Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Good things, done badly

575 words

We have this term ticket at university. Everbody has to pay €50 or so and can use most slow trains within the state for free. That’s not exactly comfortable but kind of neat if you happen to have friends or family within the range of the ticket – which essentially means north or north-west of Göttingen. The thing must suck quite badly for people only wanting to go to the south, say, as they get pretty much nothing for the money they spend. Luckily, I’m with the ‘winners’ this time and have used the service a number of times this year.

An essential step for these journeys is planning them. Luckily, the website of Deutsche Bahn, while not being excessively good, is reasonably fast and well informed. If you’re from the UK, you’ll even think it absolutely fantastic. In fact, they to provide timetable information for all of Europe, so if you’re just interested in connections and not in ticket prices, it may be a good site to bookmark. A rather nice service they offer on the site is their ‘personal timetable’ which lets you enter two stations and some extra conditions like time constraints or the type of train you want to use and a few minutes later (whyever that takes so long) you’ll get a little PDF with all relevant connections on it. That’s quite handy to take along.

As I’m going to Bremen from time to time, visiting my parents, I got one of those timetables for that route. Despite just being 250km or so, the journey always takes a ridiculous 3,5 hours – when going with the free and slow trains. But what’s really insulting is that you spend almost an hour in Hannover to wait for the connection (Which means that the actual travel time is just 2,5 hours and thus not much longer than the 1:45 or so you need with a fast train.) With it being December now, it means that timetables have just been updated. And things got even worse! Where the waiting time used to be around 45 minutes previously, it is now 59 minutes for some connections. With those trains going hourly, it means that you’re missing the previous connection by just a minute. A single friggin’ minute! I thought they hire and pay people to make the timetables to avoid exactly that kind of thing. Grrrr.

Having my personal timetable, I also observed the following:

Part of personal timetable

Now that’s just stupid! Two lines are used and space is wasted for exactly the same connection, just because one of the trains has a different number on Sundays. That’s particularly silly as train numbers just don’t matter. While trains do have numbers, I’ve never seen any human actually use them. And now they’re cluttering up what could be a very efficient timetable otherwise.

Once more this demonstrates that it’s easy to generate data listings from a database. And often it’s better to have that than nothing at all. However, the information you get this way is usually far from being good or even ideal. Computers / programmers don’t seem to be smart enough to automatically generate more sensible displays where they are needed. And this seems to be one of the main reasons why we have a lot of information available these days but find it harder to digest.

Oh, and that little icon you see in the table above can actually be deciphered after being enlarged…

Sandwich and drinks

December 25, 2005, 1:06

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