Tag Archive for 'Public Transport'

Public transit mock-ups

Ever wanted to know what your local subway map would look like?

The designers at Transit Authority Figures might provide an answer. They did some great work in designing subway maps for small towns without public transportation. One interesting map detail is actually the wording: the station names are well chosen, with good local knowledge, not one of those “funny” naming schemas, and it almost makes you believe you’re viewing a real one.

Cape Cod & The Islands Metropolitan Area

A long way ahead

Michael Moore suggested 9 action points to President Obama regarding the bankruptcy of GM. Bottom line of his article: convert GM’s car factories to mass transportation factories and promote energy efficient technology. Basically I would agree, though, I think it’s only one side of the medal and that there are a few more things one might consider:

Working on symptoms never cures the disease. Transportation needs are caused by urban planning. I’ve seen Jacksonville, Florida and I can’t possibly imagine how an urban structure like that one can be run by mass transportation. Providing public transportation services for such spread out areas – I’m talking about population densities as low as 970.9/sq mi in Jacksonville compared to 12,172.3/sq mi in Boston with decent public transportation for instance (source: Wikipedia, see map below) – is a tough task, and not very cost efficient or green. Urban sprawl at such dimensions leaves in most cases no other options than to rely on cars.

Population density in US cities 2000

Other ways of individual transportation – bicycles, walking – require shorter distances to daily services (groceries, schools, doctors, etc.). Again, a large residential area and a huge mall somewhere along the highway make it impossible to introduce anything but car transportation.

Apart from being the most unpopular word in that country, increasing taxes on energy prices, like proposed in point 9, will hurt poor people first if the policy is not balanced out well. Wealthy people don’t care as much about gas prices, they can afford better cars and probably live somewhere close to city centers where they don’t even need them so much. Poor people on the other hand are the ones who have to take a 2 hour daily commute in an old inefficient car to get to work or bring kids to school. Taxes are an interesting lever in transportation and energy policy, but not the holy grail.

Rethinking urban structures, transportation and energy policies is a time consuming issue. It took almost a century to create the status quo, it’s not gonna change in a single presidential term of 4 years. I believe this country must be prepared for a long way ahead.

Adventures in Nokia Maps pt. 2: public transport

The main point I’m interested in when it comes to mobile maps is pedestrian navigation. In Vienna I don’t own a car, usually move around by bike, or use public transport during cold and wet periods like this month.

One of the first things I tried using Nokia Maps 3.0 was to find the best route from our new office to one of our client’s office. Easy task: I enter the address of our client’s office and hit “Walk to”. Somehow I expected Nokia Maps to consider public transportation on the route, which, as it turned out, it does not. Instead it proposed me a 1½h hike across the city. I’m sure it was the quickest route walking, but certainly not what I was looking for.

Ok, Nokia Maps 3.0 doesn’t feature public transport directions. Google Maps Mobile does in Vienna btw, it offers public transport incl. walking directions, which is really useful.

Otherwise, Nokia improved public transport coverage in Nokia Maps 3.0 a lot. You can browse the POI catalogue and find the nearest bus/tram/subway/railway stop, plot them on the map and let you guide there. That’s a start. Once you’re on the subway or bus, you probably figure out how to move around. However, built-in public transport directions would be even more convenient.

EURO 2008 mapping impact

Seems like the soccer event has some more impact on maps in Austria: on Google Maps you’ll find now real time public transport information too. The maps not only show the station locations, but also provide timetable information about what bus, tramway, subway or railway line there is available, when the next one departs and let you choose between car or public transport directions.

Not as mind-blowing as 3D Vienna in MS Virtual Earth, but probably very useful to arriving Euro 2008 tourists. Well, since gas prizes are increasing rapidly, locals who made the switch to public transport will appreciate that information too.

Cars in the city

I can probably list more than a hundred studies, reports or articles dealing with the negative impact of cars on modern city structures. But none of them illustrates the benefit of car-free cities so well as the image below does:

Amount of space occupied by cars in Münster
City of Münster showing the amount of space occupied if the same group of people would go by car, bus or bike.

Which street would you prefer for living: the one packed with cars or the one where kids could play on?

I never owned a car and don’t plan to do so. My mobility is based on bike, public transport and car sharing and I can’t complain about a low standard of living. [via Helge]

Scotty update

The recently launched Austrian public transport directions search named Scotty (german only) has been slightly updated (via Interaction Blog):

By clicking the buttons Karte right next to the search form fields, a map will open where users are able to pinpoint their start and end addresses. So no need to enter the addresses any longer, keep your hand on the mouse and ask Scotty by clicking on maps.

I prefer that method a lot over entering addresses and then getting options of possible addresses because of misspellings or double street and place names.

There is still some potential for usability improvement left: it would be easier to merge the currently two necessary steps into a single one by showing only one map where users can pinpoint both, start and end point. And of course, a bit more fancy AJAX mapping would be nice in 2007 too…

Public transport directions

Yesterday the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) launched Scotty, a new public transport routing application. It covers Austrian city transport systems, bus lines, inland waterway transport and ferries, European railways and most of swiss bus transport. Until the UEFA EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland it’ll include 100% of Swiss and Austrian public transport (Graz and bus lines in Tyrol still need to be added).

The database works pretty impressive: you enter start and end address, Scotty returns the closest public transport stations (including walking distance) and finds the fastest route through all possible public transport systems (including public and private busses, railways, subways, trams, ferries, etc.). I think it’s pretty impressive to combine all that information and data sources from various operators and companies into one single application. That’s probably the most difficult part.

On the output side you get textual information as list where to go and where and when to change the train, bus, etc. Additionally you can open an overview map of your entire route or some detailed maps of station surroundings.

Now here is still some room for improvements on usability and mapping features. In times of AJAX, tiling or vector graphics driven web mapping I would expect a user-friendlier map.

Besides and considering Scotty to support and guide a huge amount of visitors in 2008 some more innovative features would be useful too.

Like reverse geocoding and trigger routing directly in the map for instance: I bet the chance that a visitor can pinpoint his hotel and the places to visit is higher than he is able to spell the german address correctly. Similar to the routing solution on Live Local, which is very well done btw.

Riding with Andrea

I didn’t know, until this morning, that the new subway trains in Vienna do have names, known from airplanes and hurricanes. So this morning I had the pleasure to ride with Andrea, a good and comfortable ride. Except the strange feeling of being watched (the new trains are all equipped with surveillance cameras).

I’m wondering if the names follow a specific schema. Oh, probably it’s that simple: female names in alphabetical order. Wiener Linien, what else.

Bye bye bike

Bye bye bikeThe first freezing day means the end of biking season.

Today ends the pleasure of greeting Fiaker horses in the morning on the way to work, no more fun with arrogant Audi drivers on the road, and finally, the luxury of door-to-door travel time less than 25 minutes within the inner city districts is gone too.

So, hello crowded subway, hello angry looking morning people and hello cold winter waiting time, we’re going to spend the next few months together.

Monday morning trip

You know, it really sucks when you’re in a hurry and the train-ticket machine decides not to accept ATM or credit cards any longer. It sucks even more if you find out that the remaining money in your wallet won’t allow you to pay it cash.

It wouldn’t be such a BIG problem if it wasn’t the only ticket machine available, as it’s the case at the Südtirolerplatz entrance to Südbahnhof in Vienna. So if this lonely machine won’t serve you a ticket and you don’t wanna miss your train, you have to run, run as fast as you can, all the way, the whole platform length and more, down to the main hall and a buy a ticket at a working ticket machine there.

So please my dear ÖBB, put another, a second ticket machine as backup and new friend for the existing lonely one at that side of Südbahnhof if possible. You’ll make life for some of your passengers a lot easier.