Having been in London for just over a week now, I am just starting to get used to the London Underground, colloquially known as the Tube. The subway system spans the entire city, covering every place I could possibly need to go. Growing up around Philly, I feel lucky to have a subway system with adequate signage and sensible transfers. Immediately after landing in London I had to figure out how to use the tube, and once I figured out how to put the ticket in the reader, the trip was simple. Even being sleep deprived and in a foreign location for the first time, I was able to board the correct Piccadilly train, make the seamless transfer at the Hammersmith station and arrive at my housing. With clear, concise, and color-coded signage and maps of the different lines at every corner, I always knew where I was going.
With the tube being so simple and convenient to use, it makes my daily commute to both the CAPA center and my place of work from my home in Shepard’s Bush is fairly simple. To get to the CAPA center for class, I am able to board the tube at the station directly across the street from me, ride westbound for one stop to the Hammersmith station, transfer to another rail line, and then in a mere three stops I arrive just down the stop from the CAPA center. For my internship commute, I take the tube station a 10-minute walk from my flat, the Shepard’s Bush station, and board the eastbound Central line train for only 6 stops until I get to Oxford Circus, and my employer, The Langham House, is just up the street. Both trips take around 30 minutes and are rather easy trips compared to some of the commutes my classmates have, which can be over an hour.
This kind of busy city commuting is nothing like what I have had to do in my life. At Pitt, I am able to walk to everything I need to go to except for the few circumstances I need to leave Oakland in which case I can take the Port Authority buses. Despite living in Pittsburgh for two years, I have never taken the T to get around, even going to the stadiums across the river. Not being within walking distance of my daily responsibilities here is quite the contrast from what I have had to face in the past, but getting adjusted to this new mode of transportation has been rather simple and easy.
I can only thing of two things I dislike about the Tube, the first being how crowded it can get during the rush hours (8:00 – 9:00 am, 5:00 – 6:30). Having to commute during those hours to and from work, the amount of people that can fit on these trains is astounding. Standing shoulder to should leaving no space in between anyone, moving is impossible and every little movement seems to bother a multitude of people around me. I have even had to miss a train or two because of a simple lack of room to board. This is not usually a problem, however, and I do not have to face this coming to and from the CAPA center at all because of my class schedule. My other complaint for the Tube is how early it closes. Getting so used to always having it around during the day, when the night goes long it can be a task to figure out how to take a night bus and it likely results in taking an Uber home. While this is not really a flaw in the Tube system as they need time to perform maintenance and get ready for the next long day, it can be inconvenient when you lose track of time and cannot rely on the system to get you home after dark.
Despite having no experience relying on public transportation for my daily commute prior to this trip, the Tube in London is simple and easy to get used to. Commuting is simple and easy, and it is much more reliable than Philly’s subway and Pittsburgh’s buses!