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Lies on the London Underground [video] (tomscott.com)
156 points by joosters on May 15, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 123 comments

Another good reason for odd connections is that it's easier to guide people on common routes. For example, around Bank and Monument, it's often quicker to walk above ground - but only if you already know the route. If you're a tourist, you're herded underground with very clear signs.

It's like progressive disclosure in software. By requiring some level of expertise even to see the options, you help to ensure that novices can't accidentally break things (in theory, at least). Imagine what would happen if TfL did this explicitly with signs saying:

<-- Quick route that way :: Easy route that way -->

They're making the decision for you, assuming that if you're not sure, then you need the easy route.

Other examples of this in the physical world:

* The 'Black diamond' lane in airports (especially when they weren't advertised)

* Special unadvertised rates in hotels

* Theme parks with tickets for bypassing queues, though when these are advertised, they're more like price discrimination than progressive disclosure.

The signs aren't always very clear. King's Cross being the worst culprit. Arriving on the Northern Line then changing to the Circle line, will take a few minutes or almost 10 depending on which end of the train you get off. This happened to me a few weeks ago when I blindly followed the signs right in front of me. The directions are different depending on which end of the train you get off.


In our new beta site (yet to launch) Walking and Cycling are right up front alongside public transport so we're pushing more options to the user.

You often get these sorts of "lies" on the road network. Signs will attempt to send you on a lengthy jaunt around the outside of a town even if the road through town is major and quicker.

Google Maps and sat nav devices tend to send you the more direct route, however, so I wonder if this technique may prove useless in future and force significant redesigns or even laws to prevent navigational devices making these suggestions.

A memorable one for me is the A6/A7 through Lyon (France). The signs are adamant you should take a 10 mile detour to head south of Lyon despite the A6 (solely marked as "Lyon Centre") going in a straight line under the city without interruption. August is probably the only time it makes sense and even then the entire A6 is blocked as it is..

Users generally want the fastest route, which is congestion-dependent. If they directed everyone down the shortcut it would become congested, and wouldn't be the fastest route any more, and you'd be asking why they directed everyone down it :-)

A good moment to plug the book 'Traffic' - http://tomvanderbilt.com/traffic/the-book/

A good (geeky) read about all kinds of traffic issues including routing.

This isn't too far away from Braess's paradox[1], which is based upon drivers making assumptions about the quickest path and attempting to optimize their journey at the cost of everyone's journey time.

It works for network traffic too as OSPF will pick the shortest path, but we can alter routing tables to correct for that.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Braess%27s_paradox

Electric current comes to mind.

If government wants to enact regulation to direct traffic flow, it's far more effective to use simple tolls for this purpose. London is, in fact, a pioneer in that kind of planning (to their credit, IMHO, though I'm sure there are a lot of drivers who disagree).

HN has recently had some discussion about number plate recognition cameras.

I wonder if people not in England are aware that London is full of these things, all linked to the DVLA (car licensing people) who mail you bills if you don't pay the toll.


Sixty quid aware as of yesterday evening.

120 quid if I did not pony up right away. 180 if they have to write again to remind me.

Trust me, we are very very aware of the number plate recognition cameras.

It would be TFL (Transport for London) not DVLA who deal with the congestion charge, surely?

Yes, (or rather a offshoot company) but they go straight to the DVLA and get the drivers details. All automated.

The DVLA does a fairly good job of acting like a ETL tool - I paid for my road tax recently. Legally I need to have an MOT (road worthiness) certificate, car insurance, valid drivers license - each one passes data back to the DVLA and when I go to pay up, I no longer have to traipse to the post office with documents in hand, just hit their website and they already know my documents are in order.

Only a small liberal part of me worries, the rest takes the convenice

You don't have to identify with anything to recoil at the abstract thought of Capita. Eurgh.

Yes, Capita is the scary part.

I'm pretty soft about data and my government, but even I think Capita stink.

Also in US, if you have a latest GPS and have settings setup to avoid Traffic and "the Shortest Time" option, you usually get longer routes avoiding traffic congestion.

The best thing about London underground, now that I no longer live in London, is that it's not me with the long, grey, miserable face any longer.

Next time you're on the tube, especially at commuter time, take a look up and down the carriage at all the miserable sods slumped there, and try to smile.

I find it hard to suppress outright laughter these days.

Possibly the most annoying thing in the entire world is standing on a tube to work and have some bastard breeze into the carriage, obviously on holiday, and loudly declaim how miserable everyone looks and how glad they are that they don't have to do this every day.

You know what's worse than commuting by tube? Commuting by public transport anywhere in America. I mean sure you can always get a seat on the Caltrain, but if you miss it you have to wait one whole hour for the next one. Oh and if someone voluntarily or involuntarily commits suicide at one of the many at-grade crossings (for bullet trains) you will be 3 hours late because there is no alternate route.

Granted, I cycle to work because commuting by tube is not the most pleasant experience, but I love being able to get anywhere in the city at the drop of a hat without the burden of car ownership.

The most annoying of many annoying things, all of which contribute to the general air of misery.

As I said, glad it ain't me any more.

When I go through London I love being able to wait for a train to come along with an empty carriage. I laughed out loud last month when the first train that pulled into the station was packed and miserable people squashed themselves in even more so much so the door couldn't close properly because had they waited literally 45 seconds they would have been able to get onto the next train that was so empty it had half the seats available. Passing through London without time constraints is fantastic.

The same sort of thing happens in NYC. If I see a crowd that's larger than normal trying to pack itself into a full train, odds seem to be about 90% that the next train will be significantly lighter, AND that it'll show up pretty soon.

I think the reason is that the first train to show up is delayed, so more time passes before it shows up, allowing a crowd to build up. They, then, all try to cram on the train that FINALLY got there because GOD who KNOWS how long it'll take for the NEXT ONE to get here. Meanwhile, 30 seconds later, I'm in a train car with a seat.

(NB: This seems to apply to the B/D/A/C lines in Midtown. As far as I know, the 4/5/6 is always a miserable pack of people doing their best impression of neutronium.)

Correct. "Why do two buses always come at once?" is explained by "bus bunching": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bus_bunching

When I was a kid, my dad explained it to me by drivers playing dominoes in the bus depot.

These are called city commuter faces. Those mean "I'm happy in my own bubble of consciousness, and I don't want to talk to anybody right now. Especially not with that crazy person who seems to want to laugh."

I'm not sure it's even that. I frequently catch myself with an expression that looks like I might be dejected, or sad, and the only reason is because it's an effort-neutral facial position: I'm neither smiling nor frowning. Many city commuters may simply be thinking about other things than expressing (or feeling) emotions during their journey.

Something very much like that yes :)

Though I'll now be the one suppressing a cackle. I probably look the mad one. There's one on every carriage...

Is the London underground worse than other subway systems? From the video it looked fairly clean and orderly, as compared to, say, NYC. But we New Yorkers love our subway... Aside from the constant rate hikes, of course. And when the L train randomly stops running for a few hours. Or anytime the A is running local, which is pretty much all the time, it seems like.

I take back what I said.

Edit: but seriously, the subway is a lot of what makes living in a city bearable, or even what makes it better than living outside a city. I would take a 40 min commute on a train over a 40 min commute in a car any day.

It's "technically" fine, but large parts are also substantially over capacity during rush hour, and full of people who often are either well into a 1h-1h30 commute in the morning, or dreading one after a long day in the evenings. Once you get out of zone 1/2 things are generally a lot more pleasant.

And you see a massive difference on many of the commuter trains as opposed to London Underground - come weekend, for example, a lot of the commuter trains have a relatively cheerful atmosphere and a lot of people breaking out a beer or wine and relaxing, for example...

Travel on the Underground outside of rush hour and the atmosphere is a lot more pleasant (though Londoners will still try exceedingly hard to avoid eye contact with you).

It's well organised, it runs very frequent trains, it's pretty clean. Good transport system and nothing wrong with it, and it makes getting round the city a million times easier than a car, and significantly quicker than the bus.

But the people on it are all fecking miserable!

But the trains are tiny! It is sometimes not even possible to stand upright in them!

This is why I prefer to cycle for 40 minutes (each way) to the office even when it rains.

I'm always a bit of in a risk-assessment mode when it comes to the public transport vs cycling decision. Somehow I find cycling in inner city areas incredibly dangerous. It probably depends on one's own driving style, but are there any stats on biking related accidents in London? Some time ago a cyclist in front of me was crashing incredibly bad. If you see someone "flying" of his bike and smashing into a brick wall it somewhat makes the safety aspect a more tangible issue. Ultimately I now end up cycling only in the evening hours or on distances where I can drive through relatively car-free zones (e.g. parks).

Where did you have that experience? It's very unfortunate for sure.

I've found the drivers in London to be better in general than the rest of the country. There are cyclists EVERYWHERE. No car is surprised to share the road with one and they all know what to expect from them. I'm not saying everyone gets along, but I've never felt particularly unsafe, and I used to ride 27 miles total commute a day.

Contrast that with other cities I've lived in where cyclists are more of a rarity. The motorists simply don't expect them, so they don't factor them in to decisions like how much stopping distance they'll need, whether they'll bother to look left before turning, whether there could be something behind that bend (when you can see 1/3rd of the road and so expect to see something as wide as a car). They also expect to average a much higher speed, and so IME get aggressive much more quickly when they feel they're being held up.

Don't even get me started on countryside drivers, with their 70mph round blind bends on two way roads not wide enough for two cars...

I moved from Oxford to London five years ago. In comparison to Oxford (and my previous hometown of Portland, Oregon), there were hardly any cyclists and the drivers seemed outright homicidal. I didn't get onto a bike during my first few years here. But lately I've noticed that things seem to be improving tremendously. There are a lot more cyclists on the road, and driver behaviour seems distinctly less homicidal than before. I'm really encouraged by these trends.

Actually, London is improving on almost every front. My chief complaints when I moved here were the scarcity of good coffee, the total absence of burritos, and the lousy cycling conditions. Now there are "cycle highways" growing like kudzu out of the city centre, and you can't throw a rock without hitting a burrito joint or a yuppie-calibre independent coffeeshop.

Go, London!

Out of interest, where'd you recommend getting a decent burrito? I used to go to Adobo on High Holborn, but as I spend less time in central and more time in east london, it seems like a little far to go.

My absolute favourite is Picante Mexican Grill near Victoria. Unfortunately it's been knocked out of commission by a flood recently and won't be back online for a couple of weeks. Not very familiar with the East London burrito scene, although I'm about to spend a lot of time there, so I need to explore it better. I've heard good things about Daddy Donkey but can't vouch for it personally.

Freebird Burritos near Liverpool St Station aren't terrible

> I've found the drivers in London to be better in general than the rest of the country. There are cyclists EVERYWHERE. No car is surprised to share the road with one and they all know what to expect from them.

I'd definitely agree with that (I commute 8 miles each way in London).

It was made very obvious to me when I had to go into the office one weekend. The standard of driving from the weekend drivers was dreadful as they seemed to spend most of their time looking at road signs and wondering if they're in the correct lane(s) rather than looking out for other road users.

I used to cycle to work every day from around Mile End to Bank. Did this for 2 years. Most of the time the trip was ok but I did have a few scares:

- Transvision bus overtakes me partially and before it clears me completely it returns to the left almost pushing me against some rails on the road. Had to bang the bus with my fist to make it stop.

- Some car makes a U turn in Whitechapel road ( I think you can't do this ) and comes into my lane. Almost crashed into it.

- All of a suden lost control of the back wheel of my bike. When I turn around to check if I had a flat or something I find a cab pushing the bike from behind. I couldn't believe what the driver was doing and told him that he could have killed me. Is reply was: "get out of my way".

- Pedestrians who don't see you coming because their brain is only tuned to cars and buses and somehow you look invisible even when you are shouting expletives to warn people to get out of the road.

- Had to wear a mask to stop feeling sick.


Finally I realized I was actually getting more stressed out from the bike commute than from taking the tube, so I gave up. When I lived in Barcelona it was a real pleasure to ride my bike everywhere. In London it's a struggle, at least for that particular commute.

And on a bicycle it only takes one black swan to make some serious damage.

Those stories sound pretty terrifying and I'm impressed you continued with it!

- Pedestrians who don't see you coming

This one struck a chord with me as it's my biggest issue with cyclists (and I am one). The pedestrians have right of way, so you have to ride defensively. Also, I've nearly been in a collision with a cyclist who thought it was OK to run a red light on a pedestrian crossing.

When I'm on my bike I obey the road laws, I don't see why so many people have a hard time with this.

Running red lights and almost hitting someone is really really bad, but at the same time, pedestrians don't always have the right of way. In London everyone needs to cooperate because there's a ton of people and not much space.

The closest I ever came to hitting somebody was a middle aged man who full on stepped out into the center divider nowhere near a crosswalk without even looking right while I was bearing down on him with a string of motorcycles behind me. I had one car length to stop, endo'ed up and sort of jumped off to the side of him which I could do because I'm on a mountain bike with great brakes and I ride defensively like you say. If I hadn't been there holding the pace, those motorcycles behind me could have been going and lot faster, and frankly they would have done a lot more damage had they actually hit him. I often wonder how people get hit by buses, but cycle commuting in London has shown me: given enough people someone is guaranteed do something ridiculously stupid and suicidal.

Oh and don't get me started about the tourists at Piccadilly Circus / Trafalgar Square (they won't get hit because everyone who drives there knows the herds of pedestrians aren't paying the least bit of attention to what's going on around them).

This is an interesting reply because it reminds me of conversations I had a few years back.

I live in a town (in the US) which is fairly bike-friendly; a lot of places have nice paved paths and trails separate from the streets, and places that don't have them often have dedicated bicycle-only lanes. But a lot of people just won't use them, so I started asking my friends who biked everywhere why that was.

The responses, almost universally, were complaints about pedestrians -- "they get in my way", "they slow me down", "I never know when one of them is going to pop out from somewhere" -- and basically boiled down to these slow annoying people, I don't want to share my path with them. Which is the exact same attitude they complain about in car drivers.

Pedestrians do have the right of way actually in the UK.

Fat lotta good it does you if you're dead.

True, but then as a cyclist we'd go to prison for killing someone. That's why I have well maintained disc brakes and a healthy respect for traffic signals (as I'm sure you do, also).

Many people don't, unfortunately.

> - All of a suden lost control of the back wheel of my bike. When I turn around to check if I had a flat or something I find a cab pushing the bike from behind. I couldn't believe what the driver was doing and told him that he could have killed me. Is reply was: "get out of my way".

I hope you took his number and reported him. Both to the police, DMV and the Public Carriage Office...

I had a similar commute - from Leytonstone down to Liverpool Street. Mile End road is horrible, especially with the huge bendy buses (the 25?) with the drivers whose mission was to flatten as many cyclists as possible.

I used to have early starts and needed to be in the office at 6:45, the adrenaline rush was very effective in going from sleepy to wide awake and terrified.

There are actually some nice commutes from East London through to the city. The best ones involve the Grand Union canal or cycling through Victoria park.

A Cycle in London when it rains is better as the air is cleaner then due to the rain clearing out some of the crap from the air, and the pollen this time of the year.

Though the tube no better, can still get a black soot build up from legacy old days when they ran steam trains along the tracks and used coal, still soot built up that gets disloged even after all these years. Many tunnels it built up upon and with that can get a tissue and clear your ears and nose and the build up is greater than the old days of being in a smokers pub with all the windows and doors closed for twice the duration of your tube time.

But some lines better than others and newer, parts of the Northern line (black line on the tube map) I always found very aptly coloured when compared to post travel nose and ear tissue.

I also hope you have a travel camera, so can name and shame those nutter drivers on youtube like some people do. I certainly would not wish to brave the roads of central London upon a cycle due to the danger aspect from other road users, not for the faint hearted.

That's not soot, most lines have always been electric. Its a mixture of iron filings, brake linings and human skin. Only the metropolitan, H&C and some of the Circle were steam.

I'm going by my observations and a few chats with tube driver in the past, one which had worked on the line for 20 years. That said you could be right, not seen the air content of tubes stations analysed in any scientific detail.

I do know the Northern line in parts pre-dates electrification and deisel trains have been used as well as steam in the past -- last steam train was replaced in 1971 -- though which line I do not know and probably overground part of the service.

Though given it is underground then it is very probably a lot of dust and other crap air particles end up sinking into the tube system, certainly do not reccomend looking up in detail as can get dust from building waste and asbestos dust to some degree, though I'm sure nothing to worry about based up todays `safe` levels and limited samplerlings, Hmmmm.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_line Interesting read.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Underground_diesel_loco... as proved insightful.

Think all we can really say is, it has added value air that some may not agree with more than others. Still least we all don't go around with surgical masks, I can see why some do and it will be those having the last laugh.

When I was in London for Sybase training (middle, late 90s) I actually preferred a 45 minute bus ride to those 15 minutes of horror, which is London Underground during rush hour.

I definitely arrived in better shape and with a better attitude.

> those 15 minutes of horror, which is London Underground during rush hour.

I recently visited my girlfriend who is studying abroad in the UK and I was dumb enough to arrive in London at 7 AM on a week day and take the tube from Zone 1 to Zone 4. Never again.

Do you mean from Zone 6 (Heathrow) to Zone 1? The other way round is probably not too bad at 7AM :)

Not if he arrived via train.

We did. We took a sleeper train (first mistake) from Edinburgh to London and arrived at 7am, then had to take the tube out to our hostel in Zone 4.

I have to admit I always found the London Underground (or public transport in general) to be a rather pleasant endeavour, at least if I didn't want to get anywhere. People were slow, but friendly.

A good 8 or so years ago I used to go through London Waterloo once or twice month for meetings at head office. What I used to do was be first off the train, and stop and wait in the middle of the platform, light up a cigarette and watch the rest of the commuters get off the train and herd down towards the ticket gate things. Most miserable looking thing ever. They looked knackered even before they got to work. But, in hanging around and waiting, I got to breeze through once they had all cleared.

Next thing I noticed, which kind of freaked me out, was on the walk over bridge that connects Waterloo with Waterloo East. You enter with the herd, and its kind of pure random noise. What is interesting is that by the time you all get to the end of the walk way, more often than not, every one would be walking in pure synchronisation, like a marching army. They became one. Almost like Borg.

Noticed something new recently. So many people now have their noses buried in smart phones or tablets, fingering away. Even less chance of breaking the barrier. They will never see you smile...

There is something about being human that people walking in a group tend to end up walking in lockstep. Not a military marching level of synchronization, but far more regular than random. I first noticed myself doing it as a child and since then have become very aware of it happening around me.

It is a stronger effect if the people know each other and are having a conversation, but it may well be that if most people have their noses buried in a phone it happens as well - maybe audio plays a part and subconsciously hearing footsteps they sync up their footsteps.

Something that might interest you. The Millenium footbridge in London had to be closed, tweaked and tuned after engineering design issues were discovered. A subtle interplay and feedback loop between people walking in lockstep and the bridge's resonant frequency caused eventual high amplitude oscillations and eventually sickness in humans and stress in the bridge.

Fascinating stuff!

Unless you get a seat. Then you maybe the happiest person alive.

As a corollary, getting a seat on line 1 during rush hour in Beijing will make you religious.

Even then!

Especially as it gets out of the centre and the folks around you are the commuters rather than the tourists or partygoers.

Spot on. Absolutely spot on.

I've been away from the UK for a while now, returned for 7 days about a year ago and on the way back to the airport on the underground at the end of an awesome week got a text from a friend telling me I look like Aidan Gillen (that's Tommy Carcetti from the Wire), so naturally I was grinning ear to ear and didn't care who saw. The contrast between my mood/appearance and absolutely everyone around me was just bizarre. I got a few grumpy confused looks from people who must have thought I was mentally ill.

I was told by someone the other day that when I do permanently return to the UK I "ought to move into the working-in-London phase". I'm hoping I will have the option not to - definitely more of a day-tripper London fan here. And don't even get me started on the black snot! How is it possible that even in single day the contents of one's nose can change colour like that?!

Most of the 8 years or so I lived there I was a smoker, so dodgy nasal secretions and hacking up crap were going to happen one way or another.

The contrast was most apparent to me within a few days of when I moved back here from Australia.

These days I live on the south coast, it's quieter, there seems to be adequate work (and I'm trying to make my own). I'd rather move abroad again than back to the city.

The black snot is mostly a zone 1 thing, though. I live in zone 5 and commute to zone 2. No black snot for me. Used to live at Marble Arch and work at Holborn, though, and the black snot was constant... Plenty of opportunity to work in London and avoid the most horrible snot / commute issues..

No black snot for me (ever!) despite doing KX/Finsbury Park to Vauxhall (with a further train at each end) and back five days a week for many years.

My commute (when not cycling) is now just a single commute from Zone 2 to Zone 1. Never a seat on the way in but it's just 18 minutes.

That's good stuff, thanks.

One thing I would say is that I've heard that no matter where one lives in London, the black snot goes away pretty quickly after moving there. I find that hard to believe (because: "why?") but so many people have told me it I think it must be true, except now you've said that for you it was constant so I don't know what to think any more.

Another thing is that "Plenty of opportunity to work in London and avoid the most horrible snot / commute issues.." fills me with hope! Cheers!

The black snot always comes back for me if I spend a day in the centre, after 13 years here now, but I haven't lived in the centre for 10 years so maybe it's improved somewhat... Who knows..

The key living-wise is to get to know the suburbs. There's a huge degree of variability in ease of commuting. I live in Croydon, which is about as far South as you can be and still be in London. It has a largely undeserved bad reputation (mostly because the centre was rebuilt extremely unsympathetically after the war), but is green and leafy, extremely cheap for London, and most importantly is extremely well connected - I moved here from Barnes in zone 3, and I can get in to the centre about twice as fast now despite living substantially further away.

Work wise, for technology jobs, there's quite a bit both East and West of the centre, and it's worth considering that a lot of larger tech companies actually have large offices outside of London, particularly Slough, Reading and surrounding areas. (e.g. you'll find Oracle, Microsoft, Amazon and many others in that corridor)

I work in Chelsea now, and so can easily bypass the centre entirely (I go in to Clapham Junction in South London, which takes 10 minutes, and have one stop from there to work - another 5 minutes train)

1999 - Visited London - Black snot 2001 - Lived in London - Normal snot 2002 - Moved out, but visited - Black snot 2003 to 2006 - Visited - Black snot 2006 - Moved back to London - Normal snot since and use tube every day.

I visited Berlin two weeks ago and got black snot after 1 day of using their metro system.

The cause? To quote Nelson Muntz - "That's like asking the square root of a million. No one will ever know."

I got black snot in Berlin after cycling behind an annoying bus for half an hour, but never otherwise. And the square root of a million is ten to the third power – as for the square root of ten million…nobody will ever know :)

From NYC, I give you the saddest man in the world: http://on.fb.me/19tlY0h

Spot on! Just what I'm talking about :)

The worst thing is that the misery is contagious

I thought this was going to be about the hidden stations, defunct tunnels and some of the ghost stories surrounding the London Underground (not that I'm in any way trying to undermine the point of that video either).

The London Underground fascinates me. The number of older rail networks (there was once a stretch of tunnels that were little wider than a crouched person and used either for mail or money - i forget which). The tunnels used during WWII as Churchill's bunker. The closed stations that feel like eerie to walk around. The hidden tunnel that were dug at Tottenham Court Road purely as a way to displace the other dirt due to the logistics of the location of the station. The experiments with spiral escalators...and so on.

It's a great marvel to think what the Victorians gave us Londoners more than 100 years ago. They saw out the old century with a world pioneering transport network. Then 100 years on, a technologically superior country decides to celebrate it's century with a big, ugly dome. :(

That's the one. Thank you :)

There's so much infrastructure below the streets of London - it never ceases to impress and interest me.

Pardon my ignorance but what is this dome you speak of?

See if you can track down a copy of a small book called Sorry Meniscus by Iain Sinclair.

Sinclair expanded the column below to make the short book.


There are various "walking tube maps" that show you where it's quicker to walk between two stations:-


When I was a fresh-faced student in London, I had to go from the Strand to Covent Garden. This is about 500 yards.

Or three changes on the tube. Guess which one I took?

Eventually one works this all out, you know which doors to stand at to be close to the exit on your next station, why going up down stairwells is a popular pasttime, that St Pauls and the City are warrens of short cuts, something that is not possible in boringly grid like cities such as Manhattan. Really guys. I have walked across half of Manhatten and just counted the streets and never gotten lost. I can get lost in ten minutes in central London. Stumbling across random streets you have never seen in twenty years of living in London - that's what I call a "proper" city.

Thanks so much for posting this. I was wondering why since the redesign my movement at Kings Cross was taking so much longer than the route my parents would take with me as a kid going to London for day trips to the Science Museum or zoo.

If I lived in London I'd like to think I would make a project out of finding all the shortcuts and hacks like this applicable to my routine. I'm sure the video is only the tip of the iceberg (especially as Tom Scott generally really knows how to make his stuff short and sweet - anyone else feel the video was edited to pretty much perfection?).

> I would make a project out of finding all the shortcuts and hacks like this applicable to my routine

I'm often amazed at how often people don't do this. The last place I worked was always a nightmare to get to because of traffic, so I worked out all the possible shortcuts I could take depending on where the congestion was. I thought everyone did, until I was discussing this with colleagues who then revealed they just set off for work earlier.

One of them even lived right nearby and didn't know some of these shortcuts - all you needed was google maps.

Kings Cross has undergone several major overhauls over the last few decades, there's a good chance that the routes have changed.

I don't understand the "lie". So, there are times you can walk faster between tube stations than you can travel on the tube. The map doesn't seem to claim otherwise.

The lie isn't that you can walk faster between two points on the map than by taking one or more trains... the lie is that by following the signs, you can get from one train to the next in the most efficient manner. People expect signs to take them on the most efficient route... they don't expect to be routed half way around London to get from one train to the next when a short escalator ride to the surface and through 2 doors you can achieve your same goal...

... though it is a low tech solution to an otherwise extremely costly redesign of the station.

I think they have sacrified efficiency for no crushes or stampedes.

I don't class it as a 'lie' to quietly favour crowds flowing in a safe manner over the quickest route. They are the experts in what is safe for peak crowds, not some bloggers.

Of course I regard it a 'lie' that the platform crowding at places like Bank is very safe at all.

Did you watch the video all the way through? Their closing conclusion is that London Underground are experts in what is safe for peak crowds.

Calling it a "lie" is effective headline writing.

Actually I had to piece it together from other commentators... My employer sensibly bans youtube videos.

I responded to the comment and the 'lie' title

But you're allowed to post on HN?

Besides, watch videos and stuff at work on a phone over your own data connection.

> "I don't class it as a 'lie' to quietly favour crowds flowing in a safe manner over the quickest route"

I do understand your main point but it's by no means the "quickest" route. Following the signs tends to spread people out. Even at busy times, it's still quicker to take the shorter route out, despite the extra crowding. Regular commuters already know this.

This is a good example of the conflict between individuals who want to get between points A and B as quickly as possible and the station that wants manageable flows without crowding.

I think you parsed that line wrong. I read it as:

> I don't class it as a 'lie' to quietly favour "crowds flowing in a safe manner" over "the quickest route".

It's a well-formed statement, not a dangling comparative.

I love that we dont read comments on HN, we parse them!

You must be quite the interwebs young'un. People have been parsing comments on geeky forums since forever. I've seen quite a few instances of it on Slashdot. For e.g.: http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=89151&cid=771254...

Well at least they have replaced the accident that was the old thameslink station at St Pancras.

The interconnections between the lines at the major Tube hubs are really complicated, and a redesign may not always be possible.

Here's a site that has diagrams of how some of the stations are put together:


The Bank <-> Monument short cut I figured out by myself. Although it's more or less in a straight line, you have to go a long way down before coming back up again.

> the lie is that by following the signs, you can get from one train to the next in the most efficient manner

How efficiency is being judged needs to be specified here.

The most efficient route for the good of the whole system over its entire operating week may be quite inefficient for individual people on their individual routes at specific times. To traffic management analysis you are not an individual, you are part of the mass of a flow in a collection of interconnected flows.

If the signs were dynamic so could change gradually as congestion starts and moves around the system then this would disparity would reduce, as at quite times people can be sent the most direct way and at busy times the way that will reduce their impact on the congestion. That would be a costly upgrade though.

This is still stretching the "lie" bit though. Just because you are not shown the quickest route does not make it wrong, or a lie.

The most efficient route isn't necessarily the safest, in terms of routing large numbers of people underground.

It's simply crowd management. They talk about that in the last 30 seconds of the video.


There are shortcuts through the stations, and unmarked turnings to places you want to go that are quicker than the marked ones, when you get to know the stations you change at frequently.

> The map doesn't seem to claim otherwise.

Yes, it does. The tube map at 0:21 makes it look like the walking distance between Lancaster Gate and Paddington is about 75% of the tube distance. What you see at 0:48 is a regular map, which shows that it's more like 10%

It's a Schematic not Geo map. The Tube map is not intended for walking.

I've often taken the Kings Cross exit towards the trains and wondered why the hell it was so long.. Now I know better >:)

Thank the Lord that thus far I haven't had to get a tube as part of my commute! The overground every day is bad enough, and I almost always get a seat and can look out of the window there. Roll on the day where working from home as a developer is the default rather than a rare privilege!

One thing they didn't mention about the last example - which way to go on the Victoria platform at KX, is that if you get off down the other end of the platform, exit signs do point the shorter way - they divide it up so 20-30% go the quick way, the rest get pointed the longer route.

Relevant: 'Here’s how central London would look if the Tube map was geographically correct' http://www.mapfodder.com/london.html

And Wikipedia has a geographically accurate tube map: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:London_Underground_f... ;)

For some reason I find that map quite disturbing - like I'm very very drunk and looking at a "proper" Tube map.

The Kings Cross example is in part due to the new Eurostar terminal at St Pancras. The newer exit is much nearer to St Pancras so if the test had been the Eurostar entrance then I'm not sure who would have won.

Given the location of the new concourse this is not as bad as it used to be. I suspect it would however be better if they sign posted the old exit onto the Euston Road as being for the buses stops, otherwise you end up walking for 5 minutes in the wrong direction and have to double back when you get above ground.

So, people are "on to" the lies. At my local station (Archway), at the bottom of the escalators, there are two paths to the platforms, and they are routed one way to correspond well with the direction of the escalators. Except, people will happily walk into the wrong direction in their quest to one-up the system, often causing other passengers to have to dodge oncoming traffic, even at off-peak times.

But I get it, I measured it out once. One of the tunnels is 12 steps longer than the other.

While people are generally discussing their discomfort with using the tube I'd just like to chip in my main concern with it being around 50 Celcius constantly year round down there.... (yes, I exaggerate slightly, but not by much!)

Tube map doesn't say it's scaled so therefore the argument 'look how close these two stations are on the map' isn't valid.

Bank is the Hogwarts of tube stations.

It took me 2 years to learn the warren that is the Bank/Monument complex and figure out efficient shortcuts (by purposely ignoring the signs).

Then someone made this: http://stations.aeracode.org/#bnk

This is dumb, you're not meant to use it to go 5 minutes up the road.

First, get this off of HN please. I don't see the direct relevance.

Second, if this does have some relevance to HN with regards to usability, then this is a usability success, not a failure. Are there more efficient ways for one person to navigate the tube system. Absolutely. Does this means it will be efficient for all. No.

You seem unreasonably grumpy... take a breath, chill out. I enjoyed the video and upvoted it - as did many others, clearly. It's of interest to hackers. Tom Scott is also "one of us" - a geek comedian. Probably one of the reasons why others have been upvoting this.

You might enjoy this excellent video of his talk at Ignite a few years back: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RyMdOT8YJgY

"You seem unreasonably grumpy"

Probably came into work via the Tube :-)

Hehe, fair enough. Sorry if you thought my tone was a bit off! I don't know who the author is or what he does, I'm just getting increasingly frustrated with the content that's upvoted on this site.

as did many others, clearly

I, like many longstanding active members here, care about the community and I don't see the relevance. It has nothing to do with hacking, entrepreneurship, or is generally all that interesting. But the author got my click, my eyeballs and my response, so he wins.

ps - Didn't take the tube in, I work from home :) I think the tube is very well maintained actually.

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