False Perceptions of London

by

KevBo avatarHaving been born and raised in London and recently chosen to remain in the city (even when I’ve had plenty of chances to get out) I like to think that I have experienced my fair share of what the City of London has to offer to its inhabitants. Over the years there have been a number of things that I have identified to myself as issues within the city and I had decided to list off a short number of them.

I got to writing and before I knew it I had written 4 pages about 5 items, which at the time I thought were relatively small and concise topics. I read over what I had on paper and realized that is wasn’t so much the single items themselves that bothered me but the bigger picture behind them.

Of all the things that I initially identified as problems the common element among them was that of perception.

Perception of London by Londoners.

Far too often I find myself hearing people make (negative) comments about London that are more often than not full of misconceptions and falsities about London itself.

Whether it is comments about the LTC and the service it provides or the impact that students have on the community of London I find myself having to sift through commentary, which is made on nothing more than pure ignorance.

I will be the first one to admit that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, however, one must base their opinions of facts and not just the imaginary world that they may live in.

I am tired of people believing and giving off the perception that the post secondary students that inhabit London 8+ months of the year impact the city in nothing but negative ways. It is this perception by a limited number of residents that gives others a poor perception of the city. For once I would like someone to list of the positive things that students bring to the city and see how much they are affected by these items.

I am tired of people giving their insight to the LTC and its service when they have either never taken the LTC before or have taken it once and had a single bad experience. Perceptions such as these the belong to those that are in-experience, un-educated or bitter towards the topic on which they speak of and do nothing to help the city but to place it in a sub-par light, a light where it does not belong.

Sadly it is the negative perceptions of a city, of London, that get the most public attention and therefore have the greatest impact over the existing residents as well as perspective ones. I just wish that one day we may live in a world city where this is not the case. Perhaps I’m an idealist, but I’m an honest one at that.

Advertisements

Tags: , , ,

8 Responses to “False Perceptions of London”

  1. David Says:

    For me, much of what you have said lacks the experience of comparison.

    I have lived in a variety of cities, and am sad to report that London ranks very low in my mind on a variety of factors.

    Ottawa and Kingston manage their student bodies much more effectively than London, making students feel more like a welcome and important part of the community. Kingston has a much smaller bar/pub area that is also much more oriented to either dancing, or a pub/live music feel rather than the almost rave like attitude of many London clubs I have been to, which no doubt only help but stir up teens and post-secondary students into doing stupid things that only continues to get them negatively branded by the majority of Londoners.

    As for the transit system, it is the worst I have seen, second to St. Thomas, where I currently live. LTC is expensive, badly organized, ineffective compared to Ottawa, Vancouver or even Kingston. These top tier systems should be emulated by cities such as London as much as possible.

    The negative attention that London gets is well deserved. London is a dirty, poorly organized, expensive city that doesn’t properly cater to the large student body that it attracts.

    I think that you need to go out and experience other cities, and really start building up a good comparison of features, organization, quality of life, and I highly doubt you will defend London as you have today.

  2. fowgre Says:

    Kevin: There are a great many people who hold/express opinions about subjects without having any factual knowledge. Worse than that, sometimes they act on them. Perhaps the worst example of that is the number of people who vote without ever having made any attempt to be/stay informed of the issues or the candidates. Go into a coffee shop and listen to some of the conversations about articles that have appeared in that day’s local newspaper. It quickly becomes evident that in many cases they’ve done no more than read the headline, which may or may not accurately reflect the truth (or even the content of that article). But that’s not all bad. At least they’re reaching out, in a fashion. The expression of their opinion is an opportunity for other people to engage them in discussion that may lead to increased awareness and understanding by all concerned. With respect to the LTC… Nobody’s more critical of public transit in this city than what I am, but that comes from a love of public transit and confidence in it’s potential and frustration over the way it’s being managed here in London. If you think that the criticism is uninformed or mistaken then I invite you to engage me in a healthy debate on the subject. Last thought for now… Be assured that even though we may not agree on the LTC or any other subject, I appreciate your continued willingness to contribute to this site. And the same holds true of the other contributors as well. Addendum: Here’s an article about perspective from today’s NYTimes that I think is appropos: Digging Ourselves a Black Hole

  3. Kevin Says:

    First let me say that by no means do I think that London is perfect, it has as many issues as the next city. I do think however that far too often London is seen in the negative light and enough credit isn’t give to the positives to the city.
    The examples I gave of the LTC and student body are by no means an exhaustive list just two primary examples where people seem to have a overly negative perception while at the same time (many of) the same people are uneducated on the topic as well.
    As for your comments:

    David.
    Comparing cities is a very tricky situation as each city is unique it its own way. Comparing any Canadian city to Ottawa is hard because it is the Nation’s capital. In the Nations capital do you honestly think that they are going to deal with issues and situations in the same manner as other cities? Despite what may be made public I can assure you that the politics in that city dictate decision making and put pressure of the local government to act quicker and differently than a city like London.
    When comparing cities you need to make sure that the cities you are comparing are of the like. Comparing London to Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver is going to pose a problem, comparing London to Kingston is somewhat more appropriate. For this reason I find it odd that you are trying to compare the management of Kingston’s student body to that of Londons. Perhaps its just me but as I recall Kingston is in National news far more often than most other Cities (including London) for the issues it has effectively managing its student body, not to mention the issues that it has with having the university located in the downtown area. It is a little easier to make students feel like part of the community when the university is in the community, downtown as many cities have it unlike in London where it is remove from the heart of the city, something that is out of anyone’s control.
    Transit. Wow, you are comparing the LTC to Vancouver transit. Where to begin. I don’t disagree with you one bit that Vancouver transit is better than the LTC, however that is not a fair comparison by any means. Physical city size, population served, topography, all of these things have to be taken into consideration and be essentially “pro-rated” something that you have obviously not taken into account. I wonder if you are one of the people that think it would effective to institute a light rail system in London?
    Not as a personal attack but your “oberservations” and perceptions of London are exactly the type of negative perceptions I speak of.

    Although I live in London and call it home I have lived in my fair share of places. On top of traveling 3+ months of the year I have called places such as Paris (France), Vancouver, Halifax, Miami and Calgary home over the years. Yes London has its pitfalls, no argument there, but so do these other cities, the key thing to understand is that London is in no way at the same level as the cities mentioned. Trying to compare the public transit system in Paris to the LTC is like trying to compare a penny to a hundred dollar bill: different scale altogether, more behind it than what is first seen.

    Greg.
    I couldn’t agree with you more and I think you said it far more gracefully than I could have been able to.
    There is a large educated and properly informed population out there, but sadly, far too often they are not the ones making news or taking action. They are the ones that need to be doing so rather than those in the other camp, the un-educated and ill-informed.
    As for the LTC I too have a love for public transit and it is my preferred method of transport wherever I go (on vacation once I had to rent and drive a car and it was the least enjoyable vacation I have ever had). By no means do I think the criticism is uninformed or mistaken, it is what creates change in our city, in our services and it is essential. Rather I think that the positives are by no means highlighted anywhere near as much as they should be. I have shared my anger about the LTC on a number of occasions now perhaps I need to share what I enjoy about.
    I may perhaps be the biggest hypocrite when it comes to perceptions, not sharing the positive ones enough, but with anything its much easier to point out the negatives rather than the positives.

  4. KVL Says:

    First let me say that by no means do I think that London is perfect, it has as many issues as the next city. I do think however that far too often London is seen in the negative light and enough credit isn’t give to the positives to the city.

    The examples I gave of the LTC and student body are by no means an exhaustive list just two primary examples where people seem to have a overly negative perception while at the same time (many of) the same people are uneducated on the topic as well.

    As for your comments:

    David.
    Comparing cities is a very tricky situation as each city is unique it its own way. Comparing any Canadian city to Ottawa is hard because it is the Nation’s capital. In the Nations capital do you honestly think that they are going to deal with issues and situations in the same manner as other cities? Despite what may be made public I can assure you that the politics in that city dictate decision making and put pressure of the local government to act quicker and differently than a city like London.

    When comparing cities you need to make sure that the cities you are comparing are of the like. Comparing London to Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver is going to pose a problem, comparing London to Kingston is somewhat more appropriate. For this reason I find it odd that you are trying to compare the management of Kingston’s student body to that of Londons. Perhaps its just me but as I recall Kingston is in National news far more often than most other Cities (including London) for the issues it has effectively managing its student body, not to mention the issues that it has with having the university located in the downtown area. It is a little easier to make students feel like part of the community when the university is in the community, downtown as many cities have it unlike in London where it is remove from the heart of the city, something that is out of anyone’s control.
    Transit. Wow, you are comparing the LTC to Vancouver transit. Where to begin. I don’t disagree with you one bit that Vancouver transit is better than the LTC, however that is not a fair comparison by any means. Physical city size, population served, topography, all of these things have to be taken into consideration and be essentially “pro-rated” something that you have obviously not taken into account. I wonder if you are one of the people that think it would effective to institute a light rail system in London?

    Not as a personal attack but your “oberservations” and perceptions of London are exactly the type of negative perceptions I speak of.

    Although I live in London and call it home I have lived in my fair share of places. On top of traveling 3+ months of the year I have called places such as Paris (France), Vancouver, Halifax, Miami and Calgary home over the years. Yes London has its pitfalls, no argument there, but so do these other cities, the key thing to understand is that London is in no way at the same level as the cities mentioned. Trying to compare the public transit system in Paris to the LTC is like trying to compare a penny to a hundred dollar bill: different scale altogether, more behind it than what is first seen.

    Greg.

    I couldn’t agree with you more and I think you said it far more gracefully than I could have been able to.

    There is a large educated and properly informed population out there, but sadly, far too often they are not the ones making news or taking action. They are the ones that need to be doing so rather than those in the other camp, the un-educated and ill-informed.

    As for the LTC I too have a love for public transit and it is my preferred method of transport wherever I go (on vacation once I had to rent and drive a car and it was the least enjoyable vacation I have ever had). By no means do I think the criticism is uninformed or mistaken, it is what creates change in our city, in our services and it is essential. Rather I think that the positives are by no means highlighted anywhere near as much as they should be. I have shared my anger about the LTC on a number of occasions now perhaps I need to share what I enjoy about.

    I may perhaps be the biggest hypocrite when it comes to perceptions, not sharing the positive ones enough, but with anything its much easier to point out the negatives rather than the positives.

  5. KVL Says:

    wow, sorry for being long winded.

  6. Phronk Says:

    I’ve lived in and visited many cities other than London. As with comparing any two complex things, each will have advantages in some areas and disadvantages in others.

    For the two sample issues, I’ve found London to be on par or better than other cities. I have had absolutely no major problems with the LTC (other than wishing it ran later). And I find it strange to speak of “managing the student body” as if they are a separate, invading species that needs special consideration. Most problems that individual students cause have nothing to do with the fact that they are students…and let’s not forget that these are the people who are here learning about the world in order to make it a better place. And again, I’ve had no problems with London’s “management”; other cities with major universities are similar except for a few aspects that are better or worse.

    I guess people just find it easy to complain about what they have the most experience with, though. One of my recent blog posts is probably relevant to this: http://phronko.blogspot.com/2008/08/this-place-is-best.html

  7. David Says:

    I wasn’t trying to do a more general comparison between various cities, just a few of the main points that you mentioned: public transportation and student body.

    I think those items can be easily compared from city to city. You’ve lived in other cities, and so the question is: don’t you think that London could learn from other cities on how to more effectively manage certain things?

    Sure, it might not be of the same scale, but understanding that there are thousands of cities all trying various ideas to create the best system possible opens up the possibility that another city, of similar need and size might have come up with a better system. Or that a city of different need or size, might have come up with an idea that could be scaled down to meet the needs of a city like London.

    Important side note before I go any further: As for perception, I think the complaints and negativity help spur people into action, as long as the criticisms are followed up with ideas, and actionable plans. I don’t think complaining for the sake of complaining is helpful.

    I don’t think that London needs a light rail system. In Ottawa it was relatively effective, and highly useful for me, but I don’t think that London has the population, nor city size to support such an initiative.

    I just think that finding a way to commit some private lanes or entirely private roads to public transportation, as well as increasing the number of busses along four or five peak routes might quickly alleviate some of the issues the LTC has.

    This is something that Ottawa has done that has served the public well, so much so that sometimes taking the bus is faster than driving through the city.

    London would have a hard time though as they would need to enact such plans without passing too much of the cost onto the riders (as their fees are already as high as cities that are much larger), though I think a tiered payment system, like Vancouver uses, could allow for casual riders to go relatively short distances for cheap, while charging higher fees to the daily commuters and those that need to ride much longer distances.

    A lot of my personal thoughts on London are clouded both by the horrible experiences I had living there mixed with the great experiences I had in Kingston and Ottawa.

    As for the student body issues that Kingston has had… it is home to three schools and it is constantly put in the spotlight because of its history (being the original capital) and its proximity to both Toronto and Ottawa.

    Anyways, I was just trying to give my own views on the matter, I hope though that more people try to remain positive and passionate about the cities they live in.

    While St. Thomas has a horrible public transportation system, I love the city. It feels well organized, simpler but with all the normal creature comforts (Wal-Mart, et al) and cleaner. Again though… apples and oranges, but you could say that about most things are compared in part by an emotional response.

    Thanks for letting me comment here. 🙂

  8. Phronk Says:

    Fair enough. I agree that complaining has its place, and you bring up a lot of good points. But while there is a lot of room for improvement, I just don’t think London ranks as poorly as you said in your original comment. But opinion is always clouded by personal experience, and mine have been generally positive…the LTC works fine (it’s certainly better than some really crappy bus systems in the United States), and I’ve never found London to be “dirty.” Others’ mileage may vary.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: