Advisor to “nearly every president on transportation since Truman”

According to
this article
I have now been credited as advisor to “nearly every president on transportation since Truman”. For the record, I was born in the Lyndon Johnson administration (and near the end of that), not the Andrew Johnson administration.
Cars at crux of tension between Metro and suburbs
FRESH LOOK — Transit road map hinges on city, county, region agreement
By Nick Budnick
The Portland Tribune Nov 27, 2006

See attendant

One day, while swiping my Oyster card on the reader at a tube station I got the “See attendant” message. The gate remained open.
Am I
A) supposed to go through and ignore the message
B) go through and then find the attendant
C) not go through and back out of the line and find the attendant?
How will this affect “don’t touch in and you will pay the maximum fare”?
In the course of events I backed out and the attendent told me to go through and ignore the message. I have no clue as to whether I was charged £1.50 or £4.00 for the journey.

Bus route centennial and why buses in London are red

According to Wikipedia, London Buses route 22 was introduced on May 17, 1909. By 1911 it had evolved into the route that serve as the link between my current home near Putney Commons and Piccadilly Circus. (It was extended from Putney Bridge to Putney Commons in 1916). The route has evolved some since that time mainly being split into two pieces, the northern branch “shortworkings” designeated 22A, 22B, and 22C and later 242. The 22 was later stopped at Piccadilly and the Northern shortworkings were fully separate routes.
Why is this of interest?
Not only is continuous service provided on the same route, a continuously numbered bus route has managed to last nearly 100 years on largely the same route, longer than most rail services.
One could attribute this to bureaucratic intertia, but it also helps locals at least retain knowledge about their transport geography.
While consistent bus numbering was a positive aspect to come out of the reorganization of the London buses through the twentieth century, much was lost in term of information by the use of red for all city buses.
The distinction between the red city buses and green country buses is well known (the green buses have lost their distinction with privatization). However, prior to that, buses along certain services in fact had their own colors (based on which Association was operating the service (Reed p. 10). The “General” was red, and since they were the survivors of consolidation, buses in London are today red. This is clearly much less useful for navigation than one color for each route, but if the companies each operated only one route (or several very similar routes) they would be equivalent.
Having all buses be red might help branding, on the other hand, buses are pretty easy to distinguish based on shape, and don’t really need to have a single color for branding at the expense of wasting that parameter for passenger information.
Reference: Reed, J. (2000) London Buses: A Brief History. Capital Transport.

Road Pricing Petition

The Road Pricing debate in the UK is much more advanced than the US. Many reports and white papers have advocated adopting road pricing to reduce congestion and pollution (though whether the fuel tax would be reduced is not quite clear, one suspects no). This has garnered some public debate, being shown on the national news and in the daily newspapers. The Telegraph has a link
to a petition at Number 10 Downing Street that opposes road pricing. To date 58,676 people have signed. I did not see a petition in favor of pricing. After the public comment, the government will make a decision, though I am doubtful the public comment will actually affect the decision.
While the success of the London Congestion Charging scheme are impressive, it is unclear whether the rest of the country is willing to go along with still higher prices to travel (fuel here is near the equivalent of $8.00 per gallon).

Security is the enemy of efficiency, or attention is a scarce resource

“Security is the enemy of efficiency”. I don’t know if anyone has said it before, but it has become clear to me that the primary outcome of most security systems is to make my (and others’) life less productive. Whether I am safer as a result I have no evidence to produce.

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Touching In

“If you don’t touch in and touch out with your Oyster card, you will be charged the maximum fare”. This is the new rule implemented by TfL in November 2006 to ensure that people are paying the correct fare on the UndergrounD.
I have inadvertantly validated that they do in fact charge the maximum fare, returning home one day last month, all of the turnstiles at the South Kensington station were marked with a big red X and were open. Not sure how to touch in (I actually DID touch the Oyster card to the reader, but it wasn’t read, due to the thing causing the big red X), I, along with hundreds or thousands of others walked through. Touching out at Putney Bridge, I saw a £4.00 deduction rather than the normal £2.00. So I paid £2.00 for science. It is not worth my time to complain to TfL (though worth it to blog about)
The problem with this system is that it assumes the system is perfect. Now this is TfL’s UndergrounD, we know quite well the system is far from perfect, my estimate is that a given line has problems between 10% and 20% of the time.
The turnstiles have many of the same maintenance issue writ small. The reader can be down, even when it is up, there is no visual feedback that your card was read on many readers (the light/LED behind the green “Enter” sign is out), and the auditory feedback is impossible to detect in a crowded, noisy station. When I exit, Putney Bridge’s turnstile tells me how much is left, not all turnstiles do. When I enter or exit at South Kensington, the gates are open from the previous person who touched in or paid by ticked.
Another problem is the maximum fare rule. If I have already spent a lot on public transport today, or if I have an unlimited use pass, touching in and out really don’t matter (I assume, I have not tested this).
Is there a better solution? Clearly charging the minimum fare would encourage abuse.
Comparison with the same users daily travel patterns could be used to detect anomolies, but creates its own difficulties, and does not guarantee fairness as people may change patterns from day to day.
A single flat fare (as on buses) would avoid this problem, but would of course favor long over short trips. It also defeats the whole point of having smart cards, since a much simpler technology could be used to collect money.
A more reliabile ticketing/turnstile system would help, but may also slow down travelers (closing the gate quickly after a passenger goes through, delaying the next passenger as the gate must reopen). This is of course the better solution.

VMS: Variably-reliable Misinformation Signs

Variable Message Signs (VMS) are intended to provided information to travelers on roads (how long to nearby destinations, warning of an accident, there is an Amber Alert, please run a car with license plate XXX YYY off the road). In London they are used on underground and National Rail trains and at selected bus stops with the Countdown system installed.
I wish they were accurate.

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With rail, you know where you’re going, … NOT

In the previous entry “On ‘A Streetcar Named Development'”, I noted ‘The more important concern is revealed by the closing quote from Teresa Wernecke, director of the Downtown Minneapolis Transportation Management Organization. ‘“With rail, you know where you’re going,? Wernecke said.’
I am here to tell you, that in London, on rail, you don’t know where you are going. Yesterday, returning home from Imperial College on the District Line, I boarded the Wimbledon-bound train at the South Kensington Station. The District Line roughly forms an 3–C Shaped network (all distorted though), The Edgware Road branch and the City branch come together at Earl’s Court (the two branches of the “C”), and then lines split again for Wimbledon, Richmond, and Ealing (the three prongs of the the “3”).
Well, before the train reaches Gloucester Road station, the conductor announces the train has been redirected to Ealing Broadway, and all passengers bound for Wimbledon (or points in-between) needed to change trains at Earl’s Court.
While this is not a big deal, walking from one train on the platform to another across the platform, it created a lot of confusion. Native Londoners were asking me (a newbie) what was going on.
Those dynamically rerouting the trains had a good reason for this (another Wimbledon-bound train was already at the Earl’s Court platform, one for Ealing must have been held up somewhere upstream), trying to balance service or flow of trains.
If this had only happened once, one might say, “that’s strange”. But in two months of semi-regular commuting this is the third time this has happened. I missed the announcement once and had to backtrack. This does not happen with buses.
The point is that (A) when you have a complicated system, this creates opportunities to dynamically reroute (on a single line system, the exercise would be meaningless), and (B) there is not something inherently more secure or informative about rail over bus, and may be found more on rail than on buses (I have yet to be on a bus which suddenly changed which route it was traveling on).