Public Transport at the Olympics is Smooth Running--So Far

public transportBonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

Before the Olympic Games started there was anticipatory hysteria over whether the aging subway system could handle all the tourists to the Olympic site as well as commuters to work. Employees were urged to let staff work from home, stagger hours and and plan their journey like a military exercise.

As a result, the streets of central London are empty. Businesses in downtown London are crying from lack of customers and the city is being compared to Paris in August (a traditionally empty time).

So far the transport system has performed magnificently, albeit with a few glitches.

public transportBonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

A free pass for all types of transit is included with Olympic tickets. The gates are left open in many venues after the events so crowds flow right through.

public transportBonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

Waiting time for the subway is not bad. Half an hour one time and one minute another time. Crowds are orderly, of course, and the Tube staff usher people to empty cars quickly and efficiently and most importantly, with good humour on everyone's part.

According to the BBC, the Tube carried the most passengers ever this past Friday: 4.4M. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: "Sporting records are being smashed on a daily basis in London, and our world-famous Tube is breaking a few records of its own."

public transportBonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

Stratford, the main Olympic venue, is very well-connected with Tubes, Overground trains and Light Rapid Transit lines linking to many parts of London and the South-east.

public transportBonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

The jewel in the (transport) crown is the Javelin: a high speed train which runs between a downtown train station (St. Pancras) and Olympic Park. Eight air conditioned trains an hour, taking only seven minutes, it's the newest and shiniest way to get there.

And it is an under-used gem: hardly any line-ups, spotlessly clean, and incredibly fast.

public transportBonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

The much reviled Olympic VIP lanes are mainly empty. Cyclists in central London are having a field day using them as their own private roads. As one said: "Loving the #GamesLanes. Like having your own personal cycle lane. Can we keep them?” No, they can't: many have been opened to the public again, due to lack of use.

Not so in the busy east end of London, where the games are located. There traffic is busy and chaotic. So much so that a cyclist was killed by a media van near the site.

a rideBonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

The new cable car is a big hit, with 26,000 people taking it one weekend day. It stopped working once due to heat but otherwise is a quick and fabulous way to cross the River Thames in the east end. If you have a pre-paid transit pass you walk right on, otherwise there can be 20 minute queues to pay for a cheaply priced ($5) ticket.

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