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The Battle of The Trains: London Versus New York

The Battle of The Trains: London Versus New York

Comparing London’s transportation system to New York’s transportation system, focusing just on the trains within each system.

This paper is to discuss the differences between the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority (M.T.A.) subway system and London’s Underground tube rail system. These railroads are lifelines within each of their respective cities. They affect the people within each society in many different ways. What are the physical, environmental, and socioeconomic effects on either city? Though London and New York are both advancing their systems, one is taking bigger steps than the other. The London system is older; it opened in January of 1863. It currently has 270 stations and 249 miles of tracks. The New York City system opened in October of 1904. It has 468 stations, 423 if stations connected by transfers count as a single station, and 656 miles of track. Both are trying to modify their respective systems. You would think it’d be easier to modify a newer system than an older system because the change isn’t that dramatic of a change but London is striving in advancements throughout their transportation system. London is looking into incorporating new technology like the Large Hadron Collider (L.H.C.) into their system. New York is trying to go into trains without drivers. The problem isn’t necessarily the city but the people within it. Somebody is going to be scared and act ridiculous because no one is driving the train. People don’t realize that these things already exist in New York City, like on the AirTrain and on the L line. Also, a question that comes into play is, will it be safe? Will it work within our city? Within New York City, do we need our conductors or do we just need the illusion of security they provide? Will we be able to advance as far or farther than London if we keep our minds closed off to the possibilities that each tomorrow offers us? Keep this thought in mind as you read about the problems and advancements within the London and New York City transportation systems.

London is planning on advancing their system by incorporating the new technology of the Large Hadron Collider (L.H.C.) into their systems Circle Line. The L.H.C. is the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator. (Refer to the Youtube video listed on works cited page to see this technology in action). Since there have been so many advancements in technology it is now possible for miniaturization of the L.H.C. This miniature L.H.C. will allow for the circle line to become the “first air-conditioned underground line as a spin-off of installing super cooled magnets below ground” by 2020 (Connor). For this technology to be incorporated into the circle line would mean that “two beams of protons would be travelling in clockwise and counter clockwise directions at 99.999999 per cent of the speed of light, within feet of Circle line passengers stuck in perpetual immobility” (Connor). To be able to use this kind of technology in a train system would be a major breakthrough in both the scientific and the transportation world.

New York is trying to update its train systems as well. The newer subway train cars R-160 (R = “rolling stock”), R-160A, and R-143 are all newer cars in the B division of subway cars. They are made by different vendors and with different software so they cannot communicate with each other (Erazo). These technical issues will not be addressed due to cost. If they did have the ability to communicate with each other it would allow for operational flexibility, meaning that they can mix and match equipment. Since the trains cannot communicate with each other that cannot happen, so they cannot swap out cars easily if one is broken. The idea in making the newer train cars was to have a uniform fleet but it is more like a fleet of different uniforms.

In New York City, the R-68 and R-68A are the last of the fully D/C powered equipment. The newer cars, such as the R-142/142A/143/160/160A, use A/C traction motors. That means that they run on D/C power but use D/C to A/C inverters which convert the D/C power to A/C power. They are more energy efficient and incorporate regenerative braking systems (Erazo). Regenerative braking means that as the train slows down it puts electricity back into the third rail or the battery/auxiliary power unit (A.P.U.). This is kind of like a recycling of energy. The A.P.U. is used to power the doors, lights, and intercom in case of a power failure so you can still get out of the train, have lights, and train announcements.

There are many problems within the transportation systems. Pollution is a major problem, both noise levels or noise pollution and poor air quality. Other problems include cleanliness of stations, cost of fares, and security within the transportation systems. These problems in regards to the London and New York transportation systems will be addressed in the following paragraphs.

Noise pollution levels are apparent within either the London or the New York train system but what are the effects of these noise levels on the people, the riders? In the article “Noise Levels Associated with New York City’s Mass Transit Systems” it is learned that exposure to excessive noise can be linked to diseases of the heart, such as hypertension and ischemic heart disease, disruptions in stress hormones, and sleep disorders, as well as affecting your hearing (Neitzel et al.). The Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) and World Health Organization (W.H.O.) “recommended daily allowable exposure times are 24 hours at 70 [decibels], 8 hours at 75 [decibels], 2.7 hours at 80 [decibels], 0.9 hours at 85 [decibels], and 0.3 hours at 90 [decibels].” (Neitzel et al.). Noise Induced Hearing Loss (N.I.H.L.) is what the researchers are referring to. This study is telling us that as little as 54 minutes a day, at 85 decibels, can lead you to permanently lose some of your hearing.

The next bit of evidence, from the same article as aforementioned, tells us of the specifics of the New York City subway system. It seems that in New York “[all of the subways exceeded 70 decibels but] 20% [exceeded] 85 decibels. Two subway lines (7%) had [average] vehicle [noise] levels greater than 85 [decibels] and 7 subway lines (23%) had [average] platform [noise] levels greater than 85 [decibels]”. (Neitzel). That means that by traveling within New York City you have a significant chance of losing part of your hearing just from riding the train. What is London like? Do they have the same problem of noise induced hearing loss?

London has the same problem of high noise levels as New York within their respective transit system. In the article “The Deafening Tube” we learn that in London some of the highest noise levels were found at 102.1 [decibels] on a subway platform meaning that “as little as two minutes of exposure per day would be expected to cause hearing loss in some people with frequent ridership”. This noise level is not prevalent within all the stations but the actual percentage was not included in the article. When comparing that to New York’s noise pollution level, London’s sounds a lot worse but I’m not sure if it actually is, as the New York article said exceeded 85 decibels but the London article states the actual decibel amount. What is New York hiding? What are the actual decibel amounts? Whether in either city, London or New York, you have a chance of losing partial hearing from riding the subway.

Air pollution is also a problem that is prevalent in the London Underground (L.U.) but it seems to be getting better. The air quality within the London subway system is not very good but it’s getting better. In 2002 in the article “Tube Pollution Warning” Ben Sheppard states that, “commuters [on the London tube are] breathing air 73 times worse than at street level” and that “20 minutes on the Northern Line was the equivalent of one cigarette”. That sounds horrendous and must have called someone to action because just two years later, in 2004, another article about the air pollution on the tube was published. In this article “Tube Dust May Harm the Lungs of Children” Mark Prigg states that the “level of dust on the tube [is] up to 15 times above that of street level”. This still sounds pretty bad but it is definitely a lot better than the air quality level of just two years earlier. The problem was recognized and is slowly being rectified. Prigg also states that “London’s air pollution has caused about 1,600 premature deaths and leads to another 1,500 hospital admissions every year”. This level of air pollution plus the noise pollution in this one city is staggering.

The next problem is the actual cleanliness of the stations. In the article “$100M to Shine Subways.. And That’s Just the Stations!” we learn that for New York to attain “and maintain up to an acceptable level of cleanliness across the entire system” they would need to hire 1,575 more cleaners and spend “$230,000 per hub” which would bring the grand total of cleaning the stations to, drum roll please, about $100 million dollars. It seems like a ridiculous amount of money to spend on cleaning alone but if you do the math it only works out to be about $585 per station per day (using the average of 365 days in a year). London does not have this problem of trying to attain cleanliness because the London trains stop running for about five hours every night. During this time the trains get maintained and the stations get cleaned. By doing this they do not have their workers pretending to clean around people on the train like is done at the last stops on New York City train lines. London’s level of cleanliness is attained and nighttime commuters just take night buses as an alternate mode of transportation.

The cost of train fares in New York is getting higher and higher. Yet even though fares continue to jump by 7.5%, the New York City M.T.A. is still “America’s 5th biggest debtor” Fare increases of 7.5% happened in 2011 and will happen at 7.5% again in 2013. In the article, “A Fare Deal”, Neysa Pranger of the Regional Plan Association states that “every dollar invested in maintaining the transit system returns $4 in economic benefits” for New York City and its region. The problem with this statement is that if the fare keeps increasing, how long will it be before the fare will outweigh the economic benefits? Is New York putting that much into maintaining their transit system that the 1 to 4 ratio will last? In an article entitled “Paying More Than Fare Share” it is said that New Yorkers pay the biggest percentage of transit operating services with bus riders paying 40% and subway riders paying a whopping 72% of the expense. One of the factors that may be leading to increased fares is fare-beating. People that jump over the turnstile or enter through the emergency exit gates are called fare-beaters. You may overlook it and many others do as well, but this phenomenon happens 19 million times a year. To give you an idea of the cost, fare-beating made the N.Y.C. Transit system lose out on approximately $27 million (based on an average subway fare of $1.48), just in 2010. These figures come from the article “Cheaters Cost M.T.A. Millions: Fare-beaters Underestimated for Years”. You may think that you are not going to rat out the person who has jumped the fare but if people don’t start speaking up then they will pay for it in their fares. It’s better to use your voice now than to be forced to spend more of your cash later.

Security within the transportation systems is very important. London is addressing this concern for security with their camera surveillance system. New York is trying to address the concern for security by adding a camera surveillance system and by having police officers patrolling the train cars at certain times throughout the day and do random searches of peoples bags. In an article by Pete Donohue, he reveals to us that the cost of each New York City subway system camera is $23,000 and yet only 46% of the 4,100 are wired to working recording devices, as of May 2010 when the article was written. New York is trying to be like London, but non-working cameras aren’t going to cut it. London has 12,000 cameras in their subway system and they work. The London cameras “[helped] authorities to identify the terrorists who bombed the tube in 2005”. (Donahue). How can the New York cameras help to provide security if they cannot see anything with them? Is New York after actual security or just the illusion of it?

Both the New York and London transit systems have their good points and their bad points and are trying to advance their respective systems. The problems within each system still need to be addressed to make each system improve so it can become the best form of transport for its commuters, its citizens. In the article “Going Down the Tube” it is written that, “Governments, unlike the private sector, can calculate how higher subsidies, which boost rail travel, can be recouped from reduced road congestion, fewer accidents and less pollution. Also, governments don’t have to earn fat dividends for shareholders and can borrow at lower rates of interest”. By the city governments using the powers that they have, they can make rail travel more affordable. If rail travel is affordable then more people will use it and it will keep vehicles off the streets causing fewer accidents and less pollution to occur within the city.


Works Cited  (Annotated)

“A Fare Deal; New York Transport.” The Economist 9 May 2009 U.S. Edition: United States. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.
>> This article tells about the debt the M.T.A. is in and talks about future fare increases.

Connor, Steve. “Hadron Collider II Planned for Circle Line.” The Independent (London) 1 Apr. 2010 First Edition: News p. 16. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.
>> This article describes how London is trying to plan a way to use the Hadron Collider (particle accelerator) technology to speed up their system and use it to cool the trains as well.

Donohue, Pete. “$100M to Shine Subways… And That’s Just the Stations!” Daily News (New York) 30 Sept. 2008. Sports Final Edition: News, p. 12. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.
>> This article tells how much money and workers are needed to keep the N.Y.C. subway system clean.

Donohue, Pete. “Subway’s Blind Spot – Camera System is Years Late, Over Budget, Doesn’t Record.” Daily News (New York) 16 May 2010 Sports Final Edition: News, p. 5. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.
>> This article compares the MTA’s surveillance systems cost and their effectiveness (since most don’t work) to London’s surveillance systems which helped to identify terrorists within London.

Donohue, Pete, Glenn Blain, Adam Lisberg, and Ben Lesser. “Paying More Than Fare Share.” Daily News (New York) 23 July 2008 Sports Final Edition: News, p. 7. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.
>> This article tells the operating expenses paid by N.Y.C. subway riders.

Donohue, Pete, and Stephanie Gaskell. “Cheaters Cost MTA Millions Fare-Beaters Underestimated For Years.” Daily News (New York) 16 Mar. 2010 Sports Final Edition: News, p. 5. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.
>> This article shows the money lost by the M.T.A. from fare-beaters.

Erazo, George. Telephone Interview. 14 Jan. 2011.
>> This interview is with someone who used to volunteer with Railway Preservation at the Coney Island yard. He knows and reads a lot about the N.Y.C. transit system. I used his knowledge about the actual train cars and current operating systems.

“Going Down the Tube; A Privatised System Won’t Work Even for Labour.” The Guardian (London) 17 June 1997: p. 14. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.
>> This article has a quote about how the government is better than private companies in running the train system in London.

Neitzel, Richard, Robyn R.M. Gershon, Marina Zeltser, Allison Canton, and Muhammad Akram. “Noise Levels Associated with New York City’s Mass Transit Systems.” American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 99(8), Aug. 1, 2009. P. 1393-1399. PsycINFO. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.
>> The study cited in this article describes how the high frequency decibels can impact a person’s hearing leading to hearing loss in the subway riders in NYC.

Prigg, Mark. “Tube Dust May Harm the Lungs of Children.” The Evening Standard (London). 20 Sept. 2004: A-8. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.
>> This article is to describe London’s pollution (dust level) on the tube.

Sheppard, Ben. “Tube Pollution Warning.” The Express (London) 24 Aug. 2002: p. 2. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.
>> This article is to reference the difference in London’s pollution (dust level) over the course of two years by comparing it to the Prigg article.

“The Deafening Tube.” Noise & Vibration Worldwide; July 2009, Vol. 40.7, p. 20-21. Academic Search Complete. Web.11 Jan. 2011.
>> The study cited in this article describes how hearing loss can be caused from noise levels in London’s tube transportation system.

“The L.H.C. – The Large Hadron Collider.” 9 Sept. 2008. Youtube. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.

>> This is to show the technology as a supplemental visual aid for the reader.

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