I’ve travelled on quite a few underground trains over the years. Firstly, and most frequently in London, with its 1930’s Art Deco feel in the suburbs, gradually being replaced by the jam-packed chaos of anything within the Circle Line. Then there was Tokyo at rush hour, where it was packed. I felt like a red (sunburnt) ant, in a colony of black ants, but the system runs with split-second efficiency. The New York subway, a dangerous place in the movies, has now been cleaned up, but I’m sorry to hear that the one day “Fun Pass” has now been discontinued by MTA.
So many designs for so many cultures, and so many different lines, colours, and even ticketing arrangements. However they all have one thing in common, no-one speaks on them! Maybe its the claustophobic element, you are shut in and underground. My ex-wife hated the London Underground so much I learned London from above ground as well as I learned it from below, years earlier at university. Above ground, the world has more space, and so people have their personal space, and so can engage with each other on their own terms.
There is one exception to this unspoken rule, and that is the Stockholm underground. Here, real effort has been made to give people something to look at, and by osmosis something to talk about. These photos were taken at two adjacent stations, Solna Centrum, and Västra Skogen, and they’re not untypical of any other station on the SL network that’s underground. By the way, if you’re wondering whether the engagement is due to the tunnels being shallow, think again, the escalator at Västra Skogen is the longest in Western Europe!
So what would it take to get people to talk? I’m not convinced sculpture on the tube would make much difference, after all the excellent Poetry on the Tube has being going for years, with the vast majority ignoring its couplets and meter. Perhaps its just the rules of engagement that need altering, starting from tomorrow. The trouble is I drive to work!