In Milan, like in many other cities, public transport tickets have a magnetic strip on the side that is used to check their validity by means of electronic readers.
Even now, some years after the introduction of the new tickets, a lot of people still insert their tickets in the readers in the wrong direction, and can’t pass the turnstiles until they get it right. The technical reason for that is the magnetic strip placed on one side of each ticket so that it can be read by a machine, but it’s a poor design choice forcing people to pay attention to a puny detail such as this.
What is even more frustrating, is that there exists a trivial solution to this problem, and it is the one that has been adopted in Paris: tickets there are symmetrical, and the magnetic band is placed in the middle, so that it can be read in any direction.
A ticket for public transport in Paris: as a side benefit, it is also quite small if compared to the ones we have in Milan
They did a good job, because they left behind an old convention (having a magnetic band on the side, which probably makes sense with cards you have to swipe) and chose a less common placement, putting less constraints on the experience.
Even if modern trains are getting more and more friendly to passengers, many of them are still terribly lacking if we consider this aspect, at least in Italy.
As I’m writing this post I’m travelling through Tuscany on the railway. I’m not familiar with the landmarks, the train doesn’t announce its stops and it’s dark outside, making it impossible to read the names of the stations until it’s too late to jump off.
If you have ever been in such a situation, you do certainly understand how annoying it can be.
This is where mobile maps come to help: you just have to take a look at your phone and know instantly where you are.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could see stations, timetables and trains as well? Although it is one of the most challenging projects we can conceive, something like an interactive transport map certainly has the potential to be a killer application.
The only drawback… is that you’d certainly end up being distracted from the conversation with that pretty girl sitting next to you. :)