He spent some time discussing the Real Time Sub Group at TfL which carries out research on London Underground announcements & what words aren't allowed. He joked that 'late' and 'delays' weren't permitted, but in reality you'll never hear the words, 'suicide' or 'bomb'. He felt that announcements were overly formal and actually said more than needed to be said. Have a listen when you're next on the Tube, to see if you think he's right. Do we really need so many – 'ladies and gentlemens' and ‘in operations’?
Iain Huston from passenger space modelling, followed with an insightful talk on how the London Underground use computerised models to help our journeys. Although you might not think it, Tfl do value our time. In fact they've even measured how various travellers value time. I imagined that Tube commuters thought their time was most valuable. But they only value their time at £8 an hour, whereas a taxi passenger values theirs at a massive £31 an hour.
Good levels of service are also measured by how much space a person has to themselves. Your journey is actually perceived as better or faster, if there is less congestion, even if in reality it takes longer to complete.
London Underground study people's movement through Tube stations and can work out how to slow things down if certain stations get overly congested. Placement of ticket gates can make a big difference to passenger flow. The images below show how the ticket hall layouts at Euston were improved to stop congestion.
Passenger flow before the new layout - green dots are people entering
And the flow afterwards, with less congestion.
We learnt that unreasonable behaviour is also taken into account. Tourists going the wrong way, people finding short cuts are all put into the models to work out the best flow. Some stations are lucky as they have more 'trained commuters'. The ticket gates at Bank at the Waterloo & City line are used by 'model commuters' who are amongst the fastest travellers on the system, have their Oyster cards ready in advance, know where the best exits are & walk quickly.
The final part of the talk featured artist Dryden Goodwin whose line drawings of 60 Jubilee Line staff you've probably seen on the network.
However, the website has an animated film of Dryden sketching the staff while they chat about their time on the Tube, hobbies, family, music or anything that enters their head at the time. Dryden said 'it was important that something was held back, so you never get to see the real individual being drawn. It's like our attitude to staff on the Tube. They're like furniture. You don't see staff unless you really want or need to'.
Check out the stories when you have some spare time. I particularly liked Tracey, who described her experience of holding the hand of a man who'd had a heart attack 'I wanted his family to know that there was someone looking after him. That he didn't just die alone on a crowded platform'. Alone in the crowd. Nice juxtaposition that kind of reflects a lot of people's attitudes of Tube travel.
The second part of the series is on Tuesday 8th June at 6.30pm. I've no idea who's speaking but hopefully it will be as varied and surprising as this one.