Navigating the Tube

I cannot believe I have already been in London for three weeks and my program is halfway over. I have adapted so quickly to life here and I am enjoying every minute of living in this amazing city.

One thing I have really come to enjoy is the way Londoner’s commute using the underground. This tube system is so much simpler than any public transportation I have used in the US. While at Pitt I take the Port Authority buses almost everywhere and I often find myself on a bus going the wrong direction or on a 71A when I meant to be on a 71B. The public buses in Pittsburgh have also left me standing in the rain many times because the tracking apps are not always the most accurate.

Here in London the tube is extremely easy to navigate, and I am always underground or under a covering waiting for the next one to arrive. They each run about every five or ten minutes which makes it really easy to catch another one if I were to miss the first one. For those of you who don’t know the tube is the equivalent of a subway system.

Commuting to work every morning is very simple but extremely busy. I only have to take one tube to work and it is only about a 30-minute ride which is almost unheard of for a commute to work in this city. The typical commute here is about an hour or more.

When I get on the tube in the morning I typically have to stand because the rush hour traffic includes a lot of people. Almost every morning, after about two stops, the tube is stuffed to the brim and when we stop there is not room for anyone on the platform to board. The ride home is very similar in that it is very full.

One thing that I found very weird at the beginning of my time hear was the absolute silence on the tube during these rush hour commutes. During these busy times no one, and I mean absolutely no one, talks on the tube. It is an unwritten rule here that during this time people will read or possibly even do work. Since the commute for most people is pretty lengthy it makes sense that they would want to utilize this time to their advantage. In the beginning the silence was so deafening that I had to wear headphones and listen to music the whole ride. I have now adapted, and I read a newspaper instead to make the most of my commute and keep up to date on what is happening in the country since the Prime Minister has resigned and elections are happening.

The only negative of my commute is that there are sometimes technical issues. Last week I stood on a platform waiting one hour for my train to come because there were technical issues a few stops away. When the train came, I was one of two people on the platform to board because it was so full there was barely any room. Aside from technical difficulties, which are unavoidable, my commute has become a good place to catch up on current events.

If another student were to travel to London, I would absolutely recommend utilizing the underground whenever possible. There is also a bus system which is pretty reliable, but the tube comes very often and goes virtually anywhere in the city. There are signs everywhere in each station telling you where each tube goes so even if you have no idea which one you are supposed to take it is easy to figure out. One final tip on commuting would be that if you don’t know, just ask. People may look unapproachable, but British people will typically try to help before just walking away.

All in all, commuting on the tube in London is as reliable as public transportation can be and is definitely something, I would recommend everyone use.