May 31st, 2004

krazy koati

That’s about the time that I come alive

About a year ago the North-East Line expanded the Singapore MRT system with access to scenic locations like Clarke Quay -- previously a ten-minute walk from the City Hall MRT station -- or Punggol -- someday it'll be the Meadowlands of the Straits -- with some neat features. The trains on the station are fully automated, for one, with windows in front and back so you can stand up there and pretend to be an engineer. Nobody's tired of that yet. I have a wonderfully vertiginous picture showing what it looked like from up front. I think it's one of the best I've taken, and its 1024 by 768 counterpart is in my folder of desktop images. It's also fully subterranean, and the publicity for it said it was the first fully-automated heavy-traffic ordinary gauge railway in the world, which puts on enough qualifiers I suspect it's nothing of the kind.

The entire tunnel way was lit. The official reason for this was they wished to avoid the claustrophobic reactions completely dark tunnels can evoke, and lights were needed for emergency evacuations should a train be stalled. This, being a small point and not terribly important, roused the ire of one young man who was very concerned about the wasted electric (estimated at around S$300,000 worth per year) lighting up tunnels that didn't much need to be. The claustrophobia reason was kind of silly; after all, the trains were always lit, and nobody's had trouble with the underground portions of the North-South and the East-West lines. And if there were an emergency, there'd be all sorts of disruption anyway; what's the fuss having lights turn on as part of that?

After eight months of writing letters, getting them rejected, and writing back, again and again, he finally got SBS Transit to give in, and turn off the tunnel lights. Thus he showed us all that yes, one man can change the world, if he's set his sights on a tiny problem and pursued it with the tenacity of a guy continuing an argument in alt.fan.furry that began in 1992.

I don't want to overly belittle his efforts. I've got flashes of obsessive-compulsive disorder and I know when some thing, however trivial, grates against it, it can be almost physically painful. And yes, it is saving money, although given the number of riders per day it looks like they're not even saving hundredths of a cent per rider. Still. Eight months of letter-writing over this. Sheesh.

In other news I gave up on the online leave form. Filling out the ``how would you grade our online portal?'' survey I discovered 71.79 percent of users rated their experiences with the current system ``poor''. Granted mostly it's going to be people with a complaint who fill out the survey, but they really did figure out a way to make online services completely useless.

Trivia: In 1856, Portugal had its first railroad and telegraph lines. Source: Asimov's Chronology of the World: A History of the World from The Big Bang to Modern Times, Isaac Asimov.

Currently Reading: The Wanderer, Fritz Leiber. Alien juvenile delinquent tigress-women fly their two-tone planet to Earth -- to steal our Moon -- and our men!