... in public transport

Old people dumping ground

23 Oct 2006 | 341 words | kusttram belgium public transport coast

After having found the children’s deposit point in lille last weekend i went on to the belgian coast to take a ride along the coast in in the kusttram (‘coast-tram’). have wanted to do this for a while as i am (a) a sucker for public transport and (b) i really like the idea of having a tram that runs along almost the entire Belgian coast (not that it is that long of a coast with in total 66km).

Unlike almost everything else in begium the coast tram does even make sense. it does run every ten minutes and at least on this sunday was absolutely crowded. crowded with old people that is. if i was well mannered and would offer my seat to the first best old person having to stand in the tram i would not have had a seat for the 2 hours 20 minutes remaining after the 2nd stop (but then i am not well mannered and continue to sit). looks like the belgian coast is some kind of dumping ground for old people. wherever you look the coast is full of grey haired persons, occasionally interrupted by brits carrying away huge quantities of liquor and cigarettes. apparently they store the old people in enormous high rises that line almost the entire coastline. here is an impressive sattelite shot taken from google earth (note the shadows illustrating the height of the buildings):

And here is a shot of the same location taken from the tram:

Now that is form follows function to the max. storing the old people within easy walking distance from the beach, far away from the urban centers and build a tram (o.k. the tram seems to be older than most of these humble dwellings, but who cares) interconnecting all these silos so they can visit each other and walk up and down the coast. perfect. looks like as if this keeps them happy as well as they do not even seem to vote for the vlaams belang (like the rest of flanders does).

Delhi metro

While not being as efficient as the São Paulo metro system (efficiency being rather absent from public services in india in general), the delhi metro system – which has been growing from one 5 station line to 3 lines with more than 40 stations in the last 3 years – is quite an experience as well:

First there are those constant recorded security reminders that are either unrivaled in their directness (‘do not touch abandoned objects as they might contain explosives’) or simply absurd (‘do not befriend strangers’). These messages are on more or less constant replay in all stations and trains and give the impression that the Delhi Metro Corporation is even more paranoid than the mindless, racist idiots that are running the British airports (but then they do not really hassle you when you take the metro in Delhi).

So unfortunately one has to bear these nonsense announcements in order to experience the wonderful experience of ‘Chawri Bazaar’ station: located smack under the middle of Delhi’s Old City this station embodies fractured modernity in its most tangible form. The metro station in all it’s stainless steel, polished stone, glass and RFID based turnstiles glory is extremly 21st century (if one manages to ignore the security guard with his 1920s winchester rifle, which definitely is the weapon of choice when engaging terrorists within a crowded subway station).

While even in other parts of the city these metro stations feel strangely detached from the rest of the city fabric, exiting Chawri Bazar station this sensation is almost overwhelming: The polished stone stairs take you in the middle of a busy intersection in the old city, where cycle rickshaws and push-carts represent the state of the art when it comes to transport, the sky is being covered by a multitude of telephone and electricity cables and the smell of countless open air food stalls is competing with the stench of garbage and excrement from the various live animals lingering around.

If you ever have the chance to visit Delhi make sure that you take the metro to Chawri Bazaar in the evening, then get into a cycle rickshaw and ask the riksahw wallah to take you to Karims to have a bit of mutton.

The knowledge

14 Aug 2006 | 220 words | london gps maps public transport traffic

Ars technica has a sweet little write-up about the fact that London cabbies apparently reject satellite navigation devices (which they are allowed to use since beginning of this year). The main reason seems to be pride in having passed the notoriously difficult exam (‘the knowledge‘) which is required to get a license:

Cabbies have two basic reasons for not embracing the systems, one rooted in technology and the other in psychology. For one thing, the devices still do not give the kind of perfect directions that are needed by someone who makes a living driving a car about the city. But secondly, the devices also remove the mystique that surrounds the Knowledge and the pride that passing the exam gives to cabbies. With a satellite navigation unit, just about anyone can become a cabbie and they can do it without studying.

Now everybody who was forced to take a cab in Amsterdam in the last couple of years will be able to attest to the fact that it is indeed a very bad idea if (a) ‘just about anyone’ can become a cabbie and (b) they do rely on satellite navigation which does not work in congested European city centers. Kind of surprising to see that that conservative stubbornness of the islanders does have positive effects once in a while…

São Paulo Metrô

03 Jul 2006 | 371 words | sao paulo public transport urbanism cities metro

I have blogged about public transport in São Paulo before and i have made someobservations while traveling on the subway (called metrô by the locals) but being back in town i have realized that i have not really given enough credits to the metrô system itself.

The system is absolutely amazing. at the moment it has 4 lines among them two (the red and the blue line) which are mayor ones and two others that act as feeder lines. both main lines run at 2 minutes intervals off-peak and at 60 second intervals during peak hours. apparently the whole system transports about 3.8 million passengers a day and employs a number of sophisticated measures to avoid this massive amount of travelers on a relatively small system to end up in absolute chaos:

Most station have painted waiting corridors on the ground (something that the Brazilians seem to love) which mean that you are supposed to queue up between white lines painted on the ground. Some of the bigger stations enforce structured queueing-up by metal barriers (like at the slaughter-house) and the most busy ones have separate platforms for getting on and off the trains (the doors facing the disembarking platform open before the doors on the embarking side so that passengers can get off before new passengers get on).

The most amazing station in the whole system is ‘Sé’ where the red (east-west) and blue (north-south) lines connect. it feels like as if about 50% of the passengers on either line change for the other one or exit at Sé station. in order for this massive amount of people to flow without interruption the flows within the station have been completely separated: passengers leave the subway cars towards an inside platform that is directly connected to the outside platforms on the other line’s level. at rush hour there is an almost continuos flow of passengers from the blue line to the red line and vice versa, which is quite an amazing sight.

Apart from this extremely well-choreographed handling of masses the fact that they have a station called ‘imigrantes‘ (on the green line) is another reason to love the planners of the São Paulo Metrô

More panorama shots here and here.

Parallel infrastructures

Ok, cant go on being abusive of other people her like in the last couple of posts. does not really add too much to the whole and apparently it will be held against me by some prospective employer in the future anyway. Speaking about employment: it is no secret that the dutch economy (especially the construction, cleaning and agricultural sectors employ a huge number of (temporary) workers from Poland and other Eastern European countries (ironically germany seems to become an Eastern European country as well at least in this aspect if one is to believe the mdr (google cache).

Many of these migrants combine working in the the Netherlands (or western Europe for that matter) with living in Poland. these pendular migration strategies are made possible by the vastly improved transportation facilities between the east and the west. When reading about ‘improved transprotation’ images of high speed trains and low cost airlines come to mind, but these migration patterns seem to fundamentally rely on a parallel transportation infrastrcuture:

In my thesis i had already mentioned this parallel infrastructure (without giving much thought to it then):

A trip from Perlejewo to Brussels and back costs approximately 80 dollars, and the increased competition among coach companies is reducing the cost of such fares even more. The trip lasts approximately 24 hours, and there are even ‘door to door’ transport services. (Frejka et al. as cited on p. 53)

Last weekend i drove back from Berlin to Amsterdam relatively early on Sunday morning, and this provided me with an opportunity to see these transport services in action. A significant amount of the cars traveling west on the A2 were minibuses registered in Poland (and either displaying signs of polish tour operators or even more tellingly of Dutch temporary work agencies). Some of them traveling alone some of them traveling in convoys of 3 or 4 vehicles. in total i think i saw at least 60 or so of these vehicles of more than 40 companies, which as we are traveling at at approximately the same speed most likely is only a small share of the total traffic on that day. That translates into a lot of people commuting from Poland to work in NL on that Sunday.

In the last 3 years i have travelled a lot between Berlin and Amsterdam, but almost exclusively by train and while the direct trains from Berlin to Amsterdam originate in poland i have never really noticed polish workers using the train to commute to Holland. This is probably due to the exorbitant prices of railway tickets nowadays (a standard return ticket berlin amsterdam is €184) but having seen these minibuses in action there is obviously another advantage to them. most of them were traveling at 140KM/h or more and if one combines this with the fact that these buses seem to offer door to door services, this probably translates into enormous time savings especially when one assumes that most of the trips taken by these pendular migrants are from small rural places to small rural places (which tend to have lousy public transport connectivity). In any case i was quite impressed by this almost hidden, highly flexible parallel transport infrastructure.

Avian influenza

06 Mar 2006 | 41 words | berlin streetart public transport pandemic

I am sick, given all the pooh-ha in the media i one would like to assume that it is the bird flu, especially with pale ducks appearing on the u-bahn in Berlin over the weekend. i am feeling doomed….

Pale Duck

Women empowerment

16 Dec 2005 | 94 words | politics public transport bombay india

So apparently the government of Maharashtra (the same idiots who came up with the brilliant idea to rename Bombay into Mumbai) thinks it can improve the position of women by stenciling ‘women empowerment’ on the back of every second rickshaw in the state (the other half has ‘if a girl studies progress will happen’ stenciled on them in Marathi). To me it is not really clear how this is going to work, and most of the time the inside of the rickshaw makes it even harder to believe in this kind of symbolic politics:

Vicious penguins

31 Oct 2005 | 285 words | public transport travel sao paulo food penguins

For some reason the hotel staff got the reservation a bit wrong and though that Monica, Vishwas and me are all called monica. at least they started addressing us like this when we checked in yesterday night. This already reminded me of the penguins in madagascar, but things got even more Madagascar-like a bit later. We had inquired about a japanese restaurant that would be open on a sunday night (which given how serious they take their sundays here is a bit of a difficult thing to find) which resulted in one of the ladies from the reception volunteering to walk us to one near Avenida Paulista that according to a friend of hers would be definitely open.

Now it is quite a trip to go from downtown to Paulista by subway (it involves changing lines twice) and a bit strange to be accompanied by someone from your hotel reception on high heels who is apparently eager to brush up her english by chatting to us. As one could have predicted the restaurant was closed and by the time we got back (t(stay) = 0 in this case but the rest of the equation being confirmed once more due to the fact that we took a cab on the way back) even the most reliable downtown restaurants were closed as well so we ended up in the hotel restaurant which managed to makes us wait for pasta for about one and a half hours. The whole hotel staff definitely resembles the slightly evil madagascar penguins a lot:

Completely unrelated i was wondering the other day if the vicious character of the penguins in madagascar is part of a secret plot by hollywood to discredit tux

More subway craziness

24 Oct 2005 | 129 words | social media public transport sao paulo

Seems that not only the people on the São Paulo Metro like strange combinations, but so do the vending machines (Vending machines for books on public transport systems have been covered elsewhere). In any case the book vending machine at the Barra Funda metro station offers an interesting combination of titles for R$ 4.99 (€2.20) each. Next to two titles by Niccolò Machiavelli (‘The Art of War’ and ‘The Prince’) there is a book about the immensely popular (at least in Brazil) social software application orkut (‘orkut – who do you know’):

This combination does of course a number of questions: who reads books about orkut? And who the fuck gets the urge to read Machiavelli on the subway? And what is the relationship between google and Machiavelli anyway?

Broken leg

24 Oct 2005 | 78 words | public transport fashion sao paulo

It is my first day in São Paulo and as it is raining (how did that happen?) i spend quite some time on the subway, which is always a good place to find out about local customs. For some reasons high heels seem to be very important here. In fact so important that people who seem to have a rather complicated fractured leg/knee combine their external steel frames that keep their bones aligned with 10cm plus high heels…

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: