Sunday, 9 October 2011

Fantasy Rail Maps, what is wrong with them (Part 2)

In the last part of this series I addressed the cost and efficiency of systems that encourage one-seat rides on trains everywhere. In this part I will look at frequency, reliability and legibility.
While some fantasy rail networks may run very frequently, others may not run many services. This affects cost too; a system that offers one-seat rides very frequently will have an enormous cost, one that offers one-seat rides at low frequencies not so much, but this would make a system very inconvenient, despite the lack of transfers.(I made an earlier post on the convenience of frequent services)
In a train system where services from every line go to every or even some other lines, reliability will take a hit. If a service on Line A going to line B is delayed, then the service behind it going to Line C will also be delayed, and so there will be longer wait times on Line C, and trains from other lines going onto Line C may have to wait for the service from line A.
This last problem, legibility, is a big one. If there are 3 trains stations near your house, and 6 trains serve each station, with each coming from different directions and going to different places, it can be confusing to find out how to get somewhere despite all the direct services. This difficulty will be compounded if frequencies are low, requiring lives to be tied to a timetable.
In conclusion, while I do not advocate useless transfers, I think that we can live with a few transfers if the networks are frequent, reliable, make sense and aren't  a big drain on government finances. Also, while trains have their place in transporting large amounts of passengers, buses will continue to play a major role in low density cities like Perth.

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