... in public transport

Time travel is here

04 Jun 2012 | 128 words | future public transport

So apparently time travel has finally arrived. Walked by the bus shelter opposite of Berlin Hauptbahnhof this morning and was greeted with a ‘Willkommen in der Zukunft’ (‘Welcome to the future’) message scrolling across the LED display.

Have not entirely figured out how the future is different from the present nor how i can get back to the present but apparently in the future bus shelters have LED displays that are powered by solar panels integrated into the same bus-shelters. Now the people in the future only have figure out what they want to do with them.

Wilkommen in der zukunft

LED display with ‘Willkommen in der Zukunft’ message. Turns out that present day cameras do not work well with the LED scrolling display technology of the future.

Delhi metro now moving more people per day than the entire Dutch national railways

delhi metro > ns

This was mentioned in passing in an item on carbon trading that ran in today’s NOS evening news: the delhi metro is now transporting more passengers per day than the dutch national railways. a quick check on wikipedia shows that this is a bit of an understatement: daily ridership of the delhi metro system is 1.8M passengers per day while the NS is moving a mere 1.1M passengers per day (and struggling to do so i might add).

This figure pretty much blows my mind in a number of ways. while there have been railways in the netherlands since 1839 the delhi metro did only exist for a year or so when i first came to delhi in 2003. in less then 10 years this system has evolved into a system with 6 lines, 142 stations and 190KM of tracks. if you believe the delhi capital website you can even rent bicycles at some stations (back in 2003 the fact that i cycled from conaught circle to sarai was considered completely insane).

This is quite an achievement for a city that did not have much of a public transport infrastructure until 5 years ago. I still vividly how during one of my first trips on the delhi metro i observed multiple grown ups who tried to get a grip on the escalators in various stations. Seeing grown ups, how had clearly never encounters an escalator before, gathering the courage to step onto the moving stairs was one of the most powerful illustrations of modernization that i can imagine.

In the same vein the fact that there are now more riders on the delhi metro than on the the entire NS system strikes me as one of the most powerful illustrations of the insignificance of what is happening in the europe vis-a-vis the rest of the world and asia on particular…

I could watch this for hours...

03 May 2011 | 51 words | new york public transport metro

via kevin who discovered this marvel of a .gif animation which reminds me of a similar one i once made for the wireless bijlmer project website in 2003 (now defunct but archived here, you need wait for a few seconds before the train appears in the top right corner):

neverending commute

Exploring the Paris Métro

25 Dec 2010 | 90 words | metro paris photos public transport

Speaking about required reading: head over to sleepycity.net for wonderful (and long) write-up by a guy who has spend the last years exploring (at night on foot) the Paris Métro system. The article is illustrated with a bunch of terrific photos.

Reading this makes me jealous. Personally i have never come any further than maybe 150 meters into the tunnel extending from the ‘Waterloo‘ station in my old hometown of Hannover. These guys claim that they have explored alomst the entire Métro system in Partis (214KM according to wikipedia). respect!

I have changed my mind...

About the Noord Zuid Lijn: i really think that instead of finishing of the line and having subway trains running somewhen past 2015 they should just finish the tunnel and then turn it into a super deluxe underground bicycle express-path. The tunnel would dramatically cut down the time needed to get to the center, prevent you from rain and would probably be used by more locals on a daily basis than a subway ever will. The thing needs to have lots of smooth on- and off-ramps that connect it to the cross streets and of course tourists need to be prevented from using it.

North south line tunnel under the sixhaven by Mauritsvink

Tehran traffic ...

… so i am back from Iran after having spend the last two days in Tehran. it is pretty much difficult to make sense of Teheran in 4 days, which is probably due to the sheer size of the place. there are about 14 million people living in the metropolitan area of Tehran and one would guess that at most 5 of them are working as city planners. On the other hand every second inhabitant has at least one car (either a pre-historic Paykan or a grey Peugeot 206) which, during rush hour, is too much for the extensive highway system to absorb.

The metropolis of Tehran enjoys a huge network of highways (280 km) and of interchanges, ramps & loops (180km). In 2007 there were 130 kilometers of highways and 120 kilometers of ramps and loops under construction. [source: wikipedia]

Highways or not, during rush hour it takes at least 90 minutes to get from the southern end of the city center to the northern end of the city center. unfortunately public transport does not really offer a viable alternative

In 2001 a metro system that had been in planning since the 1970s opened the first two of seven envisaged lines. Work has been slow and coverage remains very limited. Development of the Tehran metro system had been interrupted by the Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War. Problems arising from the late completion of the metro led to buses taking on the role of the metro lines, serving mainly long distance routes. Taxis filled the void for local journeys. The taxis only drive on main avenues, and only within the local area, so it may be necessary to take several taxis to get to one’s final destination. [source: wikipedia]

The only for of transport that will get you from A to B fairly efficiently (and cheaply, a cross town ride is less than €1) are motorcycle taxis. They are a bit difficult to spot (as they are just regular motorcycles cruising the streets) but once you have managed to spot them they make the city much more accessible. Of course it helps to have a bit of a death-whish (the driver has a helmet and you don’t and they will go pretty fast on stretches of highway where the traffic is relatively light) but then it is actually really good fun…

Mogadishu avenue (or where to find black people in Helsinki)

So one thing you notice when you are in Finland is how incredibly white the place is. there are almost no black (or brown) people to be seen. I think when i was in Helsinki for the last time in june 2006 i saw 3 black people in 3 days.

So we brought up this observation over dinner yesterday and were informed that there are lots of black people but that one would need to go to ‘Mogadishu Avenue‘ to actually see them. Mogadishu Avenue, we were told, is the nickname of a street (Meri-Rastilan tie) in the eastern suburb of Meri-Rastila. Apparently the neighborhood (which has inspired a television series of the same name, which was filmed elsewhere, because the actual neighborhood is too tidy to convey the underlying idea of multicultural tension) got this name because it is the primary area of residence of members of the Somali community in Finland.

But then only a mere 20% of the area’s population are immigrants (mainly Estonians and Russians though) which seems to be shocking in the Finnish context. So special that according to the international edition of Helsinki Sanomat

… taxi drivers driving through the area still have fun counting the number of dark-skinned faces they see.

But then the taxi driver who drove me back to Helsinki from Meri-Rastilan (because i was stupid enough to take the last outbound metro and there is no obvious other public transport back to the city) didn’t count the number of black skinned faces. instead he did not say a single word during the entire ride (very finnish) and i suspect him of having been a bit drunk (very finnish as well).

In fact the amount of black people in Meri-Rastilan by no means justifies calling the place Mogadishu Avenue. The highest concentration of black people in Helsinki can be observed in the foyer of the Tennispalatsi cinema hall in the center (thanks for the tip Kari-Hans). Earlier tonight it was full with lots of extremely well dressed (compared to the average Finn) Somali teenagers hanging out there. Not sure if any of this (the stylish clothes or the hanging out) was in any way related to Eid Ul-Fitr or if this is where these youngsters usually spend their Friday nights.

photo by: Jukka Ritola taken from this gallery with more pictures from ‘Mogadishu avenue’.

Moebius (urban knot theory)

05 Feb 2007 | 258 words | movies buenos aires public transport urbanism

There is an amazing post about sewer systems under the big cities of Europe, America and Australian over at BDLGBLOG (amazing pictures as well!). It argues that the complexities of these sewer/tunnel systems is best being understood as more or less complex mathematical systems (knot theory):

Manchester’s storm overflow sewers, the rumor goes, are actually topological models. They are knot theory in built form.

Other rumors claim that a former student of that program is now Chief Engineer for the city of Brisbane, Australia, where he leads the construction of new civic infrastructure; every sewer and spillway built there is designed by him alone. As a result, each time you flush a toilet in Brisbane, a bewildering and exhaustively contorted world of concrete knots and brick culverts comes to life, engineered to faultless precision, washing everyone’s waste out to sea.

Manifolds, loops, toroids, even prime number sequences: the entire history of Western mathematics can be derived from the sewers of Brisbane, monuments of urban plumbing.

Whole thing reminds me of one of my favorite ever movies called Moebius in which a train on the subway system of Buenos Aires suddenly disappears and a mathematician is called in to examine the mystery. although the movie is student project of the Universidad de Cine in Buenos Aires it is extremely beautiful (if you like subway tunnels that is…)

It used to be pretty much unavailable (i even went to the Universidad de Cine and they did not have copies for sale) but it seems to be available as a torrent.

(banned) in Dubai

Spend a day in Dubai yesterday and that place is positively insane. will post in more detail later, but in the meanwhile some initial observations.

About the first thing i noticed – even before leaving the transit area of the airport – was that the local authorities do not have much love for this blog. in fact they have so little love for it that they censor it:

No clue what i have done to piss-off the sheiks, but my guess would be that they also assume some kind of connection between me and 9/11 (see here for a more detailed explanation of their censorship policies).

Now if that is the case then i would not let me into their country (which they did) and if i were them i would reconsider censoring the Internet in the transit zone of an international airport, which is even more pointless that censoring the Internet in general.

Of course they Sheiks themselves like their Internet uncensored, so the wireless network of the Emirates First Class Lounge (which leaks outside the lounge) does not block any pages.

Spend most of the rest running through construction sites taking pictures and talking to a fair amount of construction workers (more on that later). next to the incredible construction boom that makes europe look extremely 20th century the most striking feature is how well maintained public services are:

One would assume that given all the individual wealth that is enjoyed by the Emiraties there would be no incentive to maintain a fairly decent public transport system (which like all other road transport becomes completely useless during rush hour), well regulated taxis or well maintained public parks on prime beach front locations, but all of these do exist and seem to be fairly accessible to a wide range of the population.

Spectacular city...

Is the title of a photo exhibition at the Netherlands Institute of Architecture in Rotterdam (on show till the 7th of january 2007). the exhibition consists of about a 100 mostly large scale large-scale reproductions of – well – spectacular urban landscapes, exceptional buildings and all kinds of eerie views. Many of the pictures contain very little traces of human live (which has a strange calming effect on me). One notable exception is São Paulo, Sé by Andreas Gursky:

On display this picture is something like 3 x 2 meters and which puts you face to face with the waiting subway passengers the picture perfectly captures the monstrosity of the Se subway station in central São Paulo. Looks like he did digitally add a a level or two (see my own impressions and pictures here).

The rest of the exhibition is pretty amazing as well, especially the ministry of transportation building in Tiblisi (via we-make-money-not-art, which made me aware of the exhibition in the first place. thanks Regine!).

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: