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Beginning in 1863, the Tube is made up of 11 different subway lines with a total of 270 individual stations. The train cars, also called “rolling stock”, of the Tube feature cloth-covered seats and colored handrails.
While the street grid of New York provides for fewer crossings of train lines, London’s web of streets forces many tracks be carved deeper beneath the road surface. Without a doubt, the average station in London is cleaner and brighter than those of New York.
Monthly passes are more important to daily commuters, representing a reoccurring expense as a meaningful part of household finances. Ultimately, London’s Underground is a very impressive ride for its patrons who enjoy traveling in comfort, yet it comes with a steep cost of upkeep passed onto the customers. Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Well, while the subway platforms in London might be hot on occasional heat waves, the ones in NYC are plain hell for 3-4 months each year. As a Londoner, born and bred and having visited NYC on occasion, I think your comments are quite spot on. With regards to the types of commuters I think you are right but it’s not quite as stark as you may be implying.
London trains are on average every 2-5 minutes day time and 4-10 minutes in the evenings though they do not run between 1am-5am. London has to upgrade it’s entire infrastructure to cope with the heat and passenger numbers. I think that in the last year especially (since writing the article) the service cutbacks on the subways in NYC have been very noticeable to someone who has lived in the city for four years. NYC does carry more people than London’s, but having express and local trains eases that congestion.
My view, if New York was to make their system cleaner and implement the above changes, which could easily be done, especially the signposting, it could start to pull ahead. With Tube trains coming as often as they currently do (every 2 mins is pretty normal) London’s capacity to expand is severely diminished. Whereas, unless I’m mistake, the Tube has always been a safe way to get to work for any class of person.
London is investing massively in schemes such as Crossrail, a new underground rail system, as well as the extension of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) as well as schemes such as Thameslink and new upgrades and rolling stock for the tube.
There is also a high speed rail between London and Paris, with the new generation of trains set to cut rail journey times between to the two cities to under 2 hours.
London is improving it’s public transport including rail and tube links, so the system may noticeable improve in coming decades.
Also with regard to New York having a larger distance to cover, you must remember that London has a much more extensive overground train system. As a side note I have also noticed how much easier it is to find a London Underground Station, they are clearly marked and directions to an entry point are sign posted from up to half a mile away. When it comes to the train network, I think that when compared to most other American cities a European city like London would have it handily beat. On the other hand- London has a few pluses overlooked in the article, though mentioned in some of the comments…. Another point for London is that the different rail systems (Tube, overground, Southern trains, Midland, Virgin, Southeastern etc) have more consistency in how they operate to the end-user than the similar comparison in NY (the subway, Metro North, LIRR, NJT including PATH etc)… Though NY has the abiliity to transfer bus to Subway, or bus to bus, something London will probably never choose to do. Here in NYC, the Upper East Side area around Park and Fifth Avenues and 79th Street boast some of the city’s most opulent mansions and pre-war apartments, which actress Drew Barrymore, director Woody Allen, and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg call home. At the Claremont House, at 72nd Street between Park and Madison Avenues, a 6,300-square-foot, 7-bedroom penthouse is listed for $18 million. Our verdict: What the New York apartment lacks in space-age amenities and sleek design, it makes up for in space – lots of it!
Our verdict: Buyers at The Ritz-Carlton Residences get a lot more perks for the money, as well as prime views! For exclusive London shopping, those with cash to burn head to Knightsbridge for the famed Harrods Department Store and flagship locations of London designers such as Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik.
In SoHo, this 111 Wooster Street 3-bedroom triplex penthouse was designed by famed architecture firm Ogawa Depardon and boasts 2,230 square feet of interior space, as well as an additional 1,762 square feet of outdoor space. This modern, 2BR duplex in Knightsbridge is in a landmark residential building and features a double-height reception space with large bay windows, double bedroom, and family room. Our verdict: No contest, the SoHo apartment wins for space, perks, and distinctive design appointments. Known as “the Tube,” many boasted that the infrastructure was easier to understand, cleaner and safer than New York’s MTA service. Over a century later, it is made up of 26 different subway routes on 9 different lines with a total of 468 individual stations. Most tunnels in the Big Apple are 15-20’ underground, but London’s can go as deep as 65’ (a healthy five story building.) Not only can getting down to the tracks take longer, but air movement at such depths becomes more difficult.

It is possible that the funding given to stations in London is offset by the money spent on track in New York given that most of their trains run on multiple, parallel tracks. Most of the platforms are impeccably clean with lighting that escapes the “basement” feeling of many Manhattan subway stops. As a New Yorker, I am used to seeing all manner of folks on the subway from stock brokers to janitors. It is not surprising that New York’s system may not be as glamorous when it manages to maintain longer, bigger trains, more stations, and over three times as much track at a lower price. As a sustainable piece of urban infrastructure, providing accessibility of all sorts is important.
Although I agree that New York’s subway has an impressive number of lines and stations, it is certainly one of the dirtiest subway in the world. It’s really not hygienic at all, and the stations are so dark, old and dumpy that it simply depress me. NY really should do a similar thing, rather than the paper based Metro card with it’s uneliable reader. Your article says the subway carried more people, yet I must say the level of congestion in Manhattan, is nothing compared to London.
New York trains are infrequent (average waiting time of 5-10 minutes day time, and 15+ minutes night time — based on my experience to date) but do run between 1am and 5am. In London a late night taxi that’s available is very hard to come by, and the ride would have cost me the equivalent of $30. Even as one who appreciates the system the waits have gotten to be a bit cumbersome, especially at night and on the weekends. The infrastructure is that much older, and the lines that much deeper, that increasing capacity in any meaningful way is extremely hard.
Tube maps are given out for free, and there seems to be a larger amount of staff operating the tube system, who are always extremely knowledgable and helpful. Elevators may not be the norm for New York, but they’re certainly not in London either and the difference is that in many cases elevator insertions seem to be impossible given the depth of some of the stations. However, the success of New York’s transit system is in part due to the numerous rail networks that compliment the buses and subways. One thing I would still wonder about though is that I am curious whether the combination of NJ Transit, PATH, Metro North and LIRR still moves more people than the London network does. I lived on Long Island for a year and took advantage of both systems everyday, which was easy to do, but carried a cost. Central Park is the focal point of the neighborhood, as are the ritzy stores along Madison Avenue. The four-floor condo boasts a sun-filled conservatory, 1,200 square feet of landscaped terraces, and a 1,600-square-foot master suite, complete with dual bathrooms, dressing rooms, and sitting areas. Priced at $21.4 million, it features striking, futuristic glass walls that provide panoramic views of London, as well as many impressive amenities including a private lift (an elevator for all you non-Anglophiles), heated floors, Lutron lighting, concealed plasma screens, remote control blinds, two reception rooms, and a 600-square-foot terrace.
It was built over the last 40 years on top of a landfill from the World Trade Center site and contains a mix of affordable and luxury housing, restaurants, and plenty of parks and outdoor space. For sale for $2,995,000, the high-floor unit has three exposures, mahogany flooring, and a chef’s kitchen. It also houses the Blue Harbour Health Club, complete with swimming pool, fitness center, spa, and sauna. Celebrity actors like Daniel Craig and Juliana Margulies call the trendy neighborhood home.
Featuring a mix of refurbished flats and houses, Knightsbridge is home to many of the richest people in the world. Listed at $6,995,000, the apartment has a custom-built pergola and BBQ, bathrooms with heated stone floors, and a master bedroom with glass walls overlooking the landscaped roof garden. Listed at $6.4 million, it also comes with an underground parking space and use of the valet service. An average weekday hosts 3 million passengers, bringing an annual total to around 1 billion patrons.
In the London heat wave of 2006, the temperature in Tube tunnels reached 117 degrees Fahrenheit. This first discrepancy makes New York’s routes more expensive to build (the new 2nd Avenue Subway is pegged at nearly $1 billion per track mile) but provides invaluable benefit for maintenance. The maze of Tube tunnels are also broken into a series of 9 zones that are concentrically oriented around the center of the city. Public transportation is an invaluable institution that is essential to providing economic growth to multiple socioeconomic classes. In recalling my time there, some of those tunnels would be all but impossible to negotiate by wheelchair. In NYC, I truly miss Prague subway which is modern, clean, and has no problem with fresh air. One thing I find frustrating is that federal transit grants often have to be used for capital improvement, not maintenance or renovation.

They could be easily copied by New York, as I believe some are, which would shift the balance.
Many times I’ve stood on a station platform, pretty certain I was going uptown, but not being 100% sure as there was not a single sign around to confirm it.
Finally, the third major benefit of the London tube is the electronic monitors which tell us when the next 3 or 4 trains are coming and where they are going. Updating lines or stations requires them to shut completely, as mentioned above, and the tunnels are dug in such a way that the amount of space in the cars is relatively fixed.
It is more expensive in London, but they’re already at capacity most days, so making it cheaper would create more demand than is sustainable.
The Metro North, NJTransit, PATH and Long Island Railroad are all communter lines that bring in millions of commuter trips every year. New York faces a particularly steep hill ahead in that arena given that I believe that the various transit organizations share a fair bit of animosity towards others, making it notoriously difficult to coordinate on the urban and regional scale. In the left corner is NYC, global hub of finance and media, weighing in with a population of 8,405,837. Holland Park features a 54-acre public park, which is considered one of the most romantic and peaceful outdoor spaces in West London. The raised ground-floor flat has views of the yacht marina, three balconies, and 12-hour weekday porterage.
Like New York, the Tube began as a series of privately funded ventures that were eventually encompassed by municipal oversight and direction.
Single tracks can be closed for repairs while trains can be re-routed onto adjoining tracks while the Tube is forced to shut down service on lines entirely—a relatively common occurrence.
A number of stations have also been recently refurbished, such as Southwark, which provide a modern, well designed surrounding.
Traveling between zones can raise the base fair considerably where travel on New York subways is unrestricted. However, in all of my London travels, those who shared my Tube rides all seemed to be middle-to-upper class folk getting around the city. As a connection between residence and employment, public transit is there to help fewer people own cars (a large investment with sizable reoccurring expenses), thus removing them from the downtown to make it more accessible to pedestrians and offering a cheaper way to commute while hopefully being more efficient as well.
The Tube may represent a benchmark of what all systems should strive to reach when it can be provided at a more affordable level to a more diverse population.
They can get away with charging more, though, because it’s so much faster on the Tube to get anywhere. I did not get to see a great deal of traffic when I was there (it was surrounding Christmas) but I can see how it would play a role in limiting reasonable options for commuters and allowing for prices to stay higher as a result. Even in South America the subways are cleaner (but it’s because they are much newer). This puts cities like New York in a tough spot because either they expand a system that already needs upgrading (like expansion of the 7 line, new tunnels for the LIRR to Grand Central, or the 2nd Ave subway) or they forfeit the money. The Metro North and LIRR are the two most heavily traveled commuter railroads in the country (82 million and 81 million respectively).
And in the right corner we have London, the world’s most-visited city, population 8,416,535. Averaging 8’6” wide, the average train is approximately 437’ long.  New York’s cars are often wider at 10’across with trains as long as 600’ to provide a larger average capacity. Multiple tracks also allows for express route service, a boon to commuters traveling farther distances into the city. Their good condition helps make for a pleasant trip, but the heightened level of luxury comes at a cost: namely the fare.
One can board in the southernmost part of Brooklyn and travel to the Northern tip of the Bronx for the same $2.25. While not having any more data than my own observations, the lack of a more varied ridership seemed to make the Tube out to be an urban amenity that was more exclusive than New York’s subways, which seems counter to it being an part of public transit. Making the subway better for those who can most easily afford it is arguably less important than it being a realistic option for a larger portion of the population. Because of the constant congestion on London streets, it can take hours on the bus to get somewhere just a few miles away. The system is working against the notion of a well-oiled transit network kept in a good state of repair. Though New York subways can transport more passengers per ride, once inside the digs are not plush, merely smartly infrastructural with plastic seat surfaces easily cleaned.

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