Post by Nick Chu
For many of us, we use social media and online review sites to make everyday life decisions. Websites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor can be great resources that help indecisive people, like myself, decide whether or not a restaurant deserves my Friday night patronage.
My personal experiences with crowd-sourcing websites has generally been quite positive — more often than not, a quick scan of reviews can paint a fairly accurate picture of the business.
And since we’re a transit blog built on fun and inquisitiveness, I decided to carry this notion to the world of Cable Propelled Transit. So a few days back, I asked myself: can we use social networking to assess the general receptiveness and desirability of urban cable cars?
My hypothesis, if you can call it that, is: if these systems are undesirable (i.e. unattractive, a rip-off, poorly designed etc.) in a city, as many detractors claim, surely this will be revealed in crowd-sourcing websites such as Yelp.
While the initial thought of compiling and analyzing user experience data from these websites sounds outright featherbrained, it occurred to me that the findings/implications might actually be the complete opposite. As regular viewers of Kitchen Nightmares know, online reviews can sometimes make or break a business (I won’t post the link here, but if you must know what I’m referring to, search Amy’s Baking Company).
So for my little back-of-the-envelope analysis, I decided to look at the a handful of city-oriented cable cars from across the globe which had reviews, namely: Portland Aerial Tram, Roosevelt Island Tram, Teleférico Madrid, Téléphérique de Grenoble Bastille, Singapore Cable Car, and the Emirates Air Line.
Before I began my research, I expected to find a mixed of reviews, both positive and negative. However, what I found was quite surprising — the average overall rating (out of 5) was 4.25 where the lowest was 4 and highest was 5. If you carefully read the reviews, there are very few 1 or 2 star ratings, with the majority of responses being praiseworthy. I quickly noticed that several common themes were emerging — most of which revolved around aerial views, price, and ride quality. A lot of the remarks are quite funny and appear indicative of the general issues surrounding a particular system. For example, my favourite one is from London’s Yelper Tom E. who had this to say about the Emirates Air Line:
Of course by this time, some of you are probably thinking, crowdsourcing reviews are inaccurate and can’t be trusted. While this is true in certain cases, I can’t honestly fathom why a user would take time out of his/her schedule to give a cable car system a fake review.
For the conspiracists out there, could a cable car operator potentially hire people to provide false accounts? Possible, but unlikely. Given the aggregate nature of Yelp where thousands of users write unfiltered reviews, it is likely that if a system is “problematic” in any way, shape or form, the amount of real reviews would counteract the fake ones. Also, I think most individuals are smart enough to weed out the garbage reviews.
So what does this little analysis mean for urban cable cars? My initial feeling is that online evidence reveals that user experience on the CPT system surveyed thus far are overwhelmingly positive. Even in situations where the initial system planning and design was controversial, once these lines become operational, most of these issues are forgotten.
Perhaps due partly to the novelty/rarity of these transit systems and the general “fun factor” of cable cars, CPT lines really do a great job in uplifting people’s spirits while offering them the opportunity to experience their city in a totally different manner.
In the future, for a more accurate and detailed assessment, it would be interesting to examine quality of the reviewers, analyze if opinions change over time, expand the sample size and analyze reviews from other websites like TripAdvisor.
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