Tag: London

England, days 5 and 6

Day 5 (Saturday)

  • Saturday, May 6, 2023, was Coronation day, and a day for me to sleep in.
  • A friend of a friend of a friend hosted a coronation watch party, where for nearly three hours I watched the live BBC broadcast of establishing Prince Charles as the King of the United Kingdom – because that’s still a thing democratic countries do. The party had great drinks, coronation chicken and coronation quiche, and dessert, accompanied by hilarious commentary from those assembled, myself included.
  • Note: The word “coronation” dominates the city right now. It’s in the window at every shop, at every train station, on flags hanging outside small hotels, and even on decorative arches over pedestrian streets.
  • My old friend and a new friend left the party and went on a long walk in Soho, first to Bar Termini for negronis. We then hit up the Liberty department store, where one of the Kingsman movies was filmed, ate dinner at Paradiso Burgers in Kingly Court, and had a nightcap at The White Horse.
  • I also picked up deluxe millionaire’s shortbread at M&S (a department store with a grocery department); I bake them using this caramel slice recipe; a key difference is that the recipe, created by an Aussie, calls for coconut in the shortbread base, which I follow and I love compared to the UK version.

Day 6 (Sunday)

  • This morning I moved from the hotel I was staying at near Euston Station to my friend’s friends’ flat in Covent Garden, and then another friend joined us (to keep the story straight, we are the same group of three friends traveling around London today as on Friday and Saturday). We grabbed coffee and pastries at Arôme Bakery and headed over to London Bridge station via Charing Cross station.
  • London Bridge station is connected to The Shard, a skinny glass pyramid hotel and office building. It’s also next to Borough Market where we went to get delicious spicy jam from Pimento Hill.
  • After visiting Pimento Hill we had jamon iberico sandwiches from Brindisa Spanish Foods and oysters and rosé from Wright Brothers Oyster & Porter House.
  • From there we took some combinations of trains to Shoreditch High Street station on the Overground network. Read more about Overground in “Transportation” below.
  • I attended the weekly, 30-minutes-long organ recital at St. Paul’s Cathedral. The organist was Peter Wright (he has his own Wikipedia page), who played “Prelude and Fugue in B minor (BWV 544)” by J.S. Bach, “Joie et clarté des corps glorieux from Les corps glorieux” by Olivier Messiaen, and “Dankpsalm (Op. 145, No 2)” by Max Reger.
  • The three of us ate a mixed platter at Ilili, a Lebanese restaurant. (There are two locations of a restaurant of the same name in NYC and D.C., but it seems they’re unaffiliated.)
  • The night ended at Eagle, a discotheque next door to the restaurant. But on the way home from Eagle I noticed a seriously tall and wide gap between South Western Railway trains and the platforms at both the Vauxhall and Waterloo stations.


  • London Overground. The development story of this collection of new services is fascinating and provides some lessons for Chicago. Transport for London, or TfL, is a governmental authority under the control of the Greater London Authority, which has an elected mayor and council, the London Assembly. The first of six lines opened in 2007 and there are now 113 stations. Over 16 years TfL incrementally built a rapid transit network using existing active and disused main line railways. Chicago has many disused railways and many underused Metra lines; the idea there is to redesign a “regional rail” (RER, S-Bahn, etc.) network using existing and new lines – I wrote about this last year.
  • Southeastern, a private railway (one stop from Charing Cross station to London Bridge station (his National Rail service is inside the Oyster area so it counts and costs as much as an Underground trip in the same area)
  • South Western, a private railway (one stop from Vauxhall station to Waterloo station; see Oyster area explanation above)
  • Bus 8 (a route dictated by TfL and operated by Stagecoach London, a subsidiary of Stagecoach Group headquartered in Perth, Scotland)

Note about certain transit routes here

Many of them are run by contractors. Some bus routes are, kind of hilariously, operated by the national railway operators of Germany and the Netherlands. Arriva is owned by Deutsche Bahn (DB) and Abellio is owned by Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS). Some other bus routes are operated by RATP, the Greater Paris transit operator owned by the Government of France.

The Elizabeth Line is operated by a subsidiary of MTR, the transit operator and real estate developer majority owned by the Government of Hong Kong.

England, days 3 and 4

Day 3 (Thursday)

  • Day 3 (previously published in days 1-2): The train arrived at Euston Station at 6:30 AM, about 37 minutes earlier than the Caledonian Sleeper’s “tips and tricks” webpage indicated. This is also when the attendant brought everyone in my carriage their coffee and breakfast snack. 
  • Passengers must disembark by 7:30 AM, and that’s about when I did. I exited the station from the very long platform – Caledonian Sleeper says these are the longest passenger trains in the UK – and walked two blocks to my hotel for the next three nights in London.
  • Bags dropped off, I walked over to Warren Street Underground station to take a train or two to Westminster station. (I used my photographs of the fascinating design of that station to joke on Twitter that I had actually been in the never-opened Block 37 “superstation” in Chicago.)
  • I walked around Westminster Abbey, St. James’s Park, and Green Park, to observe the preparations for the coronation of Prince Charles III on Saturday (in two days). There were a lot of police officers, private security personnel, and tons of barricades all over the place. People were even camping along the Mall to save a spot from which to watch the procession of the Gold State Coach from the church to Buckingham Palace.
  • I saw a lot of people commuting to work by bicycle; compared to Chicago and New York City, more people in London seem to wear cycling kit in the morning.
  • Having enough of that, I walked around East London where a lot of the higher end shopping streets are – near Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square.
  • The time was nearing 10 AM so I headed over to the London Transport Museum to join the queue prior to my reserved entry time. (I’m not going to explain the contents of the museum, but it reviews the history of growth and development in London and the surrounding areas that were rural and became suburbs and then were absorbed into the city, as well as shows and explains the workings of many past and present transportation agencies in the Greater London Area.)
  • I had lunch with a friend from Batavia whom I hadn’t seen in ages at a Vietnamese restaurant in a viaduct underneath the Charing Cross station tracks.
  • After lunch I went back to the hotel and took a shower and nap.
  • For the evening, I walked over to a friend’s friends’ flat in Covent Garden and we had drinks on their courtyard balcony and ate takeout pizza from Pizza Pilgrims, a local chain.
  • I rode the tube home (it was about twice as fast as walking).

Day 4 (Friday)

  • Two Chicago friends and I had breakfast at Dishoom – I had the “Wrestler’s naan roll”, which had a sausage, egg, and bacon wrapped in naan.
  • We then hopped on the Elizabeth Line at Tottenham Court Road and rode it a few stops until my friend who is staying behind and I needed to change trains to go somewhere else while our friend continued heading to Heathrow.
  • That somewhere else was Canary Wharf station, which I believe was under construction when I was last in London in 2014. Now it’s a huge structure that looks kinda of like a tube with angularly sliced ends. On top is a restaurant, Big Easy, and an open air botanic garden.
  • Soon, I headed to meet someone at University College London and do a kind of walking tour around the Camden borough to see the new streetscape changes.
  • To get to UCL I changed trains at Baker Street, one of the world’s oldest subway stations – it opened in 1863. Chicago’s first ‘L’ station opened in 1892.
  • After the walking tour I headed over to the “City Centre”, an exhibit from New London Architecture where there are three 3D models of the city alongside posters about proposed and under construction “mega developments” in London. (This was also a good place to use the loo.)
  • My friend and I reunited outside St. Paul’s Cathedral and headed to a pub on Bow Lane to have a pint alongside the after work crowd.
  • While walking through the narrow streets from the pub to a subway station I took a fantastic photograph of the cathedral from several blocks away.
  • For dinner I joined a big group of friends for Punjabi food at Tayyabs in Whitechapel. We rode the Elizabeth line from Tottenham Court Road to get there. The line is important to describe because it opened in May 2022 and by November 2022 more people rode it than rode all eight lines of the CTA (counting ridership on a daily basis). The line is so useful to so many people because it offers faster crosstown trips; it has induced additional trips rather than cannibalize ridership on other subway lines.
  • We returned to the flat where we had pizza the night before to freshen up and head over to a bar that turned out to have blaring and poorly tuned speakers before going to the Hippodrome Casino to listen and sometimes sing along to musicals played live on piano.

Cities that have transit fare deals (capping) have fairer fares

“Fare capping” is a jargon term for a fare policy that any transit agency can implement to save their riders money, make fares fairer, and potentially increase ridership. Another term is “deal”, as these policies net riders a break in the fares.

Fare capping ensures that riders who pay for rides with a transit card* will never pay more than the cost of one or more daily and multi-day passes that the transit agency includes in its fare capping policy.

Example 1: Consider a tourist or infrequent visitor to the city. The tourist will use transit to get around and when they arrive at a ticket vending machine, they’re given the option to get a smart card and load with “e-purse” (cash to pay as they ride) or get a smart card and load it with a pass for one or more days. In Chicago, there are 1-day, 3-day, 7-day, and 30-day options, for $10, $20, $28, and $105.

Just like anyone else, the tourist doesn’t want to pay more than they have to so they try to estimate the number of trips they’ll take today to see if the number of rides will cost more than $10 (the price of a 1-day pass). That sounds like a complicated thought exercise and one with a high likelihood of being wrong at the end of the day!

In a fare capping system, the tourist won’t have to choose! They obtain the transit smart card, load it with $5 cash, and perhaps connect it to an app or connect it to an auto-load functionality. The tourist rides buses and the ‘L’ and as soon as they ride $10 worth in the service day, their transit smart card automatically starts granting them free rides – their transit card has just been granted a 1-day pass!

By eliminating the need to choose between fare products, the tourist is more comfortable riding transit as much as they need to today because they know that they’ll never be charged more than $10.

Example 2: Consider someone who doesn’t earn very much and uses transit to get to work two times a day, five days a week, 20 days a month. At $2.50 per ride, that works out to $100, which is less than the cost of a 30-day pass in Chicago (which is $105, and an oddity, but I won’t address that). This person also sometimes takes additional rides after work and on the weekend to run errands, so their monthly rides will end up costing more than $105, the price of a 30-day pass.

It would make the most financial sense for this worker to get a 30-day pass. But when you don’t earn much, it’s hard to come up with or part with $105 at one time.

In a fare capping system, the person doesn’t have to worry about putting up $105 at this very moment. They would be able to ride transit as much as they want to in a 30-day period knowing that they will pay $2.50 per ride each day, but never more than $105 in a 30-day period. They don’t need to have $105 right now to be able to save money in the long run.

A Miami-Dade Transit Agency poster indicate fare capping (without calling it fare capping, because that’s a wonky phrase).

Cities with fare capping

12 cities, last updated May 13, 2023

  1. London is first in the list because they were first with fare capping – It was pretty cool back in 2014 when my Anglophile friend told me to borrow his Oyster card and just tap away and ride transit all day, because I would never pay more than the cost of a 1-day pass (in May 2023 the cost is £8.10).
    • London also has weekly capping, but this doesn’t include the Underground or Overground (buses and trams only). The week also starts on Monday and ends on Sunday.
  2. Miami is the most recent place to have fare capping, which @erik_griswold spotted on a poster. Daily capping only.
  3. St. Louis now has a transit smart card, and has daily capping.
  4. Sydney’s Opal card offers daily capping, weekly capping, and Sunday deal.
    • On Sundays, people can ride on metro, train, bus, ferry and light rail services all day Sunday for the price of one ride, $2.80 AUD (about $1.89 as of August 22, 2019).
    • Another deal the Opal card offers users: Ride 8 times in a week, and all subsequent rides are 50% off.
  5. Indianapolis’s IndyGo transit agency has daily capping, and weekly capping.
  6. San Jose-based transit agency Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) has daily capping which they call “Day Pass Accumulator”.
  7. Oakland-East Bay’s AC Transit has daily capping, but they don’t use those words. The website says that a day pass is applied to the Clipper transit smart card when a third trip is taken in a day.
  8. Portland, Oregon: TriMet, C-TRAN, and Portland Streetcar seem to have the most flexible payment options for their fare capping policy: Riders with a Hop transit smart card get daily capping and monthly capping. People who pay with Google Pay and Apple Pay can also get daily and weekly capping; people who pay with Samsung Pay or a contactless credit card can get daily capping.
  9. Victoria (Australian state) has daily capping on metropolitan Melbourne routes and regional routes when using the myki card.
  10. Houston, Texas: METRO has daily capping that kicks in after “Q” fare card holder takes three trips.
  11. The Ride in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has daily, weekly, and monthly capping – this is the policy to beat.
  12. Lothian buses in Edinburgh, Scotland, has the “TapTapCap” fare capping scheme that’s £4.80 per day and £22 per week since August 2019.
  13. Los Angeles implemented daily and weekly fare capping on July 2, 2023.
  14. New York City’s MTA implemented a kind of weekly fare capping with the introduction of OMNY contactless payments in 2022: Spend $34 – 12 paid rides – in a 7-day period and subsequent rides in that 7-day period are free.
  15. San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) has “best fare” daily and monthly fare capping when people use a PRONTO plastic card or the PRONTO app.
  16. Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) has daily, weekly (Monday to Sunday), and monthly fare capping for users of the Umo app (which generates a QR code to be scanned by an on-board validator).
  17. The Allgobus system in Almere (Netherlands) has daily fare capping of €6.
  18. The STIB/MIVB transit authority in Brussels has daily fare capping of €7.50 (all trips after the fourth paid trip are free).

Similar fare benefit schemes

GO Transit in Toronto – a regional rail and bus network – offers a large discount to people who pay with PRESTO and repeat a trip 36 to 40 times a month, and it’s free for trips 41 and later. I think this is at first a bit confusing, but the chart below may clarify.

Chart showing the discounts for repeated rides on GO Transit.

How transit agencies advertise fare capping

St. Louis’s MyGatewayCard has daily capping.
bus stop sign in South Queensferry, Scotland, for Lothian buses
The Lothian company operates bus in and around Edinburgh, Scotland, and launched the TapTapCap in August 2019.

* Notes

A transit card is only necessary for transit systems that store the values and passes on a card. The Chicago Transit Authority and its vendor, Cubic, created Ventra, an account-based system that stores values and passes on an account in the cloud, and is expressed through the Ventra card, compatible smartphones, and compatible smartwatches. Fares to pay for rides Metra, a commuter rail company that participates in Ventra, can be purchased using the Ventra account’s stored value. Metra doesn’t accept taps from a Ventra card.

Departing under the best conditions

I was reading a brochure and timetable (yes, we still call them that) about the TGV Lyria high-speed train service from Paris to cities in Switzerland. Someone left it on a counter at work. It’s in French, and I can read about half of it.

The timetable asked that travelers board the train at least two minutes before the departure, “pour assurer les départs TGV Lyria dans les meilleures conditions” (to ensure the train departs in the best conditions).

Two minutes? You only have to find your train 2 minutes before departure time?

Short story: Back in 1998 (I was 14), my mom and I were traveling from Paris to London on the Eurostar (travels under the English Channel). We’re walking down the ramp to the platform and one of the conductors sees us coming. He yells or motions for us to hurry up. We start jogging down the ramp and jump into the nearest car door.

About 45 seconds later, the train leaves.

A Eurostar train at Gard du Nord. Photo by Marcel Marchon.

More about being on-time:

  • 87.8% of TGV Lyria trains were arrived on time in June 2010.
  • 76.% of flights from 24 reporting airlines arrived on time in the same month. (U.S. DOT)

Witness appeal

In London and Greater London (but not the City of London), when the Metropolitan Police want the public’s help in their investigations of incidents and crimes, including traffic collisions, they erect “Witness Appeal Signs” near the scene.

“We are appealing for witnesses.” Singapore also uses these signs.

It seems in 2009, though, the Metropolitan Police banned the use of the signs except for traffic collisions. Some research indicated that the public perceived that, due to the presence of the signs, crime in the neighborhood was increasing. The Daily Mail article quoted one officer to say:

“They were placed where the crimes actually happened, so were very much targeted at people who might have seen something. Now that source of information has been cut off…”

The signs are placed and designed in such a way to be seen by people walking, biking, and driving near the scene of the incident.

How effective is this small sign posted on a pole compared to a bright Witness Appeal Sign in London?

I suggest that American police departments, Chicago’s included, look into installing similar signs for the most severe traffic collisions, starting with a bilingual “witness appeal sign” for the hit & run crash in Pilsen that killed Martha Gonzalez.