Yet more ways TfL should change London’s tube and rail maps to make them less irritating to me, personally

A London Overground train, thinking. Image: Getty.

First, I whined about interchanges. Then, I banged on about zones. And now, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, here are even more things that Transport for London should change about London’s tube and rail maps to make them marginally less irritating to me, personally.

Split the Northern line

Let’s start with lines. How many lines there are on the London Underground is a source of some contention – by which I mean that there are definitely, officially 11 and there’s not really any space to argue about that, but that I’m, nonetheless, not having any of it and last summer managed to get about half a dozen different pieces of content and a YouGov poll out of arguing that this number was wrong.

Anyway. One of the reasons that figure is obviously wrong is because of the obvious stupidity of the Northern line.

I mean, it’s just not a line, is it? Look, this is a line:

This is one line.

And this is the Northern... thing:

This is not one line. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

The upside of pretending that this network of different routes is a single line is that watching tourists aiming for Borough Market wandering, baffled, round Euston is quite funny.

The downside is literally everything else.

So, the obvious solution is to split it: make the bit via Charing Cross one line and the bit via Bank another. These two lines would still share trains and be managed together on a sort of Hammersmith & City / Circle line basis – but the map would be less confusing and less in contradiction of the basic premises of geometry, and it’d mean we get an extra line for basically nothing. What’s not to love?

The case for this will get even stronger once the Battersea extension opens, and the Charing Cross route stops running to Morden. To maintain London Underground’s proud history of utterly absurdity, this route could be named the Southern line.

Though I’ll believe the Clapham Junction bit when I see it. (Also, what on earth has happened to Clapham South? No idea.) Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Then I could probably get a ranty piece out of how stupid that is.

Again: what’s not to love?

While we’re on this:

Split the District line

Though it’s less obvious, there are two different routes that make up the District line, too: one running along the south side of the Circle line through Victoria, Embankment and Tower Hill, and the other running up its west side through Kensington to Edgware Road.

It’s hard to see how this would ruin anyone’s day, exactly – departure boards on the only branch regularly served by both types of trains, the Wimbledon one, tend to be pretty clear about where their trains are ending up, and it’s much harder to miss a destination station than a “via”.

This is not one line either. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Nonetheless, this too presents an opportunity for London to add a tube line for literally nothing, and why would we not do that? We should definitely do that. London is a big city, the more lines the better. Call it the Wimbleware, make it a different shade of green – sorted.


Give London Overground specific line identities

Another reason I managed to keep that “how many lines are there on the tube are there” row going on for about seventeen and a half years is because of a surprisingly involved debate about whether the London Overground, DLR and so on count as tube lines. Which, to be clear, they obviously don’t.

But London Overground lines do count as London Overground lines – and there are, these days, rather a lot of them. When the network first opened, back in 2007, the Overground network consisted of three or possibly four lines (Euston-Watford, Barking-Gospel Oak, and the North and West London lines, which sort of come as a package). But then the East London line extension opened. And the network swallowed the Liverpool Street suburban lines through Hackney. And that little stub between Romford and Upminster. And at some point, if transport secretary Chris Grayling ever does the decent thing and fucks off, vast swathes of the south London rail network are likely to get thrown into the mix as well.

And so, as things stand, the London Overground serves 112 stations, which is nearly half as many as the 270 served by the London Overground – yet the official rail maps have maintained that there is one London Overground with one colour, orange.

 

This is really not one line. Image: Briantist/Sameboat/Wikimedia Commons.

This is stupid and goddammit it needs to change. Give them names! Give them numbers! Give them anything to make it clearer that you can’t get a direct train from Highbury & Islington to Wembley Central! Just, in the name of all that is holy, do something!

Acknowledge the existence of the interchange at Camden

Over the last few years, a number of previously secret connections between Underground and Overground have begun finding their way onto the maps. There are now interchanges visible in Hackney, Walthamstow, Forest Gate/Wanstead Park, Archway/Upper Holloway...

One, however, remains forbidden. Despite the fact that the two stations are separated by a walk that’ll take you about four minutes, and that walking from one to the other makes often getting from north London to east vastly easier, the maps still pretend that Camden Town and Camden Road are completely different places. Rather than, say, two stations 300m apart.

New phone, who dis? Image: Google Maps.

 

 

This is, one suspects, a traffic management thing: Camden Town gets more overcrowded than just about any station on the network outside zone one – so while CityMapper and the like may suggest you change between the two, TfL would rather not encourage you. From a network management point of view, keeping this one secret probably makes sense.

But dammit it irritates me and where’s that on TfL’s list of priorities, eh?


The station names

Holloway Road is an infuriating name for one of four (4) different stations on the Holloway Road. Ditto Caledonian Road, although this time it’s only three. Tottenham Court Road is worse, because it’s three again, but this time it’s right at one end and for most of Tottenham Court Road definitely not the station you want. 

I could bang on about this for hours – I have, more times than the mind can comfortably contain. I even once attempted to create an entire taxonomy of metro station names, though quickly felt disheartened and stopped in the hope nobody would actually notice.

So on this occasion I’m not going to do any of that. Instead, I’m going to boil my critique of London’s station-name conventions down to a single, punchy sentence.

Here it is:

City Thameslink is a bloody terrible name and for the love of good, London, change it.

Okay, I’m done.

Don’t have nightmares, now.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

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What does the fate of Detroit tell us about the future of Silicon Valley?

Detroit, 2008. Image: Getty.

There was a time when California’s Santa Clara Valley, bucolic home to orchards and vineyards, was known as “the valley of heart’s delight”. The same area was later dubbed “Silicon Valley,” shorthand for the high-tech combination of creativity, capital and California cool. However, a backlash is now well underway – even from the loyal gadget-reviewing press. Silicon Valley increasingly conjures something very different: exploitation, excess, and elitist detachment.

Today there are 23 active Superfund toxic waste cleanup sites in Santa Clara County, California. Its culture is equally unhealthy: Think of the Gamergate misogynist harassment campaigns, the entitled “tech bros” and rampant sexism and racism in Silicon Valley firms. These same companies demean the online public with privacy breaches and unauthorised sharing of users’ data. Thanks to the companies’ influences, it’s extremely expensive to live in the area. And transportation is so clogged that there are special buses bringing tech-sector workers to and from their jobs. Some critics even perceive threats to democracy itself.

In a word, Silicon Valley has become toxic.

Silicon Valley’s rise is well documented, but the backlash against its distinctive culture and unscrupulous corporations hints at an imminent twist in its fate. As historians of technology and industry, we find it helpful to step back from the breathless champions and critics of Silicon Valley and think about the long term. The rise and fall of another American economic powerhouse – Detroit – can help explain how regional reputations change over time.

The rise and fall of Detroit

The city of Detroit became a famous node of industrial capitalism thanks to the pioneers of the automotive age. Men such as Henry Ford, Horace and John Dodge, and William Durant cultivated Detroit’s image as a centre of technical novelty in the early 20th century.

The very name “Detroit” soon became a metonym for the industrial might of the American automotive industry and the source of American military power. General Motors president Charles E. Wilson’s remark that, “For years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa,” was an arrogant but accurate account of Detroit’s place at the heart of American prosperity and global leadership.

The public’s view changed after the 1950s. The auto industry’s leading firms slid into bloated bureaucratic rigidity and lost ground to foreign competitors. By the 1980s, Detroit was the image of blown-out, depopulated post-industrialism.

In retrospect – and perhaps as a cautionary tale for Silicon Valley – the moral decline of Detroit’s elite was evident long before its economic decline. Henry Ford became famous in the pre-war era for the cars and trucks that carried his name, but he was also an anti-Semite, proto-fascist and notorious enemy of organised labor. Detroit also was the source of defective and deadly products that Ralph Nader criticized in 1965 as “unsafe at any speed”. Residents of the region now bear the costs of its amoral industrial past, beset with high unemployment and poisonous drinking water.


A new chapter for Silicon Valley

If the story of Detroit can be simplified as industrial prowess and national prestige, followed by moral and economic decay, what does that say about Silicon Valley? The term “Silicon Valley” first appeared in print in the early 1970s and gained widespread use throughout the decade. It combined both place and activity. The Santa Clara Valley, a relatively small area south of the San Francisco Bay, home to San Jose and a few other small cities, was the base for a computing revolution based on silicon chips. Companies and workers flocked to the Bay Area, seeking a pleasant climate, beautiful surroundings and affordable land.

By the 1980s, venture capitalists and companies in the Valley had mastered the silicon arts and were getting filthy, stinking rich. This was when “Silicon Valley” became shorthand for an industrial cluster where universities, entrepreneurs and capital markets fuelled technology-based economic development. Journalists fawned over successful companies like Intel, Cisco and Google, and analysts filled shelves with books and reports about how other regions could become the “next Silicon Valley”.

Many concluded that its culture set it apart. Boosters and publications like Wired magazine celebrated the combination of the Bay Area hippie legacy with the libertarian individualism embodied by the late Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow. The libertarian myth masked some crucial elements of Silicon Valley’s success – especially public funds dispersed through the U.S. Defense Department and Stanford University.

The ConversationIn retrospect, perhaps that ever-expanding gap between Californian dreams and American realities led to the undoing of Silicon Valley. Its detachment from the lives and concerns of ordinary Americans can be seen today in the unhinged Twitter rants of automaker Elon Musk, the extreme politics of PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, and the fatuous dreams of immortality of Google’s vitamin-popping director of engineering, Ray Kurzweil. Silicon Valley’s moral decline has never been clearer, and it now struggles to survive the toxic mess it has created.

Andrew L. Russell, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences; Professor of History, SUNY Polytechnic Institute and Lee Vinsel, Assistant Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Virginia Tech.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.