Monday, May 28, 2012

I will never take the L.A. metro again

    As a foreign student studying in Madrid, I have found that the easiest and cheapest way to get around has been the metro.  Most people realize how efficient the system is, but I think few people stop to think how detailed the engineering is that makes the system so efficient.  I myself am an Industrial and Systems Engineer, and much of what I learn about is how to make systems to a certain specification while minimizing variables such as cost and time.  Looking at the metro, I see an ideal example of what kind of systems ISE’s try to create.  When you first get into the metro, you’ll see that there are signs everywhere.  The signs tell you which way to go to catch a specific line, which stops the line serves, and which transfers are serviced by those stops.  As long as you know which stop you end on and what transfers you need to take if any then you’re good to go.  In addition, once you get off the metro there are signs that let you know which direction to go to exit onto certain streets.  The whole system is very simplified, which saves people time because they don’t have to spend the extra time figuring out where they need to go like they would need to in the L.A. metro.  In L.A., you have to know the color line you need to take since one track can serve multiple lines, and you need to know the last stop of the direction you need to take on that line in addition to what stop you want to get off at and any transfers you need to take.  That’s two extra pieces of information you have to know, which can cause confusion.  The very first time I took the metro in L.A., I knew I had to take the red line, but I accidentally took the purple line, which set me back an extra hour.  In contrast, the very first time I took the metro in Madrid, it took me about 30 minutes to get to my apartment, and it has taken me 30 minutes every time since.  After awhile I have also noticed that the frequency of trains decreases during less busy times of the day, which cuts costs of operation.  They also have ticket stalls that only let you pass if you have a valid ticket.  This seems like a perfectly logical part of a metro system, but the L.A. metro doesn’t do this.  Trains come every 15 minutes throughout the day in L.A., which is really inconvenient and discourages people from taking the metro. Even though it’s illegal, it’s easy to just walk on to the train without a ticket because there is nothing enforcing people to have a valid ticket, which causes the cost of running the L.A. metro to be way higher than it should be.  Overall, the brilliant engineering that was put into the Madrid metro has created a convenient system that has encouraged both myself and others to explore the city of Madrid. 

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