Tuesday, October 08, 2019

2 QR R 0 2 QR


The current issue of the Queens Chronicle newspaper has a letter to the editor by yours truly about the latest of the MTA's bad decisions endured by NYC transit riders.  I kept it as concise as possible for print, but on my own blog I can try to expand a bit on why the removal of QR codes was so particularly annoying:

  • It takes a bit of technical know-how to explain what exactly QR codes actually are — they're sort of like an Internet-connected update of bar codes for the wireless age — but their removal eliminated the benefit they had for riders who knew how to use them, without any countervailing gain for those who don't.
  • The QR codes linked to significantly more useful and accurate schedule information than could be conveyed in the static schedules that were phased out for supposedly being too costly to maintain, and can keep access to up-to-date info without needing the physical printout to be replaced: each code is tied to a webpage link which not only can theoretically updated periodically, but is in real time.
  • Actually using a QR code requires a working, charged smartphone that may be fiscally out of reach for some passengers -- but so do the newer printed guidelines on the bus stops, which only provide directions on how to call up bus schedule information rather than the info itself.
  • The webpages the QR codes used to provide links to are still up and running on the MTA Bus Time website, so it's still possible for savvy users to personally access the links via bookmarks or search -- but it takes more time do so so (and more than enough time that a bus can be missed while looking to see if the bus is going to arrive!), and runs the risk of pulling up the info for the wrong bus stop (often, bus stops in opposite directions on the same line have identical names), whereas the codes would always be for their own specific stop.
It's just a baffling case of fixing what ain't broke, reminiscent of the early Internet copypasta about how "Engineers believe that if it ain't broke, it doesn't have enough features yet" ... except that features are only being removed.

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