Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tools that make things worse

I'm mildly addicted to the new live bus map for Madison's Metro Transit system. It's a beta site that provides a live feed of where every bus is currently located, and even plots them on a Google map with cute little bus icons.

 My initial reaction was, "Finally! I've been wanting this forever. Now I'll never miss another bus again. Ever."

 But a funny thing happened. Since I started using the site when preparing to leave the house or office, I've actually missed more buses. Way more. In fact, I've probably missed more than I've made. The problem is I started using the website rather than actual bus schedule, which has led me to simply try to time it right. I figure out where the bus is in the city and tell myself, "I have a couple of more minutes before I HAVE to leave." That approach has been killing me because no matter where the bus may be, it's schedule is way more deterministic than my own.

 What I need to do is the same thing I've been doing for the last eight years... go to the bus as if it is on time and follows the prescribed schedule. Then I can just take a peak at the map before I pack up and get a feel for how long I'll be waiting once I get there. Or in the best scenario, discover that the bus is running late just like me and that I can still get to a bus that I would have otherwise missed.

 I'm trying to think of other convenience services that have had this opposites effect, but I can't think of any (although I'm sure there are others). Has this happened to you?