July 2004


July 31, 2004

Hammondmania!

Patrick Crozier | Road Miscellany

hammond.jpg
Hammond is the one on the right - but you knew that
 
What is it about Top Gear's Richard Hammond?
he is fit

and:

i am such a big fan of his he is gorgoues

Is it because he's short? Is it because he's a Porsche freak (never a good sign in my book)? It can't be his dress sense. But he's got something going for him judging from the above recent comments.

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July 30, 2004

He who owns the road is the state, or is he?

Patrick Crozier | Road General

This came up in my posting on bus deregulation. In the first draft I wrote the following:

I think it should be fairly obvious but if someone truly owns the road ie can do what he likes with it, then anyone whose property borders the road (assuming here that there isn't another road round the back) cannot use the road (either himself or for the purpose of having deliveries made) without permission. He is effectively a prisoner.

Now, there is a slight fly in the ointment here in that the usual definition of a state is the body that claims a monopoly of force. So, it's not quite the same but it seems pretty close - there's an awful lot of control involved.

But it occurs to me that the assumption about roads around the back may not be true. If a whole road suddenly went out of bounds the residents would find alternative means of access and pretty quickly too.

The only real danger would be if the road owner were able to surround the property with his roads.

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July 29, 2004

John Hibbs and bus deregulation

Patrick Crozier | Buses and Jitneys

Yesterday, I referred to John Hibbs, Emeritus Professor at the University of Central England, as being one of those in favour of bus deregulation. Isn't he half? Here's a list of some of his online publications:

Deregulated Decade
Don't Stop the Bus
Why bus deregulation works better than franchising
Running buses
Transport Policy: the Myth of Integrated Planning

The last one is particularly interesting. Not because of anything it says (though that is good too) but because it is published by the IEA. It seems that at last they've got around to putting their stuff up online. Good.

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In a world of privatised roads, the road owners will run the buses

Patrick Crozier | Buses and Jitneys

In an earlier posting I suggested that if roads were privately owned the owners would tend to operate their own bus services.

I think this because of what would happen if (as I assume) the road owner attempted to auction off leases on curb space for bus stops.

It would be difficult for him to determine how far apart stops should be. It would be difficult to determine what routes to lease. (Stops on their own are useless, so I assume that it would be routes that would be sold off not single stops.) It would be difficult to determine what to do when routes used the same bus stops. Who gets the stop?

Of course, he could ask the bidders themselves but they would be likely to have different opinions and many might be unenthusiastic about divulging expensively obtained commercially sensitive information when (should they lose the auction) they might not even be the ultimate beneficiaries.

Not to put too fine a point on it I think the auctions would be done very badly.

On the other hand the road owner who ran his own bus services would be likely to learn what combination of routes and stops was most profitable as well as having the flexibility to be exploit that knowledge by, for instance, moving bus stops, changing routes and building newer, better stops.

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July 28, 2004

So, you want to do something about buses, eh?

Patrick Crozier | Buses and Jitneys

As Michael and Jackie D point out, London's state-controlled buses have found new ways to screw up. That's in addition to all the old ways.

So, the answer is to deregulate them, yes? Well, maybe, maybe not. There is a debate. UK academic, John Hibbs, is all in favour, but US academic, Dan Klein, thinks we may be missing a trick.

His claim is that because bus stops are free for alls there is no incentive for bus operators to make them nice places, in much the same way that in a world without intellectual property there (may be) no incentive for drug companies to invest in new drugs.

The answer? Auction off curb space. And who will be doing the auctioning? Why, the state, of course. Only one problem: it'll screw that up too.

No, what we really need is privatised roads. But I'm not so sure about this one either. First of all, I think the road operators will have a natural tendency to take over the buses. Secondly, while I think selling off the major highways is easy, I am far from sure about the local roads ie the ones with buildings next to them.

The problem is that he who owns the (local) road is pretty close to a state. So, he may as well be the state. And seeing as private roads are likely to operate their own buses shouldn't the same apply to state roads? In other words state-controlled buses are inevitable.

Someone tell me I'm wrong.

Update 30/07/04

I'm having doubts about my "he who owns the road is the state" line

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July 26, 2004

Do we talk about Modern Railways on Transport Blog?

Patrick Crozier | Blogging

Modern Railways, the magazine, that is. My copy arrived on the doorstep on Saturday and there's plenty to talk about, especially on the nature of rail safety legislation.

The thing is that there is something of an unwritten rule in the Blogosphere that you don't refer to things that aren't on the internet. Samizdata (as I understand it) goes even further than that - banning all references to things that aren't both on the internet and free.

Now, in an ideal world Modern Railways (or something jolly similar) would be right there on the internet. One thinks if the Guardian and Telegraph can do it surely MR can. (This is assuming, of course, that the economics are to scale). But this is not an ideal world and so one is left in something of a dilemma.

How to resolve? Suggestions please.

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July 21, 2004

Broken machines, broken systems

Jackie D | Buses and Jitneys

Hey, Michael Jennings - you're not the only one who has had trouble with the London Transport bus ticket machines lately.

Monday night, after attending this irritating little event, Samizdata's Perry de Havilland and I tried to buy bus tickets from a machine in Victoria Street. The machine took the first pound coin, which Perry was able to prise out after a few minutes, so we were not going to risk sticking another pound coin in it. When we boarded the bus, the driver was annoyed at us for not having tickets, even though it was not our fault. He mumbled something about getting tickets, handed us a slip of paper and motioned for us to sit down.

At the next stop, the driver started shouting at us to get out. Huh? Oh, get out and buy tickets from the machine at this stop, while he stops the bus's journey and waits. Except, he told us, that machine by the bus stop doesn't work either - we had to walk up the pavement to find another machine. While he and all the other passengers waited, the bus idling at the bus stop.

If I am out and about in Greater London and Central London, I am usually making enough journeys between several places to justify the cost of a Travelcard. So I had not encountered this whole "You can't buy tickets on the bus" system until Monday night. All I can say is, beyond lame. Or as Michael concluded in his post:

[O]nly a monopoly (and probably a public sector monopoly) would think to attempt to change the behaviour of its customers by providing them with worse service.
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July 20, 2004

Stand and deliver

Mark | Road Pricing

Transport minister Alistair Darling, one of the legion of chauffeur driven Scottish lawyers who make up the British government and a man who, lest we forget, does not have driving licence, has plans to charge road users up to 134p a mile... within 10-15 years. Should such a thing occur and if I haven't emmigrated by that time, then I'll probably just give up work altogether and go on the dole.

I drive about 20,000 miles a year (that's the equivalent of living 40miles from work) and my 43mpg car uses roughly £0.10 worth of petrol for each mile covered which equals a £2,000 per year fuel cost.

This is a heck of a lot money taken from my post tax wages; however it's not much more than Zone 6 London Transport card or rail commuters from Worthing or Wiltshire would pay (which is heavily subsidised by us car driving taxpayers I might add) and, unlike rail hostages, I am able to decide to travel anywhere at anytime, portage a bicycle, sing along to the radio and not be in the company of yobs. Money well spent I say!

I said I used £2000 "worth" of petrol but that's not strictly true. In fact I use £600 "worth" of petrol because that is what it costs Shell, ExxonMobil or BP to suck the crude oil out of the Earth, transport it across oceans to a refinery, separate the various parts into bitumen, diesel, petrol, kerosene, vaseline and goodness knows what else and then deliver the bit I want to the pump and pay everybody in the chain for their labours. With all that going on it's no surprise that Shell creates more wealth than any other company in the United Kingdom.

Of course we aren't allowed to just pay Shell, etc for our fuel. No Her Majesty's Customs & Excise, aka Gordon's Gestapo, levy a duty on that fuel and then charges VAT (sales tax) on top of that (yes tax on top of tax). Thus the tax fraction of a tank of petrol is roughly 70 per cent!!! or £1,400 per year. What have they done for all that money? Oh yea built hundreds of concrete and metal hazards in the road so no-one can overtake nowhere no how. Thanks a bunch! Has anybody driven up the Graveley Road behind the Lister Hospital in Stevenage recently? It's infuriating it really is.

So where were we? Oh yes road charging. I'm not against tolls per se. I used to pay to traverse the Tamar Bridge every day. But what I really object to is a combination of incredibly heavy tolls and incredibly heavy fuel tax. 134p per mile! That's just taking the piss! It's extortion! To travel along the New Jersey Turnpike from where the Pennsylvania Turnpike crosses the Delaware River, near where George Washington did like wise, north of Philadelphia up to the Holland Tunnel costs $4.95 for the 60 miles. That's just 8.25 cents per mile. And, needless to say, you can also fill up your car's tank for $16 too. Rip-off Britain eh? Compare and contrast.

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July 17, 2004

Britain's private road network

Andy Wood | Road General

Over at Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux quotes David Landes on one of the reasons that the industrial revolution began in Britain. The quote is worth reproducing here.

At the same time [17th and 18th centuries], the British were making major gains in land and water transport. New turnpike roads and canals, intended primarily to serve industry and mining, opened the way to valuable resources, linked production to markets, facilitated the division of labor. Other European countries were trying to do the same, but nowhere were these improvements so widespread and effective as in Britain. For a simple reason: nowhere else were roads and canals typically the work of private enterprise, hence responsive to need (rather than to prestige and military concerns) and profitable to users…. These roads (and canals) hastened growth and specialization.

From David S. Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations (1998), page 214-215.

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July 13, 2004

London Buses messes up a change in ticketing.

Michael Jennings | Buses and Jitneys | Fares and Ticketing

I very seldom pay a cash fare to ride a bus in London. This is true of most regular travellers in London. However it doesn't make the cash fares system unimportant.

I am not a fan of bus travel in general, with one exception, which is that I enjoy sitting in the front seat of the top deck of a double decker bus and watching London go by. For travelling around central London I find this to be more pleasant (although often slower) than catching the tube, which I often find hot, sticky, and claustrophobic. Added to this is the fact that Zone 2-6 travelcards are valid on buses in central London but not on the underground, so if I am willing to get a train to somewhere on the boundary between zones 1 and 2 and then proceed by a mixture of bus and foot, I can save a little money. However, if I have one destination in central London, it is usually cheaper to get a train only ticket to the nearest mainline station.

The combination of these factors means that if I am going into central London to multiple destinations (or somewhere out of the way) I will buy a Travelcard and use this to catch buses once I get in there, but if I am making a quick trip into a single part of the city, I just buy a train ticket and don't do so.

Therefore, the only circumstance in which I am likely to catch a bus and pay a cash fare is when I go into central London, someone rings me on my mobile phone l, I find that I have more business in central London than I thought, and some of the business is a substantial distance from where I am already.

As it happens, this occurred yesterday. I was in Oxford Street, and I discovered that I needed to be in Chelsea later that afternoon. No trouble. I could get the number 19 bus which goes from New Oxford Street, down Tottenham Court Road, Charing Cross Road, Shaftesbury Avenue, Picadilly, Knightsbridge and Sloane Street to the King's Road in Chelsea. Couldn't be easier. I reached into my pocket. I had a few coins, one of which was a pound coin with which to pay the £1.00 fare.

But at this point there is a complication. Since August 23 2003, it has not been possible to simply hop on a bus in central London and pay the fare to the driver. Passengers are now required to have a ticket before they get on the bus. (This policy is mostly due to the fact that bendy buses are too large and have too many doors for the driver to sell tickets to everyone, but there is probably an issue of encouraging us all to buy Oyster Cards as well). If one wants to pay cash, one must buy a ticket from a ticket machine next to the bus stop before boarding the bus. I tried to do this yesterday at a ticket machine in Oxford Street. The machine took my money, but did not acknowledge in any way that it had done so. No ticket.

This was deeply irritating, as I had no more cash. After a little running around I got a £10 note from a cash machine, but as the ticket machines do not take notes, I had to go and buy a can of Coke to get some change. I walked to the next ticket machine in Charing Cross Road. I put another pound coin in the ticket machine there. The result was exactly the same as the first machine. It took my money. No ticket. By this time I was livid, but what could I do? I had to keep trying. I walked to the next ticket machine in Charing Cross Road. A woman was attempting to stick her fingernails into the coin slot, presumably to extract a coin that was stuck there. So no joy with that one either. I walked down Shaftesbury Avenue, and found another ticket machine. This one, finally, worked. I managed to buy a ticket. I got the bus to Chelsea. Total cost to me, £3.00, plus the cost of a Coke that I wouldn't have otherwise bought but which I did enjoy.

This is only the second time I have attempted to catch a bus after buying a ticket from these ticket machines. (As I said, I normally buy a different class of ticket in advance and only pay cash in what are for me unusual circumstances). However, on that previous occasion something similar occurred. The first machine took my money and did not give me a ticket, the second did, and I spent £2.00 on a £1.00 fare.

Now what does this prove? Some would argue that ticket machines are inherently less flexible than conductors, are unable to give proper change, and to cope with unexpected situations. And I will concede that this is partly true. However, it doesn't have to be completely true. The ticket machines that have recently been installed in many tube stations and on some mainline stations in London are terrific. They accept credit cards, they accept notes as well as coins, they give change, and they can issue almost any class of ticket that a customer could possibly want. The ticket machines that are on tram stops in Croydon are not as good as this, but they are easy to use, they are designed so as to not be vulnerable to vandalism, and they sell a good range of different types of ticket. Railway station ticket machines are normally inside buildings that are attended by staff, so it is understandable that machines that are outdoors and not protected by staff cannot be as flexible and must be physically much tougher, but I cannot see any good reason why the bus ticket machines should not be at least as good as the ones provided by Tramlink. And the truth is that they are much, much worse.

The bus ticket machines are prone to break down, are very vulnerable to vandalism, are extremely confusing and non-intuitive to use, they are inflexible as to the denominations of coin they take (they don't take notes) and there are no clear instructions written on the ticket machines explaining how they operate. Having tried to use them for two journeys in total that should have cost £2.00, I have suffered considerable inconvenience and have paid £5.00 in total. (Judging by this post it seems my experience is fairly typical). Catching a bus in central London has been made much, much harder than it needs to be or that it was before.

Now there are two possibilities here. One is that the whole thing is simply a bureaucratic screwup. This is always possible, particularly with public sector organisations and/or monopolies. And truthfully, one should usually not blame anything on a conspiracy that can be blamed on simple incompetence. However, the other possibility is that there is an element of deliberateness in this, particularly given that it seems clear that the congestion charge has been made unduly complicated in order to dissuade people from driving in central London. This is fine, other than that a higher charge would have done equally well at dissuading people from driving in central London without the resulting revenue shortfall, and the fact that people who genuinely need to travel into central London are inconvenienced by the difficulty of paying the charge as well as the expense. (Almost every basic economics textbook at some point gives an argument as to why tarrifs are superior to quotas. The argument here is a virtually identical argument, as is the one I will make for bus fares in a moment).

In terms of bus fares, the similar conspiracy theory would be that in its move to get us to all carry Oyster cards, Transport for London is making it deliberately difficult to pay cash. If so, this is astonishingly foolish. Yes, there is some portion of the travelling population that pays a cash fare every day and it is desirable for these people to instead use some prepay method in order to save time and resources. They might well switch to prepay if you may paying cash harder, but this can equally well be achieve by simply raising cash fares and not raising prepay fares. (Transport for London have indeed done this, and it is perfectly sensible. People are simply being asked to pay for the extra staff time they use up by buying a ticket every day. This is entirely reasonable). However, people who pay cash are also very often people who are departing from their normal routines, just as I was yesterday. Often they are people from out of town. Such people are often in states of more stress than regular travellers, and are less familiar with the workings of that section of the transport system, and have probably just made a decision on the spur of the moment to use it. This is a portion of the travelling population that simply wants to get on a bus and say "I want to go to Chelsea. How much?". This is the segment of the travelling population that a transport operator should go out of its way to make the system easy for, not hard for. (If you charge them more than regular travellers, so be it). And Transport for London has here achieved the precise opposite. Well done to them for that.

And truthfully, only a monopoly (and probably a public sector monopoly) would think to attempt to change the behaviour of its customers by providing them with worse service.

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July 11, 2004

Could (and should) "rights" be auctioned off?

Patrick Crozier | Fares and Ticketing

As regular readers will be aware I am a free marketeer. I believe that in the long run free (or freer markets) shift the goods. The operative phrase being "long run". In the short term, as we saw with the break up of the Soviet Union, things can be pretty hairy. Indeed, I think the fear of what might happen in the short run is one of the greatest obstacles to getting the state out of things like health and education.

Could things be done differently? Is it possible to construct a system which in the medium-term will deliver the free market but which will keep the short-term pain to a minimum?

Consider an example that has been exercising my imagination recently: train overcrowding. The answer, of course, is to abolish fare control and although in the long run things would get better in the short run things (for many people) would get decidedly worse as train fares went up sharply.

Could one answer be to auction off (or perhaps more likely, give away) the right to control fares? Maybe that sounds a bit complicated. Here's how it might work in practice:

The state identifies all those people currently benefiting from a controlled fare. It gives each of them a shareholding in a company proportional to how much they spend on fares. The company has the right to regulate fares.

My guess is that the rail companies (I am assuming here that they are privatised) would pretty quickly buy up the fare control company. In which case every existing shareholder ie current beneficiary of fare control would get some sort of payment from the sale of their shares. This payment would have to, in some way, reflect the value of fare control to passengers or otherwise they wouldn't sell. So, in other words: fares are freed and yet the short-term pain is minimised.

But would it work? And if it could work here could it work elsewhere?

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July 09, 2004

Buses, taxis and tarmac – London in the age of the Congestion Charge

Brian Micklethwait | Road Pricing

The Congestion Charge, £5 per vehicle per day, has had a far more profound and long lasting effect on London traffic than I - or the people who imposed it, according to my friend Antoine Clarke, who used to work for Transport for London – expected. Those in charge expected far more money from the Big C, and I expect pretty much the same old traffic jams as before.

Instead, this happened. Here are two pictures of London now, taken in much the same manner as the ones of the boats below. I.e. I was looking for scenic fun, but encountered an interesting fact about transport. Click to get bigger pictures. The one on the left was basically an attempt to capture a favourite effect with me, which is evening sun on modern buildings (which my cheap little camera isn't really capable of). And the second was snapped during a visit to the rather nice restaurant at the top of Number One Poultry, which is that building in the City that Prince Charles said looks like a thirties radio set, which it does but in a good way. We are looking down into the traffic morass (as it used to be but isn't any longer) in front of the Bank of England.

busesund.jpg    busestaxisd.jpg

Buses everywhere, and in the City, taxis everywhere. But almost no civilians. Both these pictures were taken at what used to be the serious beginnings of the afternoon rush hour, and is no longer.

My mistake (and that of the powers-that-be) was to think that the cost of the Congestion Charge is £5. It is that, per day. But the real question is: what does it cost to be the kind of person who pays the Congestion Charge quite often? What does the Congestion Charge habit cost? And the answer to that is: (a) a hell of a lot, and in particular (b) a hell of a lot more than £5. (One day I will pen a Long Essay, for here or for somewhere, called something like: Spending as Habit: Why Cheap Things Are So Expensive and Therefore Why Raising The Cost of Something Cheap Makes Such a Hell of a Difference.)

By the way, it's nice that all the buses in the pictures are London-style double deckers, rather than these dreary single decker double length things that we also have now, courtesy Mayor Ken, that you also see in every other city in the world.

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The river boats of London

Brian Micklethwait | Transport Miscellany

One of my London life's keenest London pleasure's is to wander around London, taking photos of buildings, bridges, people, people on bridges, and (a particular personal speciality) other people taking photos. A particularly good place thus to indulge is along the river. The bit between the National Theatre and Tower Bridge has recently become particularly amusing, what with the opening of Tate Modern and the construction of the Millenium Footbridge.

So, the river tends to feature a lot in my picture taking, and I can't help noticing, now, how often boats have the habit of inserting themselves into the scene I am photo-ing. Okay, so I like boats, and not far from the front of my mind when I see them is that I occasionally do bits for Transport Blog, and boats are transport. But I haven't had to go at all out of my way to take pictures like these, or to stand around waiting. Every few minutes, it seems, on the Thames, in London, a boat goes by.

Here are some photos I took, just in the last few days. What you see are thin thumbnails, which emphasise the boat aspect of the pictures. Click on these pictures to observe their larger setting, should you wish to, which mostly means the buildings on the far side, such as St Pauls Cathedral. Four of these pictures were taken in the St Pauls/Tate Modern vicinity, and the last two were snapped from Docklands.

Boats1d.jpg

Boats2d.jpg

Boats3d.jpg

Boats4d.jpg

Boats5d.jpg

Boats6d.jpg

Boats in London could be about to get bigger. Not literally. Or not necessarily literally. Maybe just a bit more numerous. But one way or another, they could be about to become a more important part of the London transport scene.

It was the recent tube strike which made me think of this, and although I cannot now find any mention of this (not being the world's cleverest googler) I distinctly recall mention being made at the time of how people were taking to the boats to make journeys that had become impossible on the Underground. I vividly recall how it was a postal strike some years ago which opened the eyes of a critical British mass to the possibilities of fax machines. The fax has now been entirely overtaken by email, but for a time it was a most welcome alternative to relying on the mail. Perhaps a tube strike will some time soon serve as a similar provocation to persuade us Londoners to take to our river in a far bigger way than we do now.

Even when there are no strikes, the tube in the rush hour is a hellish place. There is now the Congestion Charge to contend with. And the regular trains are … the trains. So any alternative to the horrors of transport on land is bound to grow in appeal, especially one as pleasing as a boat.

One of the boats pictured above, the one that looks as if it is made of Meccano, is perhaps of particular interest. It is the one that serves the two London manifestations of the Tate Gallery. Perhaps this will cause Posh London eventually to reckon boats to be devices for persons other than mere tourists. Posh London already uses boats, moored, for parties.

The river itself has got a lot nicer in recent years. It used to be – exaggerating only somewhat – a sewer along which much business was done but from which there was little pleasure to be had. Now it is much cleaner, and I understand that the fishes are back. Plus, the banks of the Thames just keep on getting better. New paths constantly open up, and enticing new attractions, such as the Wheel, the Globe Theatre and Tate Modern, a constantly opening for business. They even plan to redo the innards of the Royal Festival Hall and make it somewhere in which orchestras might actually want to play. So the business to be done taking people from this spot on the river to that spot is only going to grow and grow.

There is also the fact that just as, in the past, industry was spread all along the river, now a new world of residential accommodation has sprung up, especially down river. This means that the river makes a far more logical passenger transport route, for workers rather than just trippers and tourists, than it ever used to. Click on the fifth of my six pictures, and you can see the kind of thing I mean, across the river from Docklands. Docklands itself, of course, is a huge new London Fact, and greatly enhances the appeal of boats.

I must qualify all the above. These are the speculations of an amateur, suggesting that the prospects for London boats must have improved somewhat. Whether they have improved enough for the boats to multiply and flourish as much as I hope they might, I cannot say for sure.

One thing is for sure, and that this that our mayor sees things similarly.

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July 08, 2004

Connecting on the move

Brian Micklethwait | Transport General

I find people talking in a noisily moving train that I'm also in to be intensely annoying, and I know I'm not the only one. The regular din of the train I can take. I can screen that out. But the talking, perhaps because it has to be done in a way that registers above the din of the train, is excruciating. You find yourself unable not to listen to it.

I think this is part of why there is such intense hatred of people who use portable phones indiscriminately on trains. If a train is delayed, and a fellow passenger makes that minimum length phone call he has to make to say that he'll be late, that's okay. A man's gotta say what a man's gotta say. But casual chit-chat into a portable, shouted. Fetch me a gun.

It will be interesting to see how we all feel about the next big thing that people are going to do on trains and planes and buses and boats, which is play with their portable computers. That's a link to a New York Times piece about how internet connection on the move is coming along. So, how is it coming along? Answer: it's coming along:

Providing Internet access on vessels and vehicles is not as simple as adding it to a fixed venue, like a restaurant or even a convention center. Boats, buses and trains have metal skins or hulls that block wireless signals. They move, often at average speeds of 20 to 100 miles per hour, requiring a system that can rapidly and seamlessly hand off a signal. And they could have large numbers of simultaneous users, many of whom are already working on laptops during the voyage.

Jim Long, director of information technology for the Washington State ferry system, said that boats on the Bainbridge Island-to-Seattle run carry 2,600 passengers during each rush-hour trip. Based on his observation of commuter work habits, he said, "you could have upwards of 300 to 400 at any one time trying to access the Internet - those are concurrent users."

Airlines, too, are looking at making Wi-Fi connections available to passengers, and face some of the same challenges. Two competing services, Connexion by Boeing and Tenzing, provide Internet access (at $10 to $30 per flight) by connecting to satellites relaying service from the ground. But the commuter projects offer the potential to become part of a daily routine, and perhaps an incentive for some people to abandon commuting by car.

That last point, that computer access could be the difference between driving yourself and having someone else carry you while you sort through your emails, is a particularly interesting one.

My guess is that this will be rather like the habit people now have of listening to music through headphones. Being an oldy fogey now, I am irritated by that relentless clickety-click-clickety-click noise that radiates from the ears of those indulging in this. But dirty looks aren't going to be enough to stop this practice, the way that they at least shortened portable phone calls down to the utilitarian minimum. Clickety-click music machines are here to stay on trains. Next will be clickety-click laptopping.

It's interesting to note that laptopping on trains while all you can do is process stuff already on your machine has never really caught on. Most people use these things to process and communicate, rather than only to process, and if they can't do both they won't bother with either. But when they can do both …

More about Boeing Connexion here. Patrick also noted here a BBC report about that, way back in 2002.

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IN BRIEF

This is a list of date-based archives from the In Brief section:

November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004