Thursday, 24 January 2013

Where am I?

Photo of the Hong Kong MTR in-carriage map
So you're on an underground/metro/subway/other urban rail transport system.  You know where you got on (probably) and you know where you need to get off or change (hopefully).  But do you know where you are whilst en-route?  Probably not.

Hong Kong's MTR has a lot going for it.  It's efficient, the ticketing system (Octopus cards) is incredible (more on that another time perhaps), and it gets you to places in Hong Kong faster than you might otherwise be able to get there.  What I found particularly fantastic though was the in-carriage maps.

So often, especially in cities I'm not familiar with, I have absolutely no idea where I am when travelling on public transport.  And this is not because of a lack of cognitive mapping skills.  Like on many other train systems, Hong Kong's MTR provides a route map within the carriage.  This route map goes one step further though.  It is not a static, sticker on the wall.  It has lights to indicate which stops you have passed, and which stop is coming up next.  It goes one step further still.  It lets you know whether you need to get out on the left side or the right side.  Genius.

No more standing in the middle of a crowd of people, deciding on your exit strategy, wandering which people you will have to elbow out the way to get off the train.  You can gently start making your way towards the correct door in plenty of time.  And no more having to enquire, sometimes in a foreign language, "Which stop is next?".  The map highlights it for you.

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