August 30, 2004
London Transport

When I was 18, I went off on a brief trip to Europe with a friend of mine. Our plan was to backpack and hostel our way through for 5 weeks or so, a trip that eventually took me through the UK, France, Germany, Brussels and the Netherlands.

It was a break away between High School and College, a little seasoning that improved my shaky self-reliance into a (barely) manageable level for my move away from home.

Along the way, I fell in with a different person in each town of my now solo travels - my travelling companion having decided, 4 days into the trip, that canoeing in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota was a better way to spend his summer. Hostels were - and I assume are - friendly environments to meet new people, temporary friendships that only last a day or two, unless you meet in the next city down the road.

In Amsterdam I fell in with two guys who were a bit older than me - mid 20s. Affable to a fault, we wandered through the city for a day or two - I remember a couple bars, some excellent Indonesian food, and (out of character for me) a tour of the Heineken brewery there.

Meeting people briefly, you take away quick impressions, snatches of humor, the cast of an eyebrow, an aside.

One of the guys, a Londoner, was a conductor for one of the double-decker buses. At the time, Thatcher was in, of course, and cutting her swath through the working classes. Or, as my more clued in counterpart (a Scotsman, at least in my memory) put it "so, you're the end of an era, eh?"

That's stuck with me for years, as I've ridden busses in London with only the driver present, and seen my local Chicago Transit Authority do away with the train conductors and platform attendants in the few years since I've lived here. The era keeps ending, eroding, bit by bit.

So I was both unsurprised and a bit taken aback, to read that the London Transport is still doing away with the classic buses and their two person crews. This piece from the Graunaid captures some of the story nicely - a largely immigrant population, jobs in limbo. But at the hands of Ken Livingston no less.

Removing the few human touches, in our travels and in our daily life, is difficult to quantify. Certainly more difficult to calculate than a redundancy check or the money saved in a articulated bus. But as Barbie said... "Math is hard"

Tom of has a nice man on the bus view of some of the simplification as it phased in last year....

Posted by esinclai at August 30, 2004 09:38 PM |