Metres and miles mix-up again

I recently came across a news article on the website reporting that one short London Underground journey is the most expensive in the world.

mylondon says “The one-stop journey on the London Underground Piccadilly line from Leicester Square to Covent Garden costs £2.40 for a single on Oyster or Contactless and £5.50 cash for the 260 metre journey.”. This is immediately followed by a sentence saying that this is equivalent to £14.77 per mile.

mylondon compares the cost of the Leicester Square to Covent Garden journey with the two closest stations in Brooklyn, New York. The journey between Cortelyou Road and Beverley Road in Brooklyn, New York is given as 300 metres and costs “$2.75 (£1.99) equating to just under £10 per mile”.

It is clear that mylondon has followed the widespread convention of using metres for short distances and miles for long distances. This obscures the relationship between the different units because it is not easy to see how the distance and cost are related. Why do media outlets do this?

If they used metres for short distances and kilometres for long distances, the relationship would be a lot clearer as you can multiply or divide by 1000, the number of metres in a kilometre. Or move the decimal point 3 digits to the left or right. As the Leicester Square to Covent Garden journey is about a quarter of a kilometre, it is easy to work out that the Oyster or Contactless single costs about £9.60 and the cash fare costs about £22. When using miles, it is hard to see whether the £14.77 per mile relates to the Oyster/Contactless fare or the cash fare.

You can read the full report at the following link: (“This London Underground journey is the ‘most expensive in the world'” by Callum Marius, published on 27 July 2021)

5 thoughts on “Metres and miles mix-up again”

  1. This is a consequence of the DFT’s failure to metric traffic signs.
    The Underground in central London was probably designed in Imperial units, but by now has very probably been mapped in metric terms. This is the system used by the construction industry, surveyors, engineers, etc.
       The reporter therefore picked up data for Underground distances in metric. For the bottom line, £ per mile, he used miles because the general public are familiar with them since they are used on road signs etc.
        For the New York subway, he may have picked up data in feet, but converted to metric to give a like-for-like comparison with the Underground.
    As long as UK traffic signs remain in miles and yards, there will be no incentive for the public to think in metric and we will have to put up with this sort of thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Watched a very recent YouTube video on street design by a Canadian who had moved to the Netherlands. When he was showing the problems he sees with street design in North America, he included video of streets in Canada where he showed and talked about the signs displaying the speed limit in “kilometres per hour” (which he pronounced KILL-oh-mee-ters per hour). Another sure sign that converting road signs to metric (as was the case in Ireland) has the profound effect of ridding society of the use of “miles”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. @Daniel:
    Here is the link:
    Turns out my recall about the pronunciation by the narrator of “kilometres” was incorrect but I’ll still take that over “miles” any day of the week anyway. 😉
    In Canada the speed limit signs say “MAXIUMUM” above a number, which is the speed limit in km/h. It looks like all of the video was shot in Canada, which is why the speed limit signs in the video look like that. Speed limit signs in the USA look different by having the words “SPEED LIMIT” on top instead of “MAXIMUM”. Like the signs in Canada there is no explicit indication of the units for the number posted.
    Given the lack of any indication on the Canadian sign that the number is in the units “km/h”, I wonder how US drivers in Canada for the first time or who drive up there only infrequently process those signs. My hunch is that their first reaction is to treat those numbers as denoting a speed in mph. Great fodder for traffic tickets and accidents!


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