Why Trains Suck

The overcrowded cars. Coffee spilt on seats. Those strange smells. The train experience. But, let’s cut to the chase and talk about what makes riding…

The overcrowded cars. Coffee spilt on seats. Those strange smells. The train experience. But, let’s cut to the chase and talk about what makes riding in the subway suck the most: the lack of technology. In our smartphone driven world, trains still belong in the 19th Century. Is it wrong of us to think a strong, consistent WiFi signal should be available while we bump into complete strangers on our nauseating rides to and from work?

The WiFi issue has been at the forefront of rider complaints for years. With inconsistent cellular service, getting the optimal performance out of your mobile device can be an arduous task. While Amtrak offers free WiFi, it is only on select trains and at select stations. Not to mention the fact that the bandwidth is so limited that passengers are unable to even stream media. So, good luck trying to send out that important email to a client or enjoying a Pandora jam session.

Not only is the passenger experience being limited, the opportunity to increase revenue is as well. Imagine taking the spirit of Times Square and moving it to the rail system. Rather than seeing the same dull, lifeless posters at every station, riders should be exposed to beautiful, glowing digital displays. Japanese trains and stations have used this tactic for a long time and increased ad sales more than 500% over a seven year span.

In addition to corporate sponsors, digital displays can showcase location based ads that can inform passengers of attractions that surround each station. Each community will have the ability to market itself on a train that runs through so many different neighborhoods and states. Local businesses can attract more traffic. Finding schools and arenas becomes easier. Sure, kiosks are in development, but, don’t you think this should have happened a lot sooner?

The most obvious reason why American train systems are so behind the times is the financial costs. New York is in the process of providing WiFi to all subway stations; the $200 million project is not planned to be completed until 2017. One train system. One city. $200 million. It’s safe to say that expanding this process across the nation would cost billions.

We must also take into account that the United States owns the second most cars per capita in the world. Plain and simple, Americans use automobiles substantially more than any other form of transportation. For this reason, it should come as no surprise that the public sector spent $146 billion on highway infrastructure a few years ago.

All we want is the ability to use mobile devices during our agonizing trips and to make the dark, musty stations more vibrant. It’s not like we’re asking for a 300-mph floating train.

On second thought, that would be cool too.

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