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Nick

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  1. Some buses have automated announcements outdoors that verbalize the destination sign. Twice, I've heard usability errors that would often confuse people thinking of boarding. I've reported both to MTA.info. I wouldn't know if the errors were corrected. Perhaps other people hear similar errors and might report them. Here are the two I heard: --- A bus was headed to W 37 St. The system said "double-you". It should have said "west". On another day, after I reported the first bus to the MTA, another bus made the same error. --- A bus was on the B36 route. It was announced as the "Bounty 36" or "Bouncy 36" (probably "Bounty 36"). It should have said "Bee 36". By the way, the latter bus was not bouncy. I stood in it for a short ride and it was just fine. An algorithm to govern pronunciations would be complicated, because, for example, "E" would be pronounced differently in different contexts. If the destination happened to be "Alfred E Smith Park", we should not say "Alfred Emanuel Smith Park" or ever "Alfred East Smith Park". The likelihood is that the best programming method is to write an algorithm, search the vocabulary for what is not accommodated by the algorithm, tweak the algorithm, search again, tweak more, and so on. This costs money.
  2. I hope these won't be stored-value cards. In other words, I assume the MTA will keep on its servers and not on the card the authoritative record of the balance on a pay-per-ride card or how much of the between-rides wait period is left on an unlimited card. Otherwise, having a contactless card get read by a non-MTA reader could reduce my remaining balance or impose a wait, probably without a notice we'd recognize. Faraday cage for me. Carrying two wallets is acceptable. Entering efficiently is nice, but I'd rather make everyone wait while I get my card out of its Faraday cage. Or I'll get it out only a moment before, enter, and put it away. I won't get the efficiency but entry shouldn't be slower than now, unless the plan is to have fewer turnstiles because entry would be faster and then we fumblers will take longer than now. @RFIDSecur: Cards being untuned, sensed at no more than half an inch away or possibly up to two inches away, may not depend on the gap being empty airspace. In my PATH experiment (above), a gap of nearly 2 inches filled with paper (700 pages) and 4 book covers was scanned through. I did not run the same experiment on multiple cards or at multiple turnstiles. @RFIDSecur: Instituting contactlessness for the MTA won't, by itself, spread contactlessness to many other institutions. I think I've seen only two brick-and-mortar retailers that won't take cash. One other retailer said about half of its transactions were with plastic, so the other half weren't. @INDman: "99.9% of the time when people get multiple fares deducted when trying to enter the system, happen because they don’t read the display of the turnstile and they tap . . . their card too many times." Yes; but the system should be designed for how people would use it rather than demanding more from people than they understand. Most people are not geeks. Occasional users, such as some retirees and most tourists, will have the overcharge problem more. A conflict is that a pay-per-ride card may be usable for multiple immediate rides, perhaps for families; so we may not want to prevent multiple uses in a short time front. Perhaps a solution is that a person with this problem who does not need multiple use can be allowed to preset the card to forbid two rides in a short time frame, even better if the owner can reverse that later at will. @checkmatechamp13: Whether "you can log in and check your card's balance and see where you swiped": I asked a customer service rep (and I think the MTA online) about that and was told it can't be done by someone like me (a passenger who has a MetroCard) or even by the customer service rep in a station booth. But I don't buy using a credit card, and maybe it can be done for some MetroCards, albeit not all. I assume police, MTA auditors, _et al._ can get the history at public terminals, like if a passenger tells an inspector that they paid before boarding as required for a few MTA bus lines but has lost the paper proof of payment.
  3. Interesting. I'm used to the term "guard rail" being for something taller, meant to catch a fender, not a wheel, but the term here has an additional meaning. On the elevated Brooklyn Q/B line at Sheepshead Bay, these rails don't go the whole length and part of where they don't go is part of a curve, which I assume would have a higher risk of derailment than would a straightaway, due to the train's momentum, so their ending short is a little surprising. The Times Square shuttle has them on all three tracks, but not laid the same, and the shuttle at Grand Central does not have them. On the shuttle, there's one rail just far enough from one running rail to accommodate a wheel flange. I guess that could be for the same purpose, protection of infrastructure, but with a different design. The shuttle design seems to depend on holding the wheels with little lateral leeway but on one side only, the other running rail having no guard rail near it, but if the one guard rail is strong enough then two are not needed. I've also seen the narrow space elsewhere, I think on the East River bridge carrying the B, but only for a short length. Many of the guard rails have a design that look like they're meant to catch something under the train, because they bend slightly inwardly near the ends and the ends are curved downward (and painted yellow). Whatever they should catch may be aligned to be outside of these guard rails. They don't put the down-curve ends on rails just being stored. I don't think that's necessarily for wheels except during a derailment, but maybe for a switch under a car, because sometimes there's a black metal box (perhaps electrical?) mounted between the running rails and the guard rails both terminate just before the box and resume just after it, and that would be a problem for wheels not in an emergency. I think I've also seen rails, I guess guard rails, that were very thin on top, but not for long lengths. The same tracks before or after would have regular-thickness guard rails. Thanks for answering my curiosity.
  4. @Deucey: Nearly a quarter of Americans do not have smartphones, as of nearly a year and a half ago (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/12/evolution-of-technology/ (URL accessed tonight). My guess is that the percentage who don't have is higher among people who ride subways. My experience is that my basic cell does not work in all stations and I would expect that to be true of smartphones as well. It's good that the MTA provides Trip Planners in stations; I've made some suggestions via MTA.info but overall they need better design and better software maintenance. I wish I knew how to encourage that.
  5. The headway is typically 2 minutes 24 seconds to 3 minutes as of last September, at least where the system uses fixed-block signaling (almost the entire system still using it), although I don't know if that typicality was a minimum or an average. "CBTC can run 40 trains per hour per line, or a train every 90 seconds. Due to physical limitations in the system, the best the subway can hope to see with a CBTC system is probably around a train every 120 seconds, or 30 trains per hour; still, that’s an improvement over today’s subway, which typically runs only 20 to 25 trains per hour." This is according to Rich Barone, of the Regional Plan Association, according to The Village Voice, September 7, 2017 (https://www.villagevoice.com/2017/09/07/meet-the-century-old-technology-that-is-causing-your-subway-delays/ (as accessed 4-22-18)). The L line has CBTC and the #7 line is being fitted with it, according to the same Voice source, so I don't know if the #7 has shorter headways yet. I just took the L twice in the pm rush hour and the actual headways were sometimes about a minute. In answer to my opening post, we mostly do not have 90-second headways, if we have any besides on the L, but trains may be switching tracks so that same-minute arrivals are not likely dangerous.
  6. @LGA_Link_N_train: Systems should be designed for the way people will often use them, not the other way around, when possible. For example, early in space travel, NASA figured out that an astronaut's panic button should be different from all other buttons even if its internal design is like most other buttons and even though astronauts are highly trained, practice a lot, are motivated, and are screened, unlike MTA passengers. So, the panic button might be red, big, isolated from other buttons, and responsive to a different hand motion. In general, for the general public, try not to need a manual, because even high-tech geeks tend not to read one until they're mired in a major foul-up. Design the system to be intuitive and, in general, more people will use it, use it more often, and report more satisfaction and people will be more satisfied with the MTA, and more usage will support more service and/or lower fares. @Deucey: The subway system still has a few coin phones for people who have no cells and international visitors may have phones that don't work here (I'm not allowed to use my cell outside the U.S.). I have a basic phone. I just tried the phone's browser. I got to a blank page titled Google Maps. In 4 minutes and 45 seconds from when I turned the browser on, there was not yet any field for typing anything. The page was still blank. My previous phone had a browser so bad I wouldn't use it even in an emergency. The phone does what I need it to do (mainly calls, texts, voicemail, and tell the time) and was $10 when new, and without a discount. I have no idea how to have Google text me travel info; I can find out but most people won't know, so that wouldn't help them, and any system should serve them without demanding too many Olympic leaps.
  7. @itmaybeokay, good point about the shine. @RR503, interesting. I plan to keep my eyes open, since some elevated sections lack them and I wonder if those sections are less dangerous. Maybe it has to do with not crashing into the platform as hard rather than not falling to the street, especially since they'd only protect the street (@itmaybeokay) if the derailment is minor long enough for the rails to work.
  8. @bobtehpanda and @LGA_Link_N_train: Trip Planner works for many trips, but it works more often if you know the limitations and workarounds. Its basic concept is very good. @QM1to6Ave: If you have access to Google Maps, fine. I don't in the subway unless I open my laptop and get a connection with transitwirelesswifi.com and not all stations support that.
  9. @HenryB, okay; at least that should reduce that particular risk. I assume it doesn't matter how the cardholder stacks them but only that the machine detects multiple cards, but I guess that would still be a problem if a user has one card in a front pocket and another in a briefcase (e.g., an employer's card), only the wrong one is detected, and so the wrong one gets charged because the user doesn't understand how the system works (most users won't). I guess it's a Faraday cage for me.
  10. I depend on the Trip Planner, because my phone's browser is too lousy for use. It's likely many people use the kiosks. I don't use it for walking. But if you're going from the Bronx to a Brooklyn address and the address is more than two miles from the nearest subway station, the Trip Planner denies that there's any way at all to get from the Bronx to your Brooklyn address. It assumes you won't walk more than two miles and so it basically acts as if you should stay home or take a taxi the whole way from the Bronx to Brooklyn. And that's if the walking distance menu is set to the maximum. It might be set shorter. And the menu is not displayed in subway On the Go kiosks.
  11. Just curious. Besides the weight-bearing rails (whatever they're called) and the third rail, I see, in some but not all active locations, other rails bolted down at short intervals and electrically connected end-to-end, which suggests that they're not there just for storage. If storage was the only reason they're there, I doubt they'd need as many bolts to prevent lateral movement and they wouldn't need to be electrically wired. The additional rails usually look well-worn, not shiny. Sometimes, one is inches from a weight-bearing rail with nothing next to the other weight-bearing rail. Sometimes, there'll be two additional rails between the weight-bearing rails but with neither one so near a weight-bearing rail. Sometimes, the ends will be rounded leading to the top surface, suggesting something under a car gets tripped. An example is visible in What are the additional rails for? What are they called?
  12. At the IRT #7's new station at 34th Street in Manhattan, the tracks continue south. Is there a yard, is it just for a few trains to park in midday, or is future growth with more stations being planned?
  13. The Trip Planner+ has usability issues. It often works fine. When it fails with finding an address, sometimes the fault lies with Microsoft Bing, which has problems of its own. But the Trip Planner fails at various times when the fault is in the Trip Planner software. I tell the MTA about specific addresses and a frequent reply is that I can type an address using another format. Once, the MTA said I could adjust a menu to allow me to walk farther (otherwise the Trip Planner would deny that there's any way to get to the destination at all), but kiosks in subway stations don't offer that menu, and the menu doesn't allow walking, Citi bicycling, or taxiing more than one mile. It's nice to offer a trick just for me, but other people need that, too. If a format is preferred, it should be visible. I've been trying to persuade the MTA to improve the usability for the sake of people who use it once, don't get the answer they're looking for, and give up. While the Trip Planner might generate statistics on use, many failures would look to the system like successes. Since several transit agencies offer something called a Trip Planner, I thought one vendor was behind it, but now that seems partly doubtful. Maybe one is, but the vendor I found seems not to promote it and it seems transit agencies sometimes take over maintenance and redesign. So it seems the MTA may be programming the Trip Planner's innards in-house. Usability comes up often in computer software design and the MTA is a transportation agency, not a computer firm, but the MTA would doubtless like more people to find the directions they want. Maybe someone who knows about computer design (especially user experience) would like to weigh in with the MTA (on user experience, a good source is https://www.nngroup.com/articles/definition-user-experience/).
  14. @itmaybeokay, track-switching makes sense and I didn't know enough about routes to consider that. As to keying by, I think they can come close enough to offload passengers from one train door-to-door into another, but it makes sense that they'd approach very slowly. (Larry King, then a radio host, told a story of misunderstanding a request that he use his car to give a push to someone to get their car started; he swung around the block and came from behind at 35 miles per hour. Evidently, they remained friendly despite the injury.)
  15. @bobtehpanda: Feature to some. Bug to some. Say a parent buys the cards for the family and is carrying them while near a turnstile. What card gets deducted from? All the cards? My guess is that Faraday-cage wallets should become common but won't. I didn't see them at PATH station newsstands, at least not prominently. It'll be a specialty item found on the Internet and a few upscale stores (I think some passports have a similar problem of remote readability but threatening personal security), because by the time a MetroCard Faraday cage would be in enough demand for popular sales the MTA would have been hearing lots of complaints about the cards, and if contactless works elsewhere well enough for most people it probably will for the MTA, too, and it'll mainly be watchful cheapskates like me who'll kick in for a Faraday cage or make one. @checkmatechamp13: But challenging a deduction for a ride because you didn't ride is likely going to be nearly impossible in most cases, unless you're still outside the turnstile, like the case today.

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