Transports of delight?

Having spent a few days travelling to and from London, I could not help coming away yet again with a feeling that the use of technology is making travelling more complicated and that we are victims of so-called time-saving systems, which do not seem to save time and have more than a few instances of duplication and some hidden complications. We are very grateful for the ability to do things through the Internet, which allows us to be in one place and interact with people and organizations that may be some distance away. But, you have to wonder about what is being saved.

When we were leaving the US, my wife had checked in online for our flights. But we still needed to go through all the manual process of checking in again when we arrived at the airport. When we were leaving London for our return, we went to the airport and quickly checked in by using a ticketing machine, including having the machine read our passports, for personal details, and obtained our boarding passes. All we then had to do was to drop off our bags. Wrong! We went through the whole checking in process again, this time with human involvement. Two processes to do something that used to have just one process does not seem like improved efficiency.

While in London, we wanted to visit some friends and decided we would go by train to their little village. It was not so hard to order train tickets online, but it was a challenge to find how to collect them at the train station. Should we stand in line to be seen at a ticket desk? Yes. But, you have to deal with waiting behind about 30 people, some of whom had also ordered tickets online. Should we line up at a ticket machine? Yes. But, you again needed to join a line and then find that the US credit card you have does not have new ‘improved’ European standard features. Good thing that we got to the station about 40 minutes before our train was due to leave. While I stood in line to be served at a counter, my wife managed to find a machine–the only one–tucked away in a corner, that took the ‘old-fashioned’ US credit card. We got our tickets, then had to hustle to our platform, hidden behind some ‘improvement’ works at one of the far corners of the station. Time and money saved by booking ahead? Yes. But, then it seemed that time squeezed us because we had booked ahead and had still had to get our paper authority to travel. It was all ironic because no one was there to check tickets, either at the station at the start, or on the train, or at the station for the return. You would think that we could book electronically we should have a system that gave you an authorization code (as is sometimes the case when you book tickets for sports or arts events) that could be read by a machine and that would be good enough.

I cite these as just a couple of recent examples of how we seem to be able to get on the information superhighway only to find ourselves having to walk again in the normal byways.

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About The Grasshopper

Professional international economist, recently retired from an international organization. I use blogging as a way of organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, and spent many years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for a few decades, and worked and travelled abroad extensively. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of girls. Also, married to an economist.
This entry was posted in Bureaucracy, Digital age, Public transport, Service economy. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Transports of delight?

  1. I agree with the general premise but had a different experience recently. Perhaps it was because I had no bags to check. I was able to use a boarding pass printed at home to get to the gate at Dulles for a flight to Europe. I just had to have my documents checked by the gate agent–a much speedier process than dealing with the dreaded check-in line. Better yet, I discovered that when you fly out of Dublin you pass US customs in Ireland, before the flight. No worries about making my connection in Newark. I can’t recall the last time things went this well for me. No doubt I’ve just jinxed my next trip, big time.

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