In cities with extensive public transit systems, it can be easy to get on the wrong bus/train/subway or miss your stop.
Obviously, an astute transit-taker could realize their mistake by noticing the following:
- Stop names being verbally announced
- Stop names being indicated on a screen, even on buses.
- In some places, different metro stations may have a distinctive jingle that plays. This “train melody” can be unique for each station.
- And now that essentially everyone has a cell phone, a rider can also check their position with their phone’s GPS.
But we can still improve things further!
In order to make the “train melodies” even more informative—and make it less likely that you’ll get on the wrong train—the following system is proposed:
- While moving, each train (or bus, subway, etc…) plays a song the entire time it is moving between stops.
- These songs are specific to each pair of stations and direction: so there is a particular song that plays from Station A to Station B, and a different song that plays from Station B to Station A (or we could play the same music, but backwards).
- The song durations are chosen to be the approximate amount of time that it takes the train to travel between the two stations. So a passenger has a general idea of when they’re about to arrive at the next stop, since they will notice that they’re coming to the end of the song.
- And here is the key additional innovation: each transit line (e.g. a train line or bus route) has a different genre of music: see details in Figure 1.
This sort of music-genre-specific train melody also makes it extremely obvious when you’re on the wrong train at a transfer station: you might not notice that you’re on the wrong train if two lines have substantial overlap for much of their routes, but the unexpected music would make it extremely clear.
This might get complicated for bus routes: large cities have dozens (or hundreds!) of routes, so we’d have to start delving into very subtly different musical sub-genres.
PROS: May save hundreds of work hours that have been, previously, lost as a result of commuters getting on the wrong trains.
CONS: It would be very difficult to change the music selection without confusing everyone, so we would end up with a “time capsule” of musical choices from whenever this system was first implemented. It could get increasingly dated as time goes on.
Instead of just playing random unrelated songs in a specific genre, the entire line could be calibrated to play an entire album by a specific band. This might help bring back the long-form album in a world dominated by singles, too! So maybe the “Red Line, Westbound” would also be the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” line.