Sunday, March 16, 2014

work, why I don't write about it, and the prospects for turning it into a game

I have a great deal of experience in a relatively narrow niche of public transit: cities with populations of around 100,000, with particular emphasis on the operation of a circulator route, with no fixed schedule, which connects major destinations and other bus routes, using GPS technology that was state of the art fifteen years ago.

At first glance, my job is all about the positions of buses relative to the other buses going the same direction (clockwise or counterclockwise), and the frequency with which they pass each stop along the route, but dig a little deeper and it ends up being mainly about people.

There are a few things I could say about the purely operational layer, without getting into personalities, but nothing very interesting, so there's no point in pursuing it, unless perhaps I were to transform it into a game.

Such a game might be an excellent way of training others to do what I do. It could also constitute a big step toward the creation of better tools to support that work, even automating parts of it, improving overall performance. However, considering my age and how focused I am on other things, it's doubtful that I'll ever get around to writing it.

In case you're motivated to take up this challenge, I'd just like to say that, in the ideal case, such a game wouldn't be tied to any particular geography, but would be configurable for whatever real (or imaginary) context the user chooses. Elements of the game might include the number of buses on route (each direction if bidirectional), traffic signals, the patterns in which consecutive signals are linked, the alteration of those patterns through the day and by day of the week, the probability of having to wait through more than a single cycle of some particular signal due to backed-up traffic, the placement of stops and the probability of a passenger showing up at any particular stop at various times of the day/week, where the boarding passengers are likely to want to get off, inherent instabilities in the regularity of buses passing particular stops, and a toolkit of techniques to rectify irregularities.

There's quite a lot more that could be included, but these are the most basic factors, and more than enough to take on for a first pass.

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