Mass Transport Rant

posted 27 July 2002
Why can no single metropolitan authority get the formula for mass transport right? My 3 candidates from personal experience:
  1. London Underground
      Pro:
    • Frequent trains; no waiting
    • Bright and well-kept stations
    • Extremely good customer information systems
    • The tube map! (Even though it can be misleading since it doesn't pay attention to what's going on above ground)
      Con:
    • Trains are tiny (because the tunnels are too small)
    • All trains are local, hence slow (see NYC)
    • The network is relatively small
    • It's very expensive
    • The travel-zone system is confusing
    • The air quality is *terrible*
  2. Paris Metro
      Pro:
    • Trains are huge, thanks to the elimination of inter-carriage walls (all the trains are just huge continuous tubes) and double-decker trains
    • The network is huge, and stops are frequent
    • Stations are also clean and well-kept
    • Air quality is fine
    • Fairly affordable
      Con:
    • Is always having a strike :-) [Ed pointed this out]
    • The map is awful, it looks like someone threw up on the wall
    • Customer information is middling (can't judge properly, 'cause I don't speak French :-)
    • All trains are local and slow
  3. NYC subway
      Pro:
    • Big trains
    • Large tunnels, so large trains and extra tracks, which allows...
    • Express trains! These rock; skip 20 stations and get to the other end of the city in 10 minutes instead of 40.
    • Very cheap, and no zone system, so easy to use too
    • The map is pretty good, and shows above ground, which is useful.
    • Air-conditioning in trains!
      Con:
    • Customer information is lousy: no digital info signs, and inaudible announcements
    • The stations are dirty and feel run-down
    • The network is not particularly extensive: it covers all of Manhattan, but only crosses the river at one point

With the exception of London's tiny tunnels, all of the cons are fairly easy and inexpensive to overcome. So why don't they? And it's easy to bring in the pros as well: London should eliminate zones and introduce carriageless trains, and do something about the fog'o'crap that makes it impossible to see the other end of the platform if you're at one end. Paris should bring in digital signs and deal with that map of theirs, as well as introducing express trains. NYC should also bring in signs and clean up their stations: the quality of the stations makes NYC's subway *feel* like the worst subway, when it's actually the best of the bunch.

Okay, now you can hire me as a consultant. Come on, Ken.