Mind the gap, experience London transit

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    I received my first standing ovation this week.Running late for work, I bounded into the South Kensington tube station like I was on a mission. I shoved my way through the turnstiles and scaled down two escalators and a flight of stairs.

    The train doors were still open when I reached the platform, and I decided to make a run for it. Gathering speed as I sprinted down the hallway, I made a flying leap from the platform, through the open door and onto the subway car.

    I don’t think this is the precise definition of “minding the gap.” Everyone in the car turned to smile, and several broke into applause upon my triumphant boarding.

    For me, taking public transportation is a lesson in patience. I’ve been lucky enough to have a car of my own since I got my learner’s permit at 15. I’m used to having complete control over getting from point A to point B. In London, however, this isn’t so.

    The hassles started when my plane first touched down at Gatwick Airport. My traveling companion (another TCU student) and I were sleepy, jet-lagged and a little hung over from the wine we drank on the plane. I was toting around three suitcases and two shoulder bags – which, combined, weighed more than I did. There was no way we were going to master public transportation in this state, so we called a cab.

    The fare from the airport to our dorm came to œ77. With tip, that equated to around $75 each. This blew my taxi budget for the semester, leaving me to figure out London’s public transport system. This is what I’ve learned:

    The Tube could not possibly be easier. There are maps every five feet in every station and on every train. The lines are color-coordinated, for God’s sake.

    However, the best way to actually see London is definitely by bus. The No. 11 bus is referred to as the “tourist bus” and runs by many of the big attractions – the London Eye, Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and others. Sit on the top of a double-decker bus and let the driver chauffeur you around as you take in the scenery.

    It’s also a good idea to let the bus driver be your designated driver after nights out. Busses from Piccadilly Circus and other hot spots are typically filled with other merrymakers – to the extent that we’ve named the No. 19 night bus “the drunk bus.”

    The Transport for London Web site is an absolute lifesaver. It works a lot like MapQuest – you type in your starting point and your destination, and the site magically calculates your quickest route. For instance, to get from my dorm to work, it tells me to take the No. 49 bus to the Tube station, board the Piccadilly Line, then switch to the Northern Line. It also tells you what times the buses run and whether there are delays reported on your route.

    The only downside of the Transport for London Web site: Your boss can check on your daily claims that you’re late because of delays on the Tube.

    Lacey Krause is a senior news-editorial journalism major from Emporia, Kan. She desperately misses her little black Cavalier.

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