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Tag: subway

Never get on the wrong train again (assuming your city has a functional public transit system), thanks to these new musical cues—enjoy country music and/or smooth jazz on your entire commute! Also, it’s the same songs every single day.

The issue:

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!

Proposal:

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.
1-subway-musical-themes.png

Fig. 1: Each dot in this transit map represents a station, and the four colors represent different lines (a “Green Line,” “Red Line,” etc.). Each line plays a different genre of music: e.g. the Green Line could play American country western (serving the journeys indicated by “A” and “B” above) while the Blue Line plays 1980s German industrial music (which would regale passengers on the commute indicated in “D” above). This will allow each reader to have an immediate intuitive understanding of which line they’re on.

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.

Bonus Idea:

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.

 

 

 

Improve public transit efficiency and never worry about train delays again! One incredibly practical engineering trick that you won’t believe isn’t already a standard feature.

Background:

Rail-based transportation has an inescapable problem: in a single-track situation, there is no way for a train to pull over and let another train pass.

The issue:

Thus, a single stopped train can block an entire track indefinitely. And a slow train can’t be overtaken by an express train.

This can be solved by adding multiple rails, but that is prohibitively expensive except in very small sections of track. Additionally, it increases recurring maintenance costs.

Proposal:

There is one incredibly simple solution to this problem: just put an additional set of tracks on top of every train car (Figure 1).

1-passing

Fig. 1: Each train car has a set of standard rails mounted on top, shown here in red. The very front-most and last-most cars must have a ramp as well.

 

Now, a slowed or stopped train can be passed by simply driving the passing train over the stopped train (Figure 2).

2-passing-train

Fig. 2: Here, the passing train (purple) is able to pass the stopped train by going onto the second set of tracks (red). The passing train would presumably also have a second rail on top, but it is omitted here for clarity, and definitely not because I forgot to draw it.

 

Conclusion:

As seen in the illustration above, this will definitely work on train cars weighing hundreds of thousands of pounds, so construction on this project can begin immediately without further testing.

PROS: Effectively turns every single track into a double track.

CONS: May cause complications if this method is employed while the being-passed train enters a tunnel during the passing process.