It was not my regular commute, a short hop of 20 feet from bedroom to home office, so I was enjoying the novelty of the early morning streetcar ride around the Embarcadero from Fisherman's Wharf to our main office on 2nd Street in San Francisco.
A flashing light above the exit then interrupted my revelry. 'Fermata Prenotata” was the message which made me do a double take, had I slipped a continent overnight. Further examination of my mode of transport provided evidence that I was traveling in one of ten streetcars obtained from Milan, Italy by the SF Muni in 1998 to run on its newly established F line. Built in 1928, as I had observed the streetcar still retained its original electric signage, which was still in good working order.
This in itself would not have been worthy of reporting here until I realized that exactly a week earlier I had been in another beautiful settlement by a bay. I had been in the town of my birth, Weymouth on the South Coast of the UK and some times referred to as the Naples of England.
The town is busy preparing to host the sailing at this year's Summer Olympics. There is much local excitement, which has been accompanied by tremendous investment in local infrastructure. The Weymouth Relief Road, costing £89 million (about $140 million) has finally been opened after more than 60 years of planning. The road will ease traffic, carrying about 35,000 vehicles every day, and improving journey times between Weymouth and Dorchester.
The road is just a part of the Weymouth Transport Package for the 2012 Games, a series of long-term public transport improvements, which will provide a transport legacy for Weymouth and Portland after the Games.
Electronic variable messaging signs and car park guidance systems, along with real time passenger information and new bus stops and shelters are being delivered as part of the Weymouth Transport Package. The bus shelters inspired by a 'sailing theme' are being installed on the seafront as part of the package. Seven old, brown shelters are being replaced at the King’s Statue bus stops as part of a £4.75 million (about $7.5million) investment.
Click on image to enlarge.
The problem was on my recent visit the passengers were not getting any information at their bus shelters, just a gaping hole and dangling wires. Local reports indicate that the systems were installed but had to be removed due to “excessive amounts of noise”.
The Dorset Echo reports: “Due to the noise from the cooling fans for these displays, embarrassed council officials have switched off the display screens in bus shelters in Weymouth.” From my observations not only have they been switched off but removed completely. “Passengers waiting at them grumbled it was like listening to a jet engine taking off,” reported a correspondent to the Echo. Passengers and passers-by could hear 'excessively' noisy fans in the installations from across the road.
I know Weymouth is hoping for a hot summer both on and off the water but how can the general public be convinced that technology, except for games consoles and mobiles phones, are good for them when a straightforward applications such as a information displays come with such faults. I bet the Dorset County Council cabinet member for transport who claimed “they will also bring the bus infrastructure into the 21st century” is keeping his head down.
Hopefully I will be back in Weymouth in the summer for the sailing although I refuse to buy a ticket – this is the first time spectators have been charged to watch the event being held a couple miles out a sea. I will rely on the technology provided by the free giant TV screens to be positioned on the beach.