London and Dublin: open to ideas

Just as literature graduate students never admit that there are books they haven't read, we urbanist pundits aren't supposed to admit that there are cities we've never been to.  In fact, we're so up to date in our lived experience that there are no great cities we've never been to recently.

Tip: We're all faking it, mostly with Google Earth.

So, to keep up my outsiderish reputation, I'd like to announce that I haven't been to London for 19 years, and I've never been to Dublin at all.  Fortunately, that's changing this month.  I'll be in London March 14-16 and Dublin for a week following that.

What does a transit consultant with North American and Australasian experience do with just a couple of days in London, or with a full week in Dublin?  With whom should he meet?  What experiences must he have?  I have my own ideas, but I love the fact that so many of you know these cities better than I do.  Have at it in the comments!

15 Responses to London and Dublin: open to ideas

  1. Neil March 2, 2015 at 11:21 am #

    Probably not great for planning (particularly in comparison to normal jurisdictions where rail rarely makes sense) but just for shear megaproject jaw-dropping, I’d probably try to get a tour of some part of the Crossrail project. Maybe at Canary Warf?
    It’s been more than 10 years since I was in Dublin, and at least then, their transit situation was really quite similar to North America. Bus service existed, but was low quality, and the city mostly seemed to expect everyone to travel by car. The Luas opened shortly after my visit, but any extent to which the City is more transit-friendly now than the North American experience you’re familiar with, it’s a recent development.

  2. Jim March 2, 2015 at 11:39 am #

    Ah, my two home towns. For Dublin I suggest:
    – Cycle a Dublin hire bike along the Grand Canal bike path
    – Ride the Luas tram, e.g. from Connolly station east to the docks or west to the national museum.
    – Take the DART commuter train south to Bray or north to Howth. Both are very scenic but the Bray route has some spectacular scenery. See this recent NYT article
    – Experience the Dublin Bus ticketing system and tell us all what you think (I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you what Dubliners think)
    – While you’re at it, maybe get Dublin Bus to improve their network and maps – see
    – For ordinary tourist stuff go the Chester Beatty Library, Trinity College, Guinness store house.
    In London:
    – Take the London overground on its lovely elevated section between Dalston and Whitechapel.
    – Similarly, the Docklands Light Rail has some great views, particularly on the City Airport to Bank branch.
    – See some spectacular Jubilee Line stations like Westminster, Southwark, Canary Wharf.
    – See St Pancras station, and while you’re at it pop over to Paris on the Eurostar 🙂

  3. Peter March 2, 2015 at 11:47 am #

    Jarrett – I also found the official Dublin bus website wasn’t helpful due to a lack of metropolitan wide network maps.
    Don’t despair though as someone’s made a frequent network map
    I got onto this through this page which gives some hints on accommodation search (for students)
    Detailed information about ‘quality bus corridors’ is available but I’m not sure how they correlate with the frequent network.

  4. Zoltána Dosztál-Connell March 2, 2015 at 12:57 pm #

    I’d say I’d take you into the huge caverns being constructed under Central London for Crossrail, but my level of authority at Transport for London is far, far below that required to do such things on a whim. A girl can dream.

  5. Duncan Watry March 2, 2015 at 4:33 pm #

    I too recently started spending time in London after a gap of about 25 years. The things that seem most noteworthy to me that have developed in that time are:
    – The whole Overground network, which largely did not exist the last time you were in London, except for a few disconnected segments (but they weren’t branded as Overground then). Now it’s carrying 1/2 million people a day. Shows what some very targeted pieces of infrastructure can do, along with ramping up frequencies.
    – Docklands Light Rail – the whole network.
    – Frequencies and loads on the deep tube lines. Jubilee line is at 30TPH, and Victoria is at 34TPH, and everything is packed.
    – For what I think is an unfortunate step backward, if I’m remembering correctly – central Oxford Street used to be bus and taxi only. Now it has general traffic on it, but still has intense bus traffic. So nothing moves very well.
    Don’t forget to get an Oyster Card!

  6. Paul Barter March 2, 2015 at 11:07 pm #

    In 2012, Aris Venetikidis gave a TED talk about his efforts to redesign Dublin’s transit. It sounds very much like a push for a simpler and more connective network ala Jarrett Walker.
    More information is here:
    Sadly I have not been to Dublin either.

  7. Richard Gadsden March 2, 2015 at 11:20 pm #

    My answer would be simple: read London Reconnections.

  8. Jim March 3, 2015 at 9:08 am #

    I grew up in London and went back in the 90s and 00s. I think you will first notice the cultural transformation. London has become a lot more multi-cultural not only from Asia (Far East and Indian and Pakistan) but Eastern Europeans and all parts. There is also this large alienated underclass I never experience growing up (as an underclass) in the East End. You can spot them with their ubiquitous hoodies. They’ve embraced American hip hop like it was still the 90s and many are a bit thuggish and criminal (just like our youth in the 90s). At the same time, their older white youth have embraced hipsterism. I would strongly suggest a visit to the East End which I hear is becoming like our Brooklyn. The West End never changes, just more wealth and pretty trees. The entire city is becoming too expensive. I might also suggest a trip out to the suburbs where American style malls and box stores have opened up which were never there when I was a kid. Maybe jump on a bicycle around Central London to see how much more bicycle friendly (or not) it has become.

  9. Low Headways March 3, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

    Seconded on London Reconnections.
    Not at all transit-related, but I’m a huge fan of the Imperial War Museum. And just nearby is a really cool view of a trainyard, barely obscured by a wall.

  10. Chris H March 5, 2015 at 7:31 am #

    If you have a contactless credit or debit card, you can use it directly on London transport; you no longer need an Oyster card. It will automatically cap your travel cost at the right level and should only give you one transaction per day (if you have foreign exchange fees).

  11. Pete B March 6, 2015 at 10:35 am #

    Jarrett – I would recommend trying the new walk-through ‘S Stock’ trains on the sub-surface lines (Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan). The Metropolitan Line north of Baker St is interesting. It comes to the surface at Finchley Road and joins a multi-track formation with the Jubilee Line and Network Rail. The Jubilee provides local service to the five stations from Finchley Rd to Wembley Park with the Metropolitan running fast. This is where you have parallel running of tube stock and sub-surface stock and can see the contrast in size. At Wembley Park the Jubilee branches off and the Metropolitan spits into fast and slow lines onwards to Harrow-on-the-Hill.
    Another location to observe parallel running of tube and sub-surface stock is on the District and Piccadilly Lines between Barons Court and Acton Town.
    To experience the oldest trains on London Underground travel on the Bakerloo Line which uses 1972 Mk2 stock refurbished in the late 1980s.
    As for buses try the new Routemaster hybrid double deckers with their three doors and twin staircases.

  12. Clinton March 9, 2015 at 3:13 am #

    For Dublin you can help us with the on-going study of how to connect Dublin airport/norther suburbs with the city centre and a separate city wide analysis. Our National Transport Authority has just closed two public consultations on tow important studyies :
    A fresh pair of critical eyes on these two studies on the transport planning aspects would be welcome.
    The Dublin bus network is also a creation that in some instances needs a radical overhaul. However we do not do radical here so some on the ground observations and strong nudging would be helpful.
    In addition you can get up to speed on the next light rail project which is connecting the two existing ( and unconnected light rail lines).
    I can show you around the city for a day or two. But please be aware that 17th March is St. Patrick’s Day and a National holiday.

  13. Steven McAtee March 15, 2015 at 10:15 am #

    These comments are a great help. I’m heading to Dublin from Portland, Oregon in just a couple days and am so glad I found this!

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