A few nice how to get customers fast images I found:
Monday, July 26th
Monday, July 26
Gregg’s flight (Swiss 1735) departs at 7am and arrives in Zurich at 9am. Next, flight 52 (Swiss) departs Zurich at 10:20am and arrives in Boston at 12:40pm (if only it was really less than 3 hours). Finally (like 6.5 hours later), Gregg departs Boston at 7:09pm on American flight 1987 (nice flight #!) and arrives in St. Louis at 9:07pm.
Erica’s flight (Continental 0041) departs at 9:45am and arrives in Newark at 1:25pm. Then, she departs Newark at 2:50pm (Continental flight 0353) and arrives in Columbus at 4:32pm (sometimes it pays to pay…)
This was the plan… It was a decent plan, but the last few days of our trip should have told us it was not going to work out according to plan.
In order for Gregg to make the early flight, we set the alarm for 4:21am. This allowed time to get up, leave the hotel, take a taxi to the train station, take a train to the airport, go through customs, check-in for the flight, etc.
Unfortunately, the alarm went off and Gregg shut it off without ever knowing he had done so… Erica remembered hearing the alarm and seeing Gregg shut it off, but fell back asleep. She awoke in a panic at 6:44am (21 minutes before my flight left Rome). Needless to say, I missed my flight. I have no recollection of hearing, seeing and shutting off the alarm.
We scrambled to get to the airport as fast as possible. We got there by 8:30am (almost 2 hours after we woke up). Erica was able to make her flight just fine, but mine was a big question mark. I went to check-in for Swiss Air (first flight) and they directed me to ticketing. Ticketing directed me to American Airlines to work out the problem. Once I got past security guards with serious uzis, I waited in line for an hour at American Airlines. Once I was able to talk to them, they started ignoring me and only said that they need to take care of passengers first (I was a passenger, but missing my flight made me a non-passenger evidently). They gave me a hand-written phone number before totally ignoring me.
Unfortunately, no phones existed on this side of security, so I had to go back through lines I had already gotten through (people everywhere). The payphone was in a loud, busy portion of the airport and I had trouble hearing). I also had to recharge my calling card in order to make any calls. The number they gave me was supposedly for American Airlines customer service in Italy. I called, but no answer… I also tried the US 800 number but kept getting disconnected in the middle of the call (some compatibility issue between the pay phone, calling card and Italian phone system I suppose). I had to go back through security again to go talk to American Airlines again. I had figured out that the quickest way there was to actually go outside and re-enter a different door.
Once I got back to American Airlines, I tried to ask about the number but they kept ignoring me. I would not be ignored and just wanted to know if I was reading the number properly. It turns out last digit was a 9, not a 4 as it looked on the hand-written note. This means I got to go back through security and try again on the phones. I did…
This time, I actually got American Airlines customer service in Italy on the phone! I had great difficulty hearing her and she had trouble understanding me. Eventually, I was able to communciate the confirmation number and she then transferred me to AAdvantage. Soon thereafter I started speaking to Bob who was extremely helpful. He had to go back to the drawing board (as he said a couple of times) to figure out how they could get me out of Rome and back to St. Louis. American Airlines only had two flights departing Rome that day and both were overbooked. He was able to get me a flight at 12:55pm on Swiss headed for Zurich, Switzerland to connect with a flight to New York. Then, the best he could do was connect me to St. Louis on Tuesday morning at 7am (12 hours after I arrive in New York). He did mention, however, that I should be able to fly stand by on a flight to Chicago tonight and then to St. Louis. He said we would put a note in the system that I intended to try and make these connections. He also stated I would have to go back to the American Airlines counter to get the re-issued tickets and pay a 0 charge fee (he could do nothing about the fee). Although I am never pleased about such a high fee, I was just happy to be heading in the right direction sometime today. I thanked him several times and he gave his extension in case I had any problems. I wish the customer service was this good with each employee at American Airlines (especially the ones that were just ignoring me)!
I went back through security again, went to American Airlines again (their line was now gone), paid the fee, got the tickets and now had two hours before the flight (10:30am, so all this took about 2 hours to resolve). I went to the bathroom and used the time to change clothes, shave and eat.
So now my flight plan was to go from Rome to Zurich, Zurich to New York, New York to Chicago (if possible via standby), Chicago to St. Louis (if possible via standby) or New York to St. Louis the next morning. I am happy to say I made the standby flights and got to St. Louis by 11:20pm (about 2 hours after I was originally scheduled to arrive, which was not too bad considering I missed the first flight in Rome and was told I would most likely have to spend another night in Rome and try again). Zurich was an interesting airport. It looked very new (but most likely was not, just well kept with lots of money) and had moving walkways that went up and down with 40 degreee inclines (never seen this before). The gates were essentially on two different levels and the walkways were used to move people up or down accordingly.
When I finally made it home, Eric Skelton was able to pick me up and give me a ride home. After traveling for 24 hours, I crashed.
About Transmilenio 1
This photo is easily on of the most-viewed of my photo collection. I used to be able to see where the links were coming from, but I can’t anymore and I’m dying of curiosity to know where these links are from.
If you have a sec, leave a comment or pop me a message to let me know how you arrived at this photo. Thanks! 🙂
Experiencing these stations was what most made me realise that there might actually be something to this BRT-thing after all:
And another flickr user’s photo (awesome capture): www.flickr.com/photos/doctorlo/2275173783/
Here are links to some short videos showing how the stations work:
Go to 0:52 on this one (actually a different system, but identical station style)
The stations really frame the experience and provide numerous other services that improve the speed, capacity and comfort of the system as well as show a significant commitment/permanence by the local government/transit agency – like tracks they are not apt to be moved anytime soon.
The transmilenio is a BRT (for bus rapid transit).. like a cross between a metro and the express B-Line buses of Vancouver. Another way to put it (for those who don’t know Vancouver) would be like a surface metro – enclosed stations and all- that uses articulated buses instead of trains, and isolated lanes instead of track. Like skytrain, the station platform sits in between each direction of line.. but for TransMilenio, lanes. In this case, forming the long part of the "T" where the top is a crosswalk – right in the centre of the road (not on some distant, time-consuming pull-out)
The stations are well … they feel like the Expo line skytrain, but on the ground. There is ramp (wheelchair friendly) to go up to the bus-level platform, and one passes through automated fare collection (smart card). You can see a bit here: farm1.static.flickr.com/19/107068591_e6b678aa23_o.jpg Once inside, the entire station is all fare-paid zone, and buses on different routes each have a platform segment. This means that once one gets in the system (like a metro) you could actually ride all day. Each platform/bay has 3 wide sets of sliding glass doors that automatically open as the bus slides into position.
The 3 sets of wide glass doors of the station whisk open in unision with their bus counterparts (also wide) and riders step in and out (like skytrain, subway, or metro). There are no line ups. – People/wheelchairs/strollers simply step/roll in.. not up.. Wheelchairs and strollers are restricted to the front set of doors, everyone else uses the other two sets. . People transferring to another route just walk to the other bay/platform and get on that bus when it arrives without needing to pay again or queue for one door.
This system is far more cost-effective system than subsurface rail (most ROWs were expropriated from existing car lanes – transit priority over car), and there are no dangerous rails on the surface (and no fences like the around skytrain).
Also unlike something like the Silverline in Boston (which has a painfully slow transition to underground, and runs in mixed traffic, and generally oscillates between bus and wannabe metro), TransMilenio is completely consistent and uniform in what it has across the network.
The buses have their own median lanes, usually 2 in *each* direction. See how it looks here?: www.flickr.com/photos/99887786@N00/2468594299/ I would guess about 65% of the network is like this, and the remaining stations have passing lanes. This was a politically gutsy move to make, as the lanes the buses use were expropriated from car traffic. It basically creates additional congestion for cars, while allowing the cleaner more space-efficient public transit to go much much faster. A clear priority for public transit over car use. It is a carrot & stick. carrot to use transit becuase it is faster, stick against driving because it gets slower. In addition this is a major cost-saving measure, becuase existing roadways are used and no new ones are constructed (unlike other BRTs elswhere)
It also made construction of the busways incredible simple and fast. Nearly 100 kms of dedicated lines were in place within a matter of a few years.
My favourite resource for Bus Rapid Transit systems is the ITDPs BRT Planning Guide – in particular The Annex Section has system comparisons across BRT Systems all over the world. It is clear here how feature-rich TransMilenio is compared to lacklustre cousins elsewhere. itdp.pmhclients.com/index.php/microsite/brt_planning_guid…
Another good one: The US Transportation Research Board has a paper discussing applicability of the Transmilenio in the US – an identified challenge is that there could be little public support since most people would initially associate it with "the bus" rather than it’s own mode.
TransMilenio has immense capacity – moving more people than many heavy-rail subway systems – at peak hours the busiest single line moves 45,000 people per direction. In some ways the system is victim of it’s own success – some residents have nicknamed it TransMi-lleno (full), for being famously full.
Please see the next photo – there is more info there about TransMilenio.
Another informative video is this one of the Rea Vaya – a South African BRT system heavily modelled after TransMilenio. The station interior pan starts at 3:37
www.youtube.com/watch?v=85xXs7JTt5k and www.reavaya.org.za/
And last an electric trolleybus BRT in Venezuela: www.insideyorks.co.uk/tbus/xmd1.jpg
Electric trolley-bus BRT in Venezuela: www.flickr.com/photos/venex/sets/72157600189865830/
The taco truck: An American dream
I have debates with many a people on the sanity of eating from a taco truck, roach coach, barf bus, etc.
Most of these people say they would rather eat taco bell than from a taco truck!
This really baffles me.
This is how I see it:
They have to buy in small quantities, which means fresher food. A busy taco truck will not have food for long, and most buy their meats every day or two. Since they have to buy in small quantities and frequently, they have to get the better meats and cut them themselves. It is more economical that way.
lowest cost huge volume. I wish the "grade d edible" urban legend were true for my arguments sake, but its not. However, do you think Pepsico cares about your beef quality when selling you a 1.59 crunchwrap? (i call it the cr-wrap.)
You can see the sink. You watch them prepare the food. If their customers get sick, word spreads fast. The small business man cannot afford to wait out a bad review, so making sure you return, which includes cleaning so you don’t get sick, is very important.
Nice, modern cleaning policies and procedures. You can almost guarantee that the teenager back there has washed his hands and put on gloves. The manager made sure of that. However, as far as what is in your food, remember back to when you were 16. What was funny to you then? Would you want the 16 year old you (or your high school friends) back there?
’nuff said. street taco or booger burrito?