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All Change!

September 17, 2009

When is a river not a river? When it’s on a London Underground map.

TFL have taken off the travel zones and the river in their latest redesigned map to ‘remove clutter.’ What Tomfoolery is this? Are they nuts? There are many things cluttering the map that are ripe for removal (the Ikea advertising being my first choice). The river is not one of them. It’s been a feature of the map since Harry Beck created this navigator for the city in 1933. There have been many revisions to the map, but the river has remained, until now. Have a look at Max Roberts’ Underground map landmarks page from his website tube.map.central.com. It’s interesting to see the progression and read his descriptions. His commentary about the design from 2001 onwards made me laugh out loud. This change to the map didn’t make me laugh though.

The river makes the North/South division clear to tourists and Londoners alike. It cements my superiority as someone who lives north of the border and it shows the stations near to the river if that’s where you want to be. The zones are important for knowing where you are with fares. Removing the zones will lead to confusion and probably an increase in fines as people go beyond their zones without realizing it. Or maybe that’s the plan. It’ll be another revenue stream for TFL, along with the annual well above inflation rise in fares. Of course we can look at a zoned map near the ticket offices and other places on the network to check the correct fare, as suggested by TFL, but we already have to navigate large groups of tourists who don’t know where they’re going, blocking the paths of Londoners who are trying to do such mundane things as, oh, I don’t know, get to work, that kind of thing. That can only increase and with it comes misery.

But wait! Here’s Boris to the rescue! He came back from New York, found out about the map change, went ballistic on Twitter and insisted on the river being reinstated. The river will be back on the map in December. We’ll have to wait and see about the zones but I hope they will be put back on in a less cluttered way, if that’s what TFL are worried about. It is a rare moment of common sense.

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