paris vs London comparison

lincolnho

I was hoping London would win, but it looks like New York does. I like the feel of London much better though.

lincolnho

Do one comparing Hong Kong's MTR to... Paris?

Prole

side note: in London the patterns of tiles vary between stations because this was a way they could be identified in the days when illiteracy was much more common.

Clunking Fist

I don't like the way that most platforms in NY are like Mile end: you could be pushed from either direction. There's something nice about a wall to your back. (Mile End seems to have more than it's fair share of pushes, from memory.)

mb

A few other differences (having lived in both cities for a few years myself):

-In New York being within a 5 minute walk of a station is considered good, whereas in London there’s an expectation of 10 minutes. This is related to land use, and the fact that London has twice the land area of New York (but a similar population). I don’t know of any other cities where you’re expected to walk huge distances to stations as London, and the city has a lot of pockets which just don’t have coverage e.g. Chelsea, Battersea. You don’t get that as much in NYC.

-However, London’s suburban trains form this whole other second rail network, which is now on Oyster and steadily being absorbed into TfL (Overground, Crossrail etc). Plus you’ve got the DLR. No true second network really exists in New York. That can explain the ridership differences somewhat.

-New York’s larger carriages make a huge, huge difference - London will have to live with the mistake of its tiny tunnels. However, I think London makes up somewhat with its train frequencies, which are quite impressive these days.

-I think New York definitely has a rougher clientele. I once saw a gang fight, and another bloke being battered another time. You also get a significant homeless population who will ride it all day/night, especially in the winter. I once saw a man collapsed in a seat, who had soiled himself with his trousers half way down, passed out. The carriage smelt like death, and the rest of the passengers were huddled towards one end, saying nothing. Everyone’s got a story like that; it’s more common because of the 24 hour thing, and being cheaper, with fare evasion more common. You will see vomit fairly often. Additionally, back in the 1970s mugging was routine, and you potentially had to fear for your life even. I don’t think it ever got that bad in London.

George Lund

We do now have air con on some tube trains in London, and yes on a hot day it's brilliant compared to being on the platform, so this bit of your article is archaic already!

CanAmSteve

Using both frequently - NYC's is definitely grottier with meaner station rats (four-legged variety). Better vibe in NYC by far - most Tube passengers just look sullen most of the time. Oyster wins for tech, but having to tap out - and having to queue to tap out - takes away the benefit (I rarely have problems with my Metrocard and as often have my Oyster flash "seek assistance" until a 2nd try). It is unintuitive the way the Metrocard is read on a bus, however - and then there are the "prepay" NYC buses (even if you have a Metrocard, you have to use it to kill a small tree before you board). That's just weird.

I'm amazed "too many exits" is a complaint. Really? That's just a newbie's problem. Once you know where you are going, the more exits the better (less crowding and queuing, closer to your destination). London has obscure exit IDs - like "Argyll Street" from Oxford Circus. I submit - if that name means anything to you, you do not need to be told where it is. (It's one block long!) Meanwhile, thousands of tourists are trying to figure out which way is west.

I actually had a discussion with some LU people about Tube station exit signage once. I paraphrase, but their opinion was that most Londoners are too stupid to know the points of the compass, so marking exits as "NE corner Oxford and Regent Streets" would be a waste, apparently. (They don't believe in redundancy unless you are an employee :-) And let's not forget London's weather - you sure won't be able to tell directions by spotting the sun most days.

I often hear the excuse "The Tube is really old" for many of its ills. So why don't new lines/sections have any "express" capability? Why isn't AC standard on new surface trains? Partly (IMO) because of the "not invented here" British stubbornness, partly due to cost and mainly because users are too meek and accepting of crap service. Every time I'm on the DLR, I think "I can jog faster than this".

Abdulbasit Rashid

I Don't Like On The Trains Are Just Plan Solid Colour On The NY Subway System London Has Got Colourful Train Interiors Like Painted Hand poles And Painted Walls And Red Doors With Blue At The Bottom And Red And Black Ends With The Underground Roundel On Them.

1429523

> No one here will hold a door open for you, ever. It’s not that they’re deliberately rude, they just have absolutely no concept of anyone else. They’re not malicious or vindictive, they just don’t give a shit about you. No one in New York will stand up and offer an elderly or pregnant person their seat. When we once tried to do this all that happened was the elderly person looked up quizzically and said she was fine standing.

This is not true. People give up their seats, and people even hold doors (tho you really shouldnt, it makes the trains run late).

You guys do have use beat with the Oyster card tho. The MTA is such a terribly run organization, and there are SO MANY stations that us getting that kind of thing any time soon are slim to none :(.

Astoria_Mom

So much of what you've written here about the MTA is factually incorrect. Too many entrances and exits? Lines the same color and you can't figure that out? Did you even actually look at the map? They're the same color because they offer overlapping service in Manhattan. Here's how to do it: Find the stop you need to travel to. Note which trains stop there. Get on one of those trains. Wishing and hoping won't make a 6 take you to Hell's Kitchen. Yes, the train must be going in the right direction, but most stations have a passthrough tunnel if you've entered on the wrong side. But you were supposed to read the sign on the entrance over the stairs outside, which will tell you whether that entrance offers access in the direction you're going. I don't know... I've been to London several times and the Tube is not only prohibitively expensive, but stops are often very far from where you need to go. How do you get to Skoob Books when you're staying in Battersea? It takes ages. I live in Astoria, Queens and can be at the Strand in forty minutes, door to door. For less than two dollars (that's a bit more than a pound). 24 hours a day. London can't beat that.

Kay

I was waiting for this one. But having seen how you gave London the title over Tokyo I thought this would be a no brainer! I lived in both cities and can tell you that overall the tube is better, but not necessarily more efficient. Something about the subway just has the lets get up and get moving whether in thick or thin attitude. The tube doesnt give you that rush, it feels too 'restricted'. Also the express trains idea is genius, imagine if we had that on the northern, camden to bank in one or two stops! Still, the subway is just dirty, just look at the size of the beasts they call rats, makes London's mice look like happy butterflies! But the main thing is the layout, interchanges on the subway are difficult if you dont happen to live on the right line, the tube has an abundances of places where you can switch easily. And if you somehow need to go back a station, NOT have to exit the station altogether and cross the road!!

Greg

Two things here from a NY native - First, you do not have to wait for a station with a centralized area if you need to turn around. Go up the stairs, sometimes to the street, feeling the sun burn your pale skin, and cross the street to go down the stairs for the opposite direction. You will get a transfer, and money will not be taken. This also works for subway to bus route conversions, multiplying the available distance a fare an take you. Second, since you seem to be having a hard time with your colo(u)rs and numbers - think of each color as a tree, and the individual numbers and letters as branches and roots. They all come together at the trunk but branch off at the ends. Since we're a little more complex over here, we need that, and one day, god willing, so shall you. Congratulations on the coming 24 hour service, it is quite grand, and thank you for Hugh Laurie and Peaky Blinders.

Conuly

It's not exactly true that multiple lines share the same color. The 4, 5, and 6 trains are, collectively, the IRT Lexington Avenue Line. The N, R, and Q trains are the BMT Broadway Line. The A, C, and E trains are the IND 8th Avenue Line. Except only the older people refer to the IRT, BMT, or IND nowadays, so you can drop that part.

One day in the future they plan to open the much vaunted Second Avenue Line. I'll believe it when I see it, but they've chosen to label that with the letter T. (Seriously, babies have grown old and died waiting for that line to open. I'm not holding my breath.)

rozzingit

A few inaccuracies in this about the NYC subway:

1) Stations where you CAN'T change from the uptown to downtown platform without leaving the station and crossing the street are actually exceptions. It's not that there's a few big hubs that allow this, it's more common than not. Stations where you CAN'T change once you're in the station are marked when you're going in.

2) I see people get up to offer seats for the elderly and the pregnant pretty much any time I see someone elderly or pregnant on a train without open seats. (Some do turn it down, it's true.)

3) NYC is less expensive. The infographic clearly puts more little gold coins on the NYC side, but they're /different currencies/. It's more like $3.50 in London (to access PART of the system) to $2.75 in NYC (to access everything). Or 2.30 pounds in London to 1.79 in NYC.

Rachel

A friend of mine is 4 months along and showing, in 2 days she was offered a seat 3 times on NYC subways (and only once was she doing the hand on pregnant belly).

-Justin Whang-

>No one here will hold a door open for you, ever. It’s not that they’re deliberately rude, they just have absolutely no concept of anyone else. They’re not malicious or vindictive, they just don’t give a shit about you

Also, holding the subway door delays hundreds of people at once.

judahmaccabee

I'm a native NYer but spent a lot of time in London, and both systems are great in their own way. One note about the graphic that no one else has mentioned: the "limited express" 6 and the "limited express" 7 (denoted by diamonds rather than circles), are not considered separate lines by anyone (exc Wikipedia for some reason) & shouldn't be counted in the "24" lines total - there are really 22.

Anon Y. Mous

Bim Adewunmi sounds like she has no idea what she's talking about. Has she ever taken a look at the spider's web called the Northern Line? How about those various tentacles all classified as the District Line? And the Piccadilly Line, which might take you to Heathrow...or perhaps dump you in Uxbridge? And don't get me started on the all-orange Overground and the forever-teal DLR!

JMack

As a guy who lived in NYC for 9 years and London for 7, this is one of my favourite rants:

How is this a draw? NYC has issues but it's still not even close. London is way more expensive! Not just for straight up fares but there are no free bus transfers. So if I'm going somewhere that requires train AND bus I have to pay twice. You also forgot to mention that they strike frequently in London (these unions want additional ££ for just doing their job there are two more strikes scheduled in September 2015) and the system doesn't run on Christmas. Which means if you have to get around on London on those days, be ready to pay up for taxis. And yeah in NYC, if you need to turn around and there is no way to do that then you just get out, cross the street and get on the train going the other way - you don't get charged for that.

London doesn't run 24 hours which is a total joke though that is supposed to change on weekends....

Also, I don't agree with your point on the friendly Tube workers. There are more of them, usually 3 or 4 just hanging out and talking, usually by the turnstiles. I saw one challenge a rider a 16 year old kid with his mom to a fight.

Also, a bit OT: NYers may be surprised to know that bus drivers in London stop in mid route to change shifts. That's right, if you're on a bus and the driver's shift is over, he pulls the bus over at the next stop and you wait for the next driver to get on. You better hope there is a new driver because if not, they will kick every one off the bus and leave.

Andrew Jones

Recently spent a few days in New York and definitely agree on a lot of these points. Really missed my Oyster Card and did almost end up in Harlem because I was on an express train, (this was announced by the driver but the intercom was so crackly and unclear I couldn't understand it even though they apparently said it 3 times).But my phone did work between stations which was nice.

Amit Ratnaparkhi

I can't believe you've forgotten to mention the lack of escalators on the NYC platforms? London has an abundance of escalators, lifts and general 'disabled' access. NYC has very, very few of these. As my black friends in Brooklyn always note, that escalators are only available at some 'white' stations. For a country so proud of being so accessible to all people, it's quite ironic that you have to be able bodied to navigate the NYC metro!

Michael

How about the U-Bahn in Munich

Adam

Having been to NYC recently, I was surprised that at most stations there's nothing telling you when the next train is coming or which one it is - something badly needed when the trains only come every 8 minutes or so. I'd have thought in New York the trains would have been at least as frequent as in London. Also despite having more stations than London, I still found myself walking ages to get to the right one - CityMapper said it was quicker to walk across Central Park from the UES to UWS and catch a train to where we wanted than to take a train from the closest stations. Though once I got the hang of the express trains, I was a convert!

Kate

I've never been to New York but I have watched videos explaining to tourists how to use the Subway and I was just hopelessly confused by them. For one thing, the Subway uses "uptown" for north and "downtown" for south, well, that's fair enough but I couldn't find what it uses for east and west and there clearly are lines on the map that do run east and west. London definitely wins on navigation though I am a bit in love with the shiny metal New York trains.

Ian Simmons

Everything in New York pales into insignificance compared to the sheer awfulness of San Francisco's BART ticket machines....

jdslater

I work on the Tube and even I was caught out with the NY lines. I got a train on one platform and left my girlfriend on the platform and I told her to get the next train and I would wait on the platform. Turns out the next train took her to the next station but the platform below me!
We went in summer and did find ourselves jumping on the subway to cool down.
I found NY to have less lift / escalators at their stations. Even a ramp onto the platform like Dagenham Heathway as they are nearly all "underground". BUt then again their buses are not great for wheelchairs either.
On LUL I think we do alot more for customers. We seem to do announcements for lost people, try to find lost property etc. I don't see the only member of staff in a token booth in NY calling each station looking for a bag!
And in regards to their 24 hour service. It's only good if it stops near your station. Something alot of people forgot a few years ago when they kept going on about the Tube going 24 hour. They assumed it was the whole NY subway and they didn't know about express trains.

Rob Smith

NYC has more double tracked sections, so you can run express trains that don't call every single station. Only the outer bits of the Metropolitan Line can do that in London

Manish Prabhune

The blog Londonist some time back made an attempt to compare the London Tube and Tokyo Metro and declared London a winner. I have used both subway systems extensively and feel that London Tube lacks one basic thing which is taken for granted in Tokyo. Availability of a free, clean, accessible on all stations toilet on Tokyo Metro is a given, but a rarity in London. Not sure how it is with NYC, but I think Tokyo is better in my experiences until now http://experiencetokyo.net/wha...

Έλληνας

This is Athens' Metro System. Relatively small, but the most modern in the world.

Έλληνας

Photos of Athens' Metro system.

Satya

London underground are traveller/tourist friendly. NYK staff can be rude.

Slots

I haven't read the rest of the comments, but by no means there is a draw between these two. The NYC subway is utterly dirty, confusing, and the staff a rude arrogant sh*theads. There is no comparison with the London underground. You get in one station and that's it - there is no reason to go up a few streets or pass across the road as you do in NYC. Better pay something extra and get better service. And the article talks about single fares that NO ONE (not even tourists) does in London as we all use Oyster Pay as you go which has a daily cap. So London is cheaper for a tourist in comparison with NYC.

Richard Bevan

The NYC line system is much more complicated than even the article says.
"New York's map has designated the same forest green to the 4, the 5 and the 6 lines.": there's also the six diamond (which you will eventually realise is called verbally 'six express'). Sometimes in manhattan a six diamond train arrives and until you learn what it is you will wonder where it goes (the subway map only shows six circle running in manhattan so what is a six diamond doing on the six circle line (locals will know that in manhattan the six circle and six diamond stop at the same stations).
And even worse for the E train. When going to JFK some E trains turn off to the orange F line to Jamaica 179st instead. The map makes no mention of this at all (no blue dotted line or "E" on those stations it sometimes goes to). The front of the train won't tell you either (it will show a blue "E"). Only a muffled announcement from the driver will reveal the true destination of the train (and if you can't hear that then your trip to JFK airport will take a lot longer than you expected).
As for countdown trains that display the time to the next train and its destination. London had those starting in the mid eighties. Most NYC subway lines STILL don't have this and you make do with a voice announcing "there is a manhattan bound local train one station away" (but it won't tell you the destination)

Jam Traveller

VERY IMPORTANT: the NYC subway system offers *free* transfers to all NYC buses, and the buses free transfers to the subway trains. Those transfers obviously save one money.
The NYC system also grants poorer people a break, who live farther out of the centre: they pay the same fare as those living within Manhattan and its wealthier neighbourhoods. But in London, if you live in Zone 6 and work in Zone 1, it's really *ex*pensive!
Also, you're incorrect in saying that 'there aren’t many' NYC subway stations in which one can transfer without having to exit to the street. There are *many* stations indeed where one can transfer without having to exit.
I do agree that NYC's subway system is really dirty; it serves many, many more people than London's Tube, of course, but also because of its 24-hour service and constant underfunding, the stations' cleanliness suffers, which is unfortunate.
But finally the fact that we're even having this 'discussion' about which system is 'better' is in itself interesting. Why the need for competition? The 2 cities are distinctly different, each globally important in its own discrete ways. They each offer radically different things. Why not just accept *those* facts, and stop the silly Internet slug-fest competing?

Jam Traveller

'No one in New York will stand up and offer an elderly or pregnant person their seat.': As a PS, this just isn't true -and you must know you're generalising now! I've seen people offer seats to the elderly and to pregnant women in NYC, in the most friendly and polite manner imaginable. And I've seen Londoners steadfastly ignore pregnant women and the elderly, on buses and on Tubes (and trains). There has been kind and awful behaviour in both cities. So please *stop* the generalisations and stereotypes, because they do render your discussion more intellectually shallow and undermine its credibility. As a Jamaican, I do often wonder why the British seem to feel the need to constantly demonise Americans, notwithstanding the fact that *some* Americans - like some British - can be very unpleasant...as can some Jamaicans, and everyone else!

Semido

Fun fact - the NY subway works. For that reason alone, I'll take it any day over the tube.

James Hynes

The subway is quite easy to understand once your realize it was built by people of different mindsets.
let's take the confusion between Express and Local trains. the general layout of the subway has the express tracks between the two local tracks. during the daytime hours during the week, unless there is construction or something has gone wrong. Express trains will always be express trains and locals will be locals. For the #4 departing Grand Central heading downtown, the next stop is almost always going to be Union Square. the only exception is at night when there is no express service on that line and the 4 runs local.
the confusion between lines is also an unfair comparison. You can get on a Metropolitan line train at Baker Street and have it take you to Uxbridge, Amersham, Chesham, or Watford (and don't get me started on the days when the Hammersmith and City line was just another branch), but all of it is still the Metropolitan. The difference is that subway, each of the services to those destinations would get a unique label. each label runs a set pattern. the color coding is set by which of the core trunk lines the route uses. Blue is always going to be 8th avenue. Yellow is always going to be Broadway. We simply identify with the individual services because that's how they are branded. If the Underground uses that method, you'd have just about as many "lines". Dividing up the Metropolitan and District lines, that would be 9 "subway lines" right there.
Many of the issues, such as fare systems and connectivity and train tracking can be traced back to a simple thing, money, and the fact that for about 20 years, the subway and the City of New York didn't have any. We are still, in 2016, playing catch up on "state of good repair" works they should have been done before I was born and I'm 28. Then, add things like Sandy and 9/11 which don't help much at all. Never mind the other hoops we've got to jump through. Like the state government that loves to use transit funding to fill holes in the budget. that being said we have made some progress;
The two main trunk IRT lines (the Broadway/7th avenue line, which carries the 1,2 and 3 & the Lexington Avenue line which carries the 4, 5 and 6) plus the 42nd street shuttle, all have active automatic train supervision, which tracks all trains on those lines and is connected to arrival countdown clocks that know not only that a train is arriving, but which train it is.
The BMT Canarsie line (AKA the L train, AKA the tin can full of hipsters) goes at step further, it has full automatic train operation.
These 8 subway lines, plus the "it's-a-really-long-story" qusai independent "Staten Island Railway" line (which also has the displays, but is not really part of the subway) feed this information to an official app, called "Subwaytime". In the near future, (ideally within the next calendar year) the number 7 line will join the L as an automatic subway line.
on the subject of fare medium, we are working on replacing MetroCard. You give us a hard time for using it, but the tube still had mostly paper tickets when MetroCard was launched in 1994. the hold up tends to be on how we want to implement it. and on the stupid proposal and bidding scheme we need to do everything under.
the lack of escalators is a simple explanation, most of the system is so shallow that they'd be a waste of manpower and engery. "ADA access" (Americans with Disablities act, the byword for disabled access in the US) only needs to be put in for new construction and after major renovations. And it will almost always be elevator access.

Susan

As an American whose lived in the tri-state area (NYC suburbs) and also in London - there is no comparison. London wins hands down. Sure - no air con, but you only need it 4-5 days a year. And give me clean, well lit, clearly signed stations any day over what passes for a "platform" in NYC (crumbling, dirty, rat-infested, no signage waiting areas that make you wonder if it's safer to just get on a train - any train - than to try to figure out the correct one).

Jeffry Kieffer

This discussion is interesting. I am a life long New York City resident and I have just come back from London. I have been in London on three prior occasions. I believe one thing that was not mentioned in the London vs. NYC comparison was that the London cars ride smoother and quieter both inside the cars and in their noise effect on passengers waiting on the platforms. I believe NYC MTA never continued the track welding agenda they started years ago for whatever reason and many of the trains brake noise is absurdly high. Quite frankly it's a disgrace. The only advantages of the NYC system that were already mentioned was that it has extensive express lines which allow movement of large numbers of passengers in and out of key areas which can also allow rerouting of trains around "stuck" locals and for the most part stations are more easily accessible without going into the bowels of the earth. However, an additional advantage of the NYC system is that all cars are level with the platforms making handicap accessibility easier. I notice that the tube trains are not level with the platforms. That's why you better mind the gap. And of course the NYC cars are fully air conditioned. Another drawback of the NYC system as was pointed out a few years ago was the woeful lack of maintenance on elevators because of the lack of standardization. I do not know if this has been remedied. And overall the NYC system is cheaper as mentioned. And as to the NYC subway map you must remember that the color coding "system" is partially a remnant of the three subway companies that once ran the system before the MTA consolidation. The numbered trains have several colors because they were originally different companies: the east side, west side and flushing IRT lines (Interborough Rapid Transit), the Eighth Ave. and Sixth Ave. subways (Independent Subway) Line) and the Broadway Line (BMT or Brooklyn Manhattan Transit.) The express trains and locals are grouped under one color. But from the point of view of station design, equipment, graphics and helpfulness of personnel I give the London system thumbs way up!

Tom

I did not see anything in the article regarding train frequency. I recently had to wait 20 minute+ for a train in NY. In London its usually no more than 4Mins.

Ken Fuller

All fair comments. One thing I would add is they totally fail to acknowledge that people travelling to get the Airtrain to JFK might have suitcases. Try catching the A or E from midtown out to Queens at almost any time with two suitcases and see what I mean.

Luspea

I still prefer London tube. For a tourist navigating through NY subway is a nightmare.
Plus in London in most stations you have those wider gates for ppl on wheelchairs or with luggage and some assistance if you need it and in NY it's basically your problem

BFD

What are you talking about, there are maps on every subway car. Oh wait, you short bus special people need a special one that only tells you where YOUR train is going? Really? Are Londoners that stupid? What's the matter, you can't find the giant subway maps in the stations before you get on, then on the platforms, then posted in every car on every train. It's not rocket science that our stations are named for the location you enter and exit. So if you're going to the lower east side and get off at Broadway and Lafayette, guess where you are. OH My God, how brilliant! Going to Queens, look for the "Uptown and Queens" side of the track. Not the "Uptown and Bronx". Because you won't end up in Queens by going to da Bronx. Really, you make Londoners sound like the most spoiled pratty people. Not enough signs my ashcan. Bakerloo gets you where? A number 4 to the Bronx gets you where it says it's going. The Bronx. And guess what, It says express on the flickin' train. And you can ride from Van Cortlandt Park to Far Rockaway and then from Far Rockaway to the Museum Mile and then back out to Forest Hills Stadium on the same freakin' $2.75 fare. Heck you can ride the subway for weeks and never see above ground. London Underground sounds like it was designed for people who are too busy apologizing to actually get on the damn train.

Phill Greenland

I think you mean "Penn Station," not "Penn Street." - a New Yorker

Shelby1000

London has invested heavily in public transport, all London Undergroundlines and stations have been refurbished over the last decade and new signaling installed, with S7 and S8 new rolling stock and the planned new Deep Level Driverless Tube train coming in to service in 2023. All S7 and S8 Trains are virtually the same dimensions as a New York Subway car and are sub-surface, indeed a high poportion of the tube is sub-surface or indeed goes overground, it is only the four deep level lines that have smaller trains, and they will be getting new state of the art driverless trains in 2023 with air conditioning and increased space.

However London Transport it much more than just the London Underground, with the £15 Billion Crossrail Elizabeth Line coming in to service in December 2018, the £6.5 Billion Thameslink being finished in 2018, and numerous other services have also has investment, such as London Overground (Orange Lines), London Docklands Railway (DLR) and the South London Tramlink, with expansion of the Underground currently taking place in relation to the £1.2 Billion Northern Line Extension.

Future Projects include the £3 Billion Bakerloo Line extension, Crossrail 2 which will cost £30 Billion and extensions to the Overground,DLR and Tramlink.

Whilst London currently has 2,500 Hybrid and Electric buses (the largest fleet in Europe), with all 9,200 London Buses to be hybrid and electric by 2037, with 95% of London's population within 5 minutes of a Bus Stop with 19,000 bus stops and over 800 Bus Routes in London carrying 2.6 Billion passengers a year. Whilst River Bus Services have also been expanded.

As for 24 Hour Services, Nigh Buses run 24/7, whilst the 24 Hour Night Tube runs at weekends, along with some London Overground services and these will be joined in future by a 24 Hour DLR Service and 24 Hour Crossrail Service.

Shelby1000

There are quite a few differences between London's Transport Policy and New York Cities.

Firstly London has a much more mixed travel system than New York City, there are 330 Heavy Rail Stations in London including 18 major rail stations serving numerous regional and national heavy rail as well as London Overground and Thameslink (due for completion in 2018) which offer a Metro type Service on Heavy Rail lines and are soon to be joined by Crossrail with Crossrail 2 in the offing. These are proper suburban trains far larger and more spacious than any subway car. Some of these services are also linking up with London's 24 hour night tube at weekends. Whilst the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and South London Tramlink also provide intergrated journeys with the tube, bus and rail networks.

Secondly London has a very good bus network which links up with the underground and 90% of Londoners live within 400 metres of a bus stop, whilst Night Bus Services operate 24/7, with all London's 9,200 buses to become increasingly electric and hybrid in order to meet clean air targets for the city. So far London now has 2,500 hybrid and electric buses, the largest fleet in Europe. Buses also have priority on the roads and use a vast bus lane network to avoid the traffic. Whilst Rver Buses are also increasingly popular.

Thirdly London has invested heavily in it's underground, the sub surface lines have already been refurbished with new track, stations, signalling and rolling stock and the sub-surface S-Class Stock is as big as any NYC Subway Car and is walk through with air conditioning and wifi, with all services to be 4G by 2019. It is only the deep lines that have smaller trains and no air conditioning however this is being addressed with the modernisation having moved to the deeper lines and with the superb fully air conditioned spacious new Tube for London coming in to service on the deep lines in 2023 and new signalling improving the puncuality of trains and the capacity of the system. The Underground is also being expanded with the new Northern Line extension, the new Canden Tube Station which may see the Northern Line devided in two, whilst the next stage will be the Bakerloo Line extension.

London is ahead of New York in it's investment and planning having already raised money through congestion charges, secured much more funding and having detailed transport plans between now and 2050 in order to put the infrastructure in place to keep an ever expanding population moving.

As for the infogram it's not really reflective of London Transport or even the tube as a whole, and in terms of pricing there is far capping in London as well as concessionary fares, and you pay much less just using an oyster card or tourist oyster card. The prices being made out to be much greater than they are often in reality.

Kyle Hill

If the (NYC) map is overly complex and hard to read it was done by a person who votes for someone based on look/skin color then what they believe or even say. These kinds of people don't have much (forward) thinking other then what's directly in front of them. London's map sounds more (conservative) and logical approach to things which is needed in a transport system to keep it going smoothly. Both have enough breakdowns as it is from real reasons such as overheated engines,blown transformers.etc to "too much leaves on tracks" which does make it harder to gain traction on the wheels causing wheel slippages. Wheel slippages are more serious on a train then a vehicle.