I don’t normally schedule big trips close to each other. I prefer to go on a trip, stay home for a few months, and then go again. Consider it a sort-of palate cleanser, of sorts.
My recent UK and New York trips were really close together – the UK in April and New York in June. This was great, because they were great times to visit each place, but it was because of the proximity of these two trips that I noticed something – London’s Tube is WAY better than New York’s Subway.
I shouldn’t complain about anything transportation-related (considering that in Halifax you consider yourself lucky if you don’t have to wait 59 minutes for the next bus), but it was such a pain in the ass this trip.
I mean, there were clues in my memories – such as the trip my sister and I took from Long Island to Coney Island (where we had to go West, then South, then East to reach our destination) and the trip I took from the MET to the Cloisters (where I walked through Central Park instead of back-tracking Southward). There had been clues, but until this trip there was never that “oh my god I hate this system” feeling.
[Again, I really shouldn’t complain, because a major headache in a subway station in NYC is better than a minor headache at a bus stand in Halifax – but I’m going to anyway!]
So yes, London’s Tube is WAY better (IMO).
This is Central London. Notice how all the lines intersect and meet. Notice how clean and simple it looks. The lines don’t start going off on their own until we get to Zone 3 and higher. With the London Tube you can pretty much get anywhere in central London using 3 lines or less. It’s so easy and painless to transfer (i.e. take the Victoria Line until Oxford Circus, then the Bakerloo Line to Baker Street).
Also, the Tube is clearly marked, easy to find, and easy to transfer within. Each line will always stop at the indicated stations unless there is construction or some special addendum to the station.
Now let’s look at New York…
It looks a lot more jumble-y. Notice how no lines go from Long Island (upper centre) to Brooklyn (mid-to-lower centre). Maybe it’s possible that people from Long Island hate Brooklyn, and that’s why no line exists. I just know that it was damn inconvenient that one time I needed it. (I much prefer subways to buses – I have my reasons).
The problem is that a lot of the lines run parallel to each other, and fewer run horizontal. So getting up and down the island of Manhattan is easy, but going from East to West is not so much.
If you’ll look at Central Park you’ll notice that not one subway intersects the park. While this is great for the Park itself, it’s bloody annoying if you’re at the MET (East) and you want to go to the Cloisters (North-West), because you’ll either have to go down, transfer, go West, transfer again, then go up OR walk through the park (I chose the latter because it was a nice day).
The connections aren’t the easiest to understand, what with the A, C & E lines all being blue, but the A & C going North while the E veers to the East. If you’re waiting on the blue line, you may see 3 trains pass (A,C,A) before the E arrives.
Also, it doesn’t show on this map, but not all trains stop at all stations on each line. For 59th Street you’ll have to catch the 1, because the 2 and the 3 don’t stop there; but on 50th Street you can only catch the 2 & 3, not the 1. If you want to go anywhere you’ll have to figure out what particular train you need that will get you from point A to point B, what trains stop at the subway station you’re going to, and how to transfer to that particular line.
In London you get on the Piccadilly line if you want to go from Piccadilly Circus to Covent Garden. That’s it. To quote Scotty on Star Trek TNG: “No bloody A – B – C – or D!”
Also, if you go in the wrong direction by mistake (because you’re hurrying because you’re going to be late for something), in London you get off the train, walk across the hall, and get on the other train (in most cases). In New York you have to leave the subway area, then re-enter on the other side. Making a simple mistake can cost you another fare. I guess that this is because the MTA want to cut down on people riding the lines all night long, but it’s still bloody inconvenient.
When compared to the Berlin Subway the Tube isn’t completely perfect (the whole tap in, tap out thing), but I guess nothing is perfect. They all have their idiosyncrasies and they’re all special in their own little way.
Just be aware that with the NYC subway, getting from point A to point B ain’t that straightforward, and may require some study and a bit of creativity.