As far as most transportation planners are concerned, urban transit systems should be evaluated based on major “function-related” items only (i.e. level of service, capacity, travel times, speeds, costs and etc).
Such an analysis is appropriate in transit applications if the only objective is to move users from point A to point B in the fastest and most cost-effective way possible. And in many instances, this is undoubtedly an important factor.
However, as astute readers know, debates on form vs function are often much more complicated than that — especially when “form-related” items are accounted for.
Factors such as experience and fun (novelty) are perhaps some of the biggest intangibles. For example, due to a cable car’s aerial nature, it often is a visible piece of infrastructure that provides passengers with panoramic views. In turn, this has the ability to improve ride experience, open up advertising partnerships and/or attract tourist riders.
While some of these items can be properly quantified in a study (i.e. sponsorship dollars), others such as the “fun” factor may be more challenging to address.
For instance, last week we reported that the Emirates Air Line cable car was offering romantic joint-ticket packages for Valentines Day. This week, we learned that the system transported over 25,000 passengers over the 4-day promotion period (nearly double the ridership over same period last year) while a marriage proposal took place in a private cabin.
Melanie, the lucky lady who was proposed to, was quoted saying:
“This was the most perfect moment just us, 100 feet up in the air surrounded by the awe of the London Skyline and with beautiful love songs serenading us. This moment we will remember forever. Waiting for sundown we took our return journey, now engaged and calling each other fiancé, the love songs continued to play as the sky went dark the lights of London came on and we enjoyed our chocolates absorbing the stunning scene. Richard pulled off a proposal beyond my wildest dreams.”
Something as simple (or as special) as the feasibility for a marriage proposal and dating event would be likely be lost in a traditional transport analysis because it’s beyond the purview of “transportation”.
But if you think about it, in many instances transportation is much more than simply getting from one place to another. Designed properly, it can be an integral part of a city that adds flavour and excitement to our lives.
So as transit plays a bigger role in everyday life for city residents, perhaps transport planners should start asking not only how public transport can move us around the city, but also how its intangibles can add character and open up opportunities for more “fun”.