The Thames is back on the map (and possibly zones)

I’ve been a bit obsessed with the recent changes to the Tube map. It appears that the story may be coming to an end.

According to a story on BBC News, TfL will reintroduce the Thames to the Tube map in December. And it sounds like zones may be back as well.

A TfL spokesperson had this to say:

The overwhelming public reaction is that the Tube and Thames should be reunited, so that’s exactly what we will do.

New maps showing the Thames will be reintroduced from December, the date of the next scheduled revision of the map.

We are also looking again at the provision of zonal information to ensure that it is widely available to customers and aim to reach a conclusion on that, also by December, when the new Circle Line service needs to be reflected.

In the meantime, I noticed two things.

Zones aren’t even provided in the “Index of Stations” on the new paper tube map. This makes me wonder if TfL aren’t considering a flat fee across the network (this is how it works on the New York subway subway system).

The second thing I noticed is an old Tube map with zones at Tooting Bec Station (pictured above). I don’t think this was there on Thursday, but it was there yesterday.

A question for New Yorkers (and others)

There are at least two New Yorkers that read this blog (I have a very large audience ;). So I’d like to address a question to them.

You may have seen my two posts about the removal of zones on the new Tube map.

A quick bit of background: the London Underground network is divided into nine zones. If you know the zone you’re in and the zone you’re going to, you know how much you have to pay.

So, here’s my question. I noticed that the New York Subway Map has no zones. How do you know how much you’re going to pay for a subway journey? Or do you just buy a MetroCard and not worry about how much each journey costs?

Actually, this question could apply to anyone who lives in a city with an urban railway. Does your transport system have zones? If not, how do you know how much each journey will cost?

In the zone

TfL fares poster

Yesterday, I was doing a bit of complaining about the new Tube map. I was specifically concerned with how to find out what zone a station was in now that zones have been removed from the Tube map. As I was getting on the Tube at Tooting Broadway this morning, I noticed the Fares poster pictured on the right. I’ve never noticed these before, but they do indeed tell you which zone each station is in, as you can see from this close-up. Given the state of the poster, I’m assuming it’s been there for a while, but I’d just never noticed before.

These posters seem to be available in all stations. I’ve noticed them today at Tooting Bec and Kentish Town stations, futher demonstrating how unobervant I am.

The only problem is, they’re nowhere near the Tube map. In some cases, the Fares posters aren’t visible from the Tube map. Their placement — close to the ticket machines — makes a kind of sense. Nevertheless, this means that if I’m planning my journey at the station, I’ll need to find a Tube map to figure out which lines I need to take and where to transfer, then find the Fares poster to determine what type of ticket to purchase. It’s not ideal, but at least the information is available.

New Tube map: no zones, no Thames

The new Tube map is significantly less cluttered than the previous version, presumably in an attempt to address some of the criticism the Tube map has received lately.

Most of the information that has been removed isn’t essential for most commuters; however, as Londonist points out, the removal of zones might cause issues. Personally, I don’t need zones on my day-to-day commute. However, this is crucial information if I’m travelling to some far-flung Tube station. How do I get this information now? I’m not sure. Do I have to wait in the ticket queue just to ask a TfL employee what zone Station X is in? At the moment, I can download the old map from the TfL site, but I wonder how long it is before it disappears. Of course, if I plan my journey in advance, I can always get the zone information from Wikipedia.

This raises some interesting general questions: Is less clutter a good thing when vital information has been removed? Is designing for the 80% always the best idea? When removing rarely-used features, what alternatives should be provided to ease the transition to the new, simpler version?

I should add that I really do miss the Thames, even though I can see that it doesn’t add any useful information.

Back on the bike

Last week, I went to have a beer or three with James, who has recently taken up cycling to work. He’s arranging a bike ride down to Brighton in August. I’ve always wanted to take part in the British Heart Foundation’s London to Brighton Bike Ride, but never seem to register on time. So James’ bike ride to Brighton will be the perfect opportunity to find out if I’m up to it. Of course, I hadn’t been riding my bike at all lately.

Until last week, that is. Last weekend, I pulled my bike out from under the tarp in our back garden. I cleaned it up, lubed the chain, tightened the breaks and took it for a test ride up and down our street. I then used Transport for London’s Journey Planner to find a route to work. On Monday, I cycled to work. The TfL route wasn’t ideal — way too much terror at Vauxhall and Trafalgar Square.

Despite the terror, I’d forgotten how much I enjoy riding my bike. It’s actually much less frustrating than dealing with the daily stress of the tube. Of course, cycling to work has its own stresses, and London’s bizarre cycle lanes are often more of a hindrance than a help. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that cycle lanes exist, but some of them are incredibly difficult to use, especially the first time you use them. Twice on my way home from work — on St Pancras Way and again on Purchase Street — the cycle lane jumps suddenly from the left side of the street to the right side. Purchase Street is fairly quiet, so this isn’t so bad. St Pancras Way is busy, and the only way to safely move into the two-way cycle lane on the right side of the street is to position yourself well in advance. This is impossible the first time you’re using the cycle lane and pretty damn dangerous during rush hour, regardless of whether or not you’ve used the cycle lane before.

I’m now curious about how and why these decisions get made. I’m considering exploring as many of London’s cycle paths as possible. In order to learn more about how cycle lanes are created and to help improve them, I’d like to document the weirdness that I find. To this end, I’ve joined the London Cycling Campaign, and I may set up a separate blog about my cycling (mis)adventures.

I’m trying to find out if there is any public, Internet-based forum for raising and discussing London-related cycle lane weirdness, but haven’t found anything yet. Crap Cycle Lanes of Croydon, among others, seems to be doing a pretty good job of this, but these seem to be individual efforts rather than a group effort. You can report street faults on the TfL website and to the borough councils, but this doesn’t seem to include cycle lanes. Moreover, fault tracking is hidden behind a system that requires you to know the fault id. There is also no facility for public discussion. If anyone knows of a website that allows cyclists to collaboratively report and discuss dangerous cycle lanes, please let me know. I’d love to join and contribute.

Despite my moaning about London cycle lanes, I’m glad to be back on the bike and looking forward to the trip to Brighton, though I’m not looking forward to how sore my butt is going to be the following day.

Update I’ve just discovered that the CTC‘s has map of road hazards, which gives you the ID and allows you to track the status. They also have maps of long distance cycle routes. Alas, I still haven’t found anything along the lines of for dangerous cycle lanes.