Good public transport maps, directions and support material, like most good swords, are double edge instruments. In a previous post, I related Sandra’s story of near terror of using Brisbane’s suburban train system. Good clear directions at every stage are vital.
The international public transport expert Jarrett Walker http://jarrettwalker.com/ would often point out that clear representations of the system can mean the very difference between success or failure. However, there can be a contra argument. My UK colleague Rob Cowan has drawn attention to the observation that the iconic London Transport map sometimes encourages or leads people to think that it is quicker and easier to catch the tube although sometimes walking is often quicker and simpler. As Rob says:
The ‘Sandra phenomenon’ that you mention brings to mind a different phenomenon, common in London at least: people travelling by underground (and creating unnecessary congestion on it) when walking would be quicker. They are used to the underground system and they understand the famous diagram, but they are not familiar with the streets above and they may not be confident in navigating their way around the city above ground. Nor do they realise that the underground diagram is misleading: it gives very little idea of walking distances between the various stations. There are alternative maps of the underground that show the instances in which it will be quicker to walk from one station location to another rather than taking the tube, but few people know of them.
And then there is the story of the next generation car navigation system which can even tell you that instead of driving, you may be better off taking the train or just walking – when there is too much congestion ahead.
Check out http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2014/01/08/at-ces-a-car-naviation-system-tells-drivers-to-take-the-train/?goback=%2Egde_104424_member_5827531046261895172#%21
According to web site http://worldstreets.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/free-for-all-organizations-around-the-world-suppprting-free-public-transport/ there are 23 countries around the world, with 39 organisations advocating for free public transport. As the Worldstreets editor puts it
At a time in which we need to be rethinking from the very base our transportation arrangements, including testing all of our received beliefs on the topic, it would be pure folly not to make an effort to understand what these mainly young people and groups are trying to tell us. There are many layers and nuances to what they have to propose, and policymakers should be prepared to listen to and learn from them. Because at the end of the day the solution is going to be very different from present practices so we might as well start to become comfortable with, for many, uncomfortable thoughts.