The advent of technologies applied in the transit industry still have lots of distance to cover in terms of reaching the benefits that they are supposed to bring. Breaking even is not on the radar where returns on the investments have yet to even be evaluated. Why are hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions, of public funds being spent and recovery is not even measured? Why are business processes not streamlined ensuring an increase in efficiency? The answer to these questions is that the human requirements too often are ignored. The premise for ignoring this factor is the widespread notion that acquiring technology alone will solve the problems. The various intelligent transportation systems and other software tailored to transit offer massive returns, if and only if their capabilities are exploited by users who are not averse to computers and possess the savvy necessary to adapt. They are misconceived as total solutions or panaceas, rather than tools that will aid in the tasks that human beings will still have to do.
Working Harder, Not Smarter Impresses
While old habits can be hard to break, they can also impress superiors who are unaware of the necessity to change practices in order to realize the benefits of the technology they’ve incorporated into their business operations. Requiring users to take pencil and paper to log actions and fill reports should be unthinkable when a software application includes this function in its standard configuration. However, when staff can say they have ten items to check off versus five, it seems that they are truly working hard as a necessity as opposed to being inefficient.
The boy cried wolf and the people responded until they were fed up with his antics playing on their natural human traits to aid another in peril. Here we are in the twenty-first century and data is heaped in mounds that would surely reach Mount Everest if it were in physical form. The cry for data has been answered and yet it goes unmanaged, unkept and unused. Data is supposed to enable informed decisions once captured, collected, stored and retrieved but those first steps are constantly neglected. When the integrity of the data is compromised it directly affects the quality of the decisions. When the data is intact yet not factored into the decision-making process, gut feelings, personal desires and the like become the basis, leaving vast amounts of data to collect dust or become fossils within their respective environments.
Technology is supposed to make work easier and more efficient. It is supposed to increase output by performing calculations at exponential rates and gathering data that is practically impossible for humans to do. It guarantees that decisions can be made with confidence, shielding officials from any backlash. Absent an understanding and application of technology’s true role, advantages and disadvantages, an accumulation of wasted public funds will continue to grow. Ignoring the fact that man must mesh with machine will perpetuate the misconception that acquisition of machines and technology alone will solve the complex problems of modern transit.
Posted by GeoSpeech on January 4, 2013
When I play the board game Monopoly, one of my staunch objectives is to acquire all the railroads. Although having them doesn’t always guarantee that I’ll be the last man standing, having them satisfies my philosophical leanings and industrial interests. Today I discovered an old map of the real B & O and an old deed from the game. Rail transport of goods and people is experiencing a surge in support now that much of the surface infrastructure is exceeding capacity.
Proponents see the real benefits of rail and lobby their elected representatives to acknowledge those benefits. However, investments must be made with public involvement or else privatization will take the industry back to the 19th century when private individuals ran the show. Public-private partnerships are becoming more common across the U.S. ensuring that a level of public involvement is maintained and monopolies are prevented from happening again.
Posted by GeoSpeech on January 3, 2013
Transit networks have been considered by many as a measure, among others, by which to determine a city’s reputation or classification as a global city. Of those cities that have earned the prefix ‘global’, their networks are large and multimodal. Specific characteristics of those systems include reliability, vast coverage and high frequency. They offer service to real destinations e.g. employment centers, city centers, entertainment venues, etc. New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Seoul are examples of where networks’ designs reflect serious consideration for the need of the population. Service is almost door to door for the places people want to go. In some cases, the transit services themselves are attractions for visitors and transplants.
There’s something about seeing transit vehicles of various modes moving through a city like blood cells running through veins. It sparks a sense of life and progress because like clockwork, they are always on the move. Onlookers and passengers alike experience a feeling of vibrancy and that things are happening. Naturally, the reaction is to be a part of that so the attraction is great and it reaches not only to the hinterlands. People are drawn from around the globe to places that are exuberant with life derived from all of this movement. Being in the heart, or even near to it, drives people, life and ideas to flourish.
For many cities looking to move up the ladder of global ranking, transit should not be left off the table of development projects. The inherent economic benefits alone should be enough to permit its inclusion in a well thought out comprehensive plan. Consistent, scheduled movement propels the dynamics necessary to attract and gain the attention sought. However, looking within to serve the immediate population by offering a world-class transit system will do much to address the external desires. We are now in the 21st century which requires aggressive policies and action to bring to the present that futuristic image of a city with advanced transit services that even includes driver-less trains, cabs and cars.
Posted by GeoSpeech on December 19, 2012
The foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of east Tennessee was where I called home for six years. They are part of the Appalachian mountain range offering pristine views from select vantage points. Specifically I lived in Knoxville, the county seat of Knox County. The crests and troughs of those hills do a number on brakes and transmissions and they ensure mechanics have a market just as reliable as an undertaker’s.
Another great physical feature of the area is the Tennessee River. It winds its way through downtown from the eastern part of the state flowing west, finally emptying into the mighty Mississippi River. While I never got the chance to go paddling on the river, I did manage to be part of a three-man crew on a sloop that got stuck on a shoal on the first outing.
Knoxville is also home to the flagship campus of the sun and land grant state university. That’s where I earned my bachelor’s. Needless to say there are some fond memories of people and times.
While nature has provided a variety of attractive landmarks, there is one man-made landmark that received global attention once upon a time and probably forgotten by most at this point. Knoxville was the host of the 1982 World’s fair and the golden globe, officially the “Sunshpere”, still stands as a memorial.
Ruger’s map of Knoxville, Tennessee 1871.
Posted by GeoSpeech on December 14, 2012
Volunteers Drive, Yankees Ride
Data from the American Community Surveys of the U.S. Census bureau revealed that the states of Tennessee and New York hold the extreme positions on the commuting scale. New York residents take transit the most and Tennessee residents drive the most. Exempting personal choice as an explanation, the lion share of the causes can be distributed among planning, policy and geography. Availability of services and space, density levels in the CBD and policy choices weigh considerably in their contributions to commuters’ decisions on how to transport themselves to and from work each day.
The south has traditionally been an incubator for a high concentration of factories, producing a veritable mix of goods from air compressors, medicine bottles and faucets to automobile brake components and home appliances. Southern states and municipalities tend to be very friendly to this industry, offering tax breaks and the like for the sake of adding jobs to the local economy. A bonus for the employers is that labor unions typically don’t exist in the region. With these incentives, manufacturers flock to the south. Industrial parks filled with cinder block buildings blot out swaths of land on the outskirts of towns where people don’t live. Workers are expected to shoulder the full burden of getting to work and back. Providing commuting options is not a critical factor, if considered at all, when terms of agreement between the business and government are established. They simply don’t have to because the problems that fit a transit solution are not there. Without a viable alternative though, many workers are simply forced to drive themselves even if they wanted to take transit. However, driving is not such a bad thing when you don’t have to endure the twice a day gauntlet morning and evening peak rush hours and on top of that pay for parking once you arrive at your destination.
In contrast, the northern metropolitan areas have both push and pull factors at work instead of just one or the other. There is a high density of traffic and a higher concentration of offices and buildings. The streets are congested and costs and hassles of owning a car can be overwhelming. Meanwhile, via one mode or another, the commuter has several options when deciding how best to plan a trip. While a large portion of the population uses transit, ridership is still increasing due in part to the fact that Yankees tend to pay higher gas prices while Volunteers pay the lowest in the nation. Yankees are continuously being pushed from many sides to find alternatives. When they’re available, those options pull commuters to the services.
The wide open spaces of the south still embody the American spirit. Driving your own car on long stretches of road is a quintessential symbol of personal freedom in the US. It will take painful conditions similar to the north to abandon such nostalgic notions. It can be expected that these sorts of statistics won’t see any significant variations soon unless congestion, space limitations and related problems force leaders in the south to put emphasis on mass transit as part of a comprehensive solution.
Posted by GeoSpeech on December 10, 2012