How do they do it?
August 22, 2001 3:24 PM   Subscribe

How do they do it? The Guardian sent their reporters to the four corners of the world to review...underground railways. The findings prove predictably that anything is better than The London Underground. In Prague for example: "Not long ago, a man paid for adverts to be put up in all 940 trains, pleading with his girlfriend to take him back. Czechs understand the romantic potential of the metro and it has found its way into a fair amount of the nation's modern literature. "
posted by feelinglistless (22 comments total)
The Japanese rails are indeed amazing. My favorite aspect was seeing, in a tunnel, an ad made of carefully spaced LED clusters... the illusion, while travelling at a precise speed, was an animation which hovered outside the window.
posted by mantid at 4:25 PM on August 22, 2001

mantid--why not just project it from the train? That sounds much easier than synching the system with a moving train and stationary images... why did this british site give distances in miles? Was metric just a fad?
posted by NortonDC at 4:56 PM on August 22, 2001

the led thing is ingenuity indeed, it considers its environment, and it's placed in the most natural space to an ad in. but then ads instead of graffiti inside of the actual tunnel is pretty depressing.

the underground and the nyc subway system probably tie for worst human environment. then there's the grossly underdeveloped, like in s.f. and l.a. maybe it's an anglo thing.
posted by elle at 5:09 PM on August 22, 2001

Does anybody know what the little spinners lining the walls of the tramway in Denver's big airport are about?
posted by NortonDC at 5:48 PM on August 22, 2001

How fitting that this should be posted as I just got home from a fun hour-long excusion on San Francisco's MUNI underground.

I went all of two blocks. G-fucking-double-R GRR
posted by fooljay at 6:41 PM on August 22, 2001

I just want to say: New York can kick your city's ass. More miles of track. More lines. More stations. More trains. More passengers. More heat stroke. 24-hour service.

The Prague metro is like a zoo tram by comparison.
posted by Mo Nickels at 8:22 PM on August 22, 2001

I rather like abandoned underground railways Of which there are some good ones mentioned in that exhaustive list of links. Less passengers and perhaps surprisingly, less trains.
posted by lucien at 8:44 PM on August 22, 2001

I doubt there is any system in the world as tepid as Edmonton's Light Rail Transit system.
posted by spyke at 9:34 PM on August 22, 2001

Mo, while we do have more miles, stations and lines, Moscow and Tokyo carries more passengers per day (9 and 7 Mil/day).

For once, I was happy to see those damn 'geographically correct' Brits ending the North American continent at the Texas border when I read: "With 11 lines, covering 99 miles, the Mexican capital's underground system is the biggest in the continent."
posted by tamim at 11:55 PM on August 22, 2001

Um you really have to wonder about someone who's complaining about how long it took them to take the metro for 2 blocks. Underground no less. Yikes.
posted by brian at 1:21 AM on August 23, 2001

Damn, it took me a long time to rediscover this in my history file:

The Map is the Thing, a collection of links to nearly all the official subway/transit system maps there are in the world. Some of them are quite lovely. Page through this design magazine and you'll see a neat presentation regarding the same.
posted by dhartung at 3:34 AM on August 23, 2001

One of the more serious casualties of BlogVoices going down was the loss of a 60+ comments discussion about personal experiences with the various subways of the world started by J.Ko.
posted by tamim at 5:33 AM on August 23, 2001

I must say I'm very proud of the Moscow subway system, which, despite everything that's going on now is expanding and is still in an amazingly great shape with little or no vandalization. And I can confidently say you won't find grander station halls anywhere in the world.
posted by tiaka at 6:24 AM on August 23, 2001


The spinners are just one of many public art exhibits at DIA. The spinners are actually supposed to look like propellers. What is especially cool is that because there are no drivers on the trams, the front and back of each tram is just a pane of glass. Watching the propellers spin as you move towards/away from them is pretty neat.

The only other thing I know about them is that there are exactly 5,280 of them in the airport, symbolizing Denver's elevation above sea level (5,280 feet = 1 mile).

Another cool piece of art in the DIA tram system is actually quite similar to what mantid described with the LEDs. There is a series of metal pick-axes placed on the wall that while viewed in motion, look like they are striking against rock.

Check it out.
posted by thewittyname at 6:41 AM on August 23, 2001

I live in Chicago, and I used to think the "L" was a pretty damn good subway system...until I visited Europe. Londoners, you have NOTHING to complain about, realistically. The "L" is at best, only slightly faster than ground transportation, and downright pokey on bad days. In the past month or so we've had trains out of service due to being struck by lightning, flooding covering the tracks, and a pretty impressive multi-train collision that injured more than 140 people during rush hour. Add to that the fact that the CTA's coverage is woefully inadequate(compared to the tube, which seems to go EVERYWHERE in london, with tons of interconnected lines), and the "L" really seems pitiful by comparison.

Of course, both systems are shamed by Berlin's public transportation...I almost decided to move there on the strength of the U-Bahn alone.
posted by 40 Watt at 8:46 AM on August 23, 2001

I am always struck by the differences between the New York City subway and the London Underground. I have always felt the transit systems are an accurate reflection of the Americans and the British respectively. I have seen lots of tourists wearing T-Shirts with a British flag and the words "Mind the Gap" on them, which is what is written on the platform in the Underground. But even more apropos (and hiliarious) would be a New Yorker wearing a shirt with an American flag and the words "Step Aside" on them, as that's what is written on the platform in NYC.
posted by bluefly at 10:30 AM on August 23, 2001

Hello People? Do we look for bias in the gurdian's article? Let's look at locations. The guardian is located in Farringdon, near a lovely bit of London with many happy media people and the requsite Cafe's. It's also right next to Farringdon station, it looks gorgeous but has the most ancient signals in the world (apparently). Remeber this was the first underground station ever. Thus, there are many failiures. Compare the guardian's attitude to that of the Independent or Telegraph, both of whom are in happily connected Canary Wharf and things become clearer. The Times in Wapping isn't great but it's better than Farringdon (and has the DLR, which is cool).

p.s. I've done Moscow, Paris, New York and London. I must confess that I think London's the best by far, although Moscow had some nice murals.

p.p.s. yes, I have a framed copy of the Underground Map on the wall. (it's design is just so much more sensible)
posted by nedrichards at 11:25 AM on August 23, 2001

nedrichards: is this the same Canary Wharf where "businesses ... have become so frustrated with the poor service that they have sent staff down to the Jubilee Line with stop-watches to count the number of trains"?

ps. I too have a framed Underground diagram on my wall. Well, sort of...
posted by rbrwr at 11:47 AM on August 23, 2001

Um you really have to wonder about someone who's complaining about how long it took them to take the metro for 2 blocks. Underground no less. Yikes.

Brian, wonder no more. Two bocks was all I went before I was finally able to get to the next station so that I could get the hell off of the train. It took that long to go two blocks.

I needed to go about 30 blocks...
posted by fooljay at 5:24 PM on August 23, 2001

Unfortunately for romantics, the story of the love letters being posted in Prague trains was only halfway true. They were lovely, beautifully written letters written by a man begging his lover to come back to him. They were posted for over a year, and then it was revealed to be an ad campaign for Ivan Klima's new book. A lovely, beautifully written ad campaign, but an ad campaign.
posted by jennyjenny at 11:40 AM on August 24, 2001

The only city in Central Asia with a subway is Tashkent.

That is all.
posted by iceberg273 at 11:47 AM on August 24, 2001

re: canary wharf.
1. You are quoting the guardian!
2. yep. That's because they paid about £100 million to get a specified level of service (and also own 50% of the DLR).
3. It isn't shopkeepers, they've got much better things to do with thier time it's the Canary Wharf Property group.
4. My main point is that the station is amazing and gorgeous and that the level of service is still very good (even if it isn't 1 train every 32 seconds or whatever they wanted).

p.p.s. yep, the great bear is very cool.
p.p.p.s. our map's better than your map (and New York, I'm talking to you)
p.p.p.p.s I should shut up now.
posted by nedrichards at 12:38 PM on August 24, 2001

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