London, England

Saturday, July 30, 2011

London Transportation

Mass transit in London is incredible.  It runs on-time, goes everywhere, and offers a variety of ways to get to most places.  In London, you can travel by bus, tube (aka subway), rail, taxi, water taxi, or rent a bicycle.  If you are going far, there are three airports (London City, Heathrow, and Gatwick) and the Eurostar.  Also, down by Oxford Circus there are rickshaws.  The government runs the tube and bus, while all other forms of transportation are overseen by private entities.  (Barclay's bank rents the bicycles.) 

Here is how I used mass transit today.  Today, I went to Windsor Castle, which is in Windsor, near Eton, about 35 minutes from London by train.  I boarded the Central line tube at Holborn station and took it to Oxford Circus;  there, I switched lines to the Bakerloo line and took it to Paddington Station.  At Paddington, I bought a train ticket and took the rail to Windsor, with a change at Slough.  Coming back, I did the rail (change at Slough), to Paddington station, then took the Bakerloo line on the tube to Oxford Circus, at which point I got on the Central line and went to the Marble Arch stop to do some window shopping. 

The beauty of this was that the maps are SO good, that it was EASY.

London has the oldest underground system in the world and it seems to constantly be being maintained.  With the upcoming 2012 Olympics being held in London, the event planners are looking to increasing the bus service and tube trips, and will be using the river as a major route to and from the Olympic grounds.    Several water taxi companies already accept the Oyster card.

Oyster card?  What's that? you ask.  The Oyster card is a prepaid card that riders simply swipe when they get on the tube, bus, or specific water taxis.  Its a smart system.  First of all, Oyster card users get discounted fairs.  Second, the computers track how much you've used it in a day and there is a cap.  For example, on Saturdays, no matter how much you use the tube, you will not be charged more than $6.60 on your Oyster card.  Finally, you can forgo waiting in long ticket lines, and you can top off using an automated machine.

Mass transit is important in London.  London has 7.5 million residents, making emissions a big issue.  To encourage people to use mass transit and try to curtail the ever looming problem of emissions and pollution, London has a congestion charge.  The congestion charge is an emissions-based fee that is charged to people who drive into London on weekdays.  The fee is 10 pounds per day for travel within the congestion zone between the hours of 7 am and 6 pm.  That money is earmarked for improvements to the mass transit system.  That is a hefty sum.  Fifty pounds per week times 52 weeks in a year equals 2600 pounds in a year.  People are finding that they need to use public transportation.

This system is an amazing engineering feat and while here, and carless, I have learned to use it and love it.

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