Posts Tagged: Camping Gear



What Transit Can Learn From Camping Gear: A Thought Experiment

Image by capcase.

In his legendary treatise on industrial design The Design of Everyday Things, Donald A. Norman professes his love for camping gear as being some of the best-designed products in the world.

Why does he think such gear is so well-designed? Because more often than not, the products are designed by people who actually use them.

It makes logical sense. Campers, hikers and the like are prone to understand the needs of outdoor gear better than anyone else by virtue of the fact that they encounter the situations that warrant said products more frequently than anyone else.

They get it because they do it.

It’s such a simple and intuitive concept that it almost slips past you. Products designed by people who use them are often (typically?) better than products designed by people who don’t use them.

You wouldn’t trust a plane engineered by people who don’t fly, now would you? Nor would you want to eat from a restaurant that even it’s own head chef wouldn’t dine at.

So then why do the same standards not apply to transit?

A thought experiment:

The remarkably poorly-named city of Transitopolis passes an ordinance obliging all the people who planned, engineered, operated and designed Transitopolis’ transit system to use the service on a semi-regular basis.

That is, all people in Transitopolis who worked in transit must make more than half of all their trips by public transit. And I’m not just talking about the engineers. I’m talking about everyone from the drivers to the ticket takers to the planners. Everyone.

How much different and/or better would public transit be in Transitopolis than, say, your city? Might it be worse?

The situation described for Transitopolis is impossible, I know. Despite what some transit advocates would like you to believe, one can’t force another to take a specific mode of transit to and from work everyday. And if one could it’s likely to be in a part of the world you wouldn’t want to live in. I think it safe to say that Transitopolis wouldn’t be the most popular place to live on earth.

Nevertheless, the question intrigues me.

Maybe a better way of phrasing the question is this: How many of the people involved in the daily operation, running and planning of your city’s transit system actually use your city’s transit system? How many of them see transit as nothing more than their job or as a product they believe in strongly enough to use it everyday?

I doubt such statistics exist. But if they did, you’d probably learn a lot about the state of transit in your city just by looking at them.

Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.