Thursday, November 3, 2011

Are all changes really improvements?

I can just imagine it: The yearly review at Egged; the Jerusalem bus cooperative. The major request for change must have been to get rid of the need to punch those paper bus tickets.


It was slow, it meant interacting with each passenger. it meant that the person driving a million-dollar bus spent a good part of his day punching holes into paper; paper handled by other people and he had no way to wash his hands.


So, many years ago they created the monthly bus pass. Now the bulk of travelers simply flash their passes and walk by. What a major improvement.


In parallel they decided to upgrade to the 21st century and computerize the system.


Welcome to CityPass. Each passenger has a debit card - this should really improve things.


But, as often happens, this was not thought through carefully. Now every single passenger needs to insert their bus card into the machine; the driver punches a button and - after the light on the machine turns from red to green - you can remove your card and the line behind you can advance slightly.


As an added bonus, at major bus stops (like the Central Bus Station) you can no longer enter by the back door after an inspector punches your card.


Net result: Travel time by bus has increased noticeably.


A spec-review would have been in order here! A project manager would have picked up on issues like:


- The machine which validates the cards better be lightning fast if the driver is to deal with each passenger


- Alternatively there could be card readers at every door so that the driver does not have to deal with any passengers. This is how the light rail has it planned out. On 1 Dec we shall find out if their system really works.


A few simulations would have picked up these issues.


Now I'm waiting to see what happens as the magnetic strip on the cards start be wear out... that will surely wreak havoc on the system as people alight and discover their bus cards are dead...


Conclusion: Not every change is an improvement.

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