London is amazing.
A city which optimizes energy use and ensures low healthcare costs and longevity just because of what it makes attractive and accessible has to be! At the centre of it all is a stupendous public transport system. Hopping on and off a bus or train is easier than manoeuvring a car around. So everyone from 0 to 90 years hops on and off. They are much the better for it – since this involves mind- work, planning one’s route ahead of time, physical exercise, walking here and there in between train and bus rides, and constant mingling. Folks here, get to constantly rub shoulders with each other in public spaces, and are therefore quite gregarious. Needless to say, all this fosters liveliness in this City and self-confidence and independence among its citizens! It enables folks in their 80s to get out and spend time browsing in the City’s wonderful libraries and museums. The result – an informed, educated and healthy public, cleaner air, a less burdened healthcare system and a more equitable society.
Two days here and with all the exercise hopping on and off, I am eating less and reaching for fruit. How great if you can get your public to snack on fruit as I see Londoners do. Come to think of it, eating in public spaces may be regarded as rude behaviour in the English book of Manners, except in those trains where tables are provided for dining purposes. On the train from Victoria to Bromley, part of Britain’s National Rail, I saw folks eat their take-ways at those tables in a very civilised manner.
I also learnt what customer service should be about from the London Underground ( aka Transport for London (TFL) ) staff today. They always warn you to “mind the gap” when hopping on or off a train. Yesterday, in my haste to catch a train I did a shoddy job and lost a sandal to the gap. I was already on the train and proceeded to Victoria where I splurged on a pair of shoes to avoid walking barefoot. Reaching home I said why not go back and ask someone to retrieve it? It seemed like a ridiculous idea. But not to the Station Supervisor who came down to the platform with me, helped me locate the shoe and promised to have the night Supervisor retrieve it, given the rush hour traffic. The sandal was intact when I picked it up today and I happily walked all over town wearing the pair. Such instant action, friendly responses and a willingness to help! The TFL staff are everywhere, all smiles, willingly helping strangers find their way.
In London, smart business benefits from transit, given they partner with TFL for tons of cross promotional activities and for tourism!
After all, a city with affordable transit is welcoming to the itinerant traveller under all-weather conditions, no? 150 years of the tube makes them a century ahead of the rest of the world.
Lets get with the program Toronto!