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A Plumber’s Guide: Great Architecture Needs Great Infrastructure, Part 3

March 14, 2009 - 1 Comment

The London Underground. The Tube. The first subway system. This system showcases the value of multi-nodal designs and symmetric traffic capabilities in creating a high-value system. The more nodes connected to a network, the more valuable the network is – gestalt. This is the reason the Internet is the valuable communications medium that it is today – the most valuable communications medium ever. imageIn the early 19th century railway construction began in the UK. In the mid 1800’s there were six railway terminals just outside of London. Congestion in the city had increased significantly and in 1854 construction of an underground railway was approved. Work was completed in 1863, and within a few months it was carrying over 26,000 passengers a day. Expansion was swift and sure- the more nodes there were, the more coverage, the more locations services, that more people could use it. There were some challenges on standards- standard narrow gauge versus proprietary wide gauge tracks: standards won, the almost always do. By the early 20th century there were six independent operators of the tube- this caused passengers inconvenience both with ticketing and also on changes in lines- sometimes having to walk a considerable distance. Unsurprisingly, this led to consolidation until customers experience was better, simpler, and they could get one ticket and go anywhere on the network. World War II delayed all expansion, but during the Battle of Britain the Underground stations were used as shelters during air raids. Deep shelters were constructed under the Underground stations, each one designed to hold 8,000 people. After WWII the Underground went through many changes of management, eventually becoming a Public-Private Partnership (oh, how this parallels the Internet). There was controversy- Supporters of the PPP claimed that the private sector would eliminate the inefficiencies of public sector and take on the risks associated with running the network, while opponents said that the need to make profits would reduce the investment and public service aspects of the Underground. This is an ongoing controversy, not likely to be solved any time soon….The Underground has 270 stations and approximately 400 km (250 miles) of track, making it the longest metro system in the world by route length, and one of the most served in terms of stations. In 2007, over one billion passenger journeys were recorded.The tube map, with its schematic non-geographical layout and color-coded lines, is considered a design classic, and many other transport maps worldwide have been influenced by it.The tube, is a network. A transportation network. A network that took the capabilities of the Industrial age and scaled them, that brought people together, enabled increased efficiency, built communities, created jobs, and enabled job specialization while reducing power and emissions. That is what networks do… superlinear value creation with each node added while increasing efficiency and transforming cultures by creating jobs, and changing communications.Happy plumbing,dg (thanks to Wikipedia for the help and learning…)Follow me on Twitter at dgourlay

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  1. Very Nice. However, almost like a providential reiteration of Nothing Is Perfect”” related to almost anything in this world, even the amazing infrastructure of London underground has its faults, as is reminded incessantly by “”Mind The Gap”” announcements. A lesson about humility somewhere in there perhaps..? :-)santanu”